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Di Dario: Business firms enrich a country but they do have a social responsibility
Roma (Adnkronos Multimedia) - Enterprises do have the function of enriching a country, but they also have a social responsibility. This is maintained by Dante Di Dario, president and owner of the Arena Group, an industrial firm with an annual turnover of eight million euro, four thousand employees and an increase in profits of 700% in 2003 compared with the preceding year. Among the larger firms, it ranks first in Italy for a growth in sales. This food-producing company, with registered offices in Molise and head offices in Milan, produces frozen foods, meat, ice creams, cold meats and salami and milk products.
What kind of presence does Arena have in the world?
We have 16 factories, 14 of which are in Italy, one in France and the other in Germany. We sell 70% of our production in Italy and 30% abroad, above all in the European Union. Internationalisation is one of the most important aspects in our industrial planning, and above all we are aiming at Germany, France, but also Spain and the United Kingdom.
What are the difficulties involved in penetrating foreign markets?
The food world reflects much from national cultures and from the localisation of markets. Each country is the custodian of its own traditions. We are expanding abroad thanks to the reputation Italy enjoys in the food sector. We are ready for the European market with 15 new products, and the packaging will include printing in four languages. Our idea is to put forward a typical Italian product for the foreign market.
What are Italy's strong points in the entrepreneurial sector?
Italy ranks as the fifth or sixth industrial power in the world, but is at 41st place with regard to competitiveness. Above all, its infrastructures are vulnerable. However, I believe that its strong point is the enormous wealth of entrepreneurial talent available. We have the ability for innovation and creativity, but we must invest more in research, in training and in universities. The Barcelona European Agreement has gone beyond Maastricht: there is a need to reach 3% of the GDP as investments in innovation and research, as well as ensuring that 70% of the population is active. Italy is now investing 1% of GDP in research, while the United States invests 2.7-2.8%, and they have a global plan. Instead, in the European Union there are repetitions and overlapping.
What is the secret of success for an entrepreneur?
Ideas, resolve, and action. The work of enterprises is founded on this paradigm. Italy is the Garden of Eden for firms, the country where firms flourish even in the presence of some negative conditions such as competitiveness. We are still a country where there is a huge breeding ground of entrepreneurial talent, so much so that people come to study them from universities all over the world, many of them from the United States. Related to the population, we produce the highest number of entrepreneurs in the world, especially in Lombardy and in the north-east. In addition, Southern Italy is growing at a staggering rate. Among the G7 countries we are those with fewer large firms but the greatest number of firms in relation to the population. 60% of the Italian GDP and 60% of employment are created by small-and medium-size businesses.
Can you tell us something about the most popular product that your firm exports?
We export 90 million pizzas (fresh and frozen) each year. In particular we export 5-6 million fresh pizzas to France every year. We have also patented a type of pizza which has 90 percent less yeast, more assimilable and digestible. A product that interests the British most of all.
What kind of weight does quality certification carry, also on the foreign market?
I can give you the example of fish: we have drawn up a contract with Legambiente's Goletta Verde. We are committed to responsible fishing: we use equipment that respects the ocean floor, fishing boats that do not pollute, and we follow the fair and equal trading code, which, for example established the rule not to employ underage workers, and respect for the rights of workers. We have concentrated our fishing to the maximum in the Indian Ocean, an unpolluted zone. To guarantee all this we have introduced the "Marepronto" seal, to control low levels of mercury. I myself have signed an agreement with Fulco Pratesi, President of WWF Italia.
What obligations do firms have towards Italian and international society?
I would say that economic development, social development and protection of the environment are fundamental. Our generation has the duty to leave our natural patrimony intact, just as we have inherited it. All our British clients make their own 'auditing' and they have always found our codes of self-discipline not only superior to the Italian ISO 9001 certification but even superior compared with British standards. We are showing the most growth in the foreign market, especially the British market, and even more than the German market.
How can Italian capitalism regain its image?
There is no worse enemy of capitalism than bad capitalism. Today the firm is also a social watchdog, but it does not manage its foreign relationships satisfactorily. It creates development and employment but does not distribute wealth and discriminates needs. The State has a very subtle task: to guarantee the existence of a stronger, free, efficient and transparent market. This also embodies an answer to what happened with Parmalat and Cirio. I believe that the great challenge now is to take a responsible path with regard to both development and social protection, a growth in wealth and to dedicate great attention to problems of the masses.