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In depth interview with Martina Cinicola connecting luxury brands with their corporate responsibilit

Giuseppina Cuccurullo interviewed Martina Cinicola, very active ebbf member currently residing in Milan, the city of fashion, how offered in this interview her way of interpreting and using her work in luxury brands to bring about, communicate and engage her corporate world towards responsible solutions and strategies.

EBBF: You invest your energy mainly in two fields: Communication and CSR, could you explain us what do you do in your life?

MARTINA: Since University my passions were communication, people and how to create relationships. Since my first steps in my working career I have always been very fortunate as I was always able to find interesting jobs, that also introduced me to the world of luxury corporate brands. Since then I enjoyed many varied experiences and alternated my work in luxury brands with time in the nonprofit sector connecting them with corporate CSR activities, learning how to do my profession as a “woman of communication” in a different “World” , from a different prospective. My dream and intent is to help others and thanks to my work, I can put together my “old soul” linked to the luxury world, doing beautiful things done in the best way together with developing the CSR area end its activities in the company I work for, trying to influence especially the outside world.

I organize cultural corporate events, related to the world of art and cinema, trying to give beautiful experiences to people, hoping that this will have a positive impact on them. I believe beauty brings positivity that can help solve situations in general. At the same time I create and propose CSR strategies and activities.

The company I work for has an International partnership with an NGO (non governmental organization) – SOS Childrens Villagges. SOS, as many NGOs, has an extreme need to find new donors to reach the necessary funds to sustain the on going projects and to create new ones. I follow directly the relationship with SOS but at the same time, depending on the situation, I try to link myself to local NGOs.

In both cases, through my strategy, I try to give a internship experience to the NGOs so to allow people, clients and friends to know, appreciate the organization, hoping they will fall in love with it and trust it, becoming permanent donors.

I am absolutely convinced that being aware and believing in what you do, will generate positivity from many point of views, among which feeling satisfied. When you help someone it comes back to you and rewards you.

EBBF: Martina you strike me as a person of great energy, how would you describe yourself?

MARTINA: Martina is a world, I see myself as a sunflower that wants to hug, expand its radiance towards other people. They tell me to be passionate and inspiring, I know that everything I do is for passion. I’m human, I have my limits and I realize that as we grow it is important to take in consideration the weaknesses too, as something on which to grow and share. Just communicating them, they become a strenght.

I am on a path of knowing myself, understanding deeply who I am and at the same time understanding better the human being in general. I love to share and compare because they lead you to growth, helping you to learn about yourself and life, and this brings you to improve human relationships.

One of the Baha’i concepts I carry with me is that work is love in action, I find it a value and an expression that should stand at the base of the choices you make and of the behavior you may have. I take it with me in and out daily.

EBBF: In the last 20 years, we heard about environmental impact, then about social businesses and of  CSR as an instrument to create awareness in enterprises of their social impact. From your personal experience, what would you see as ways in which a company can apply a CSR to its business?

MARTINA: In 2011, the European Commission said that ” for Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) refers to the integration of ethical concerns within the strategic vision of enterprise: it is a manifestation of the will of the great, small and medium enterprises to effectively manage the problems of social and ethical impact in them and in the areas of business… in addition to having a positive impact on the workers and on the territory, a proper strategic approach to CSR involves an advantage for competitiveness enterprises. ”

CSR is totally part of the company for which the company itself takes care of the community/society where it works: CSR begins from the inside developing towards the outside. Internally, it creates an environment where the employee does his job with passion, making sure that his work is as close to excellence as possible, leading this to an optimal product. At the same time , if the CSR is also made and communicated externally and activated in a certain way, taking care of the community ( trivially family’s employees , the schools around where their children study, village… ), with the same quality and product prices, the customers will buy the products of the company that takes care of the environment. This also means, therefore, economic growth. A win win situation from many point of views.

To implement CSR activity you need to stop, reflect and be aware of what you can do with a yardstick that can be common sense.

The CSR is different depending on the size of the company. First you have to take in consideration that theoretically the CSR strategy , therefore the various activities, must go equally both internally and externally. 1st step is to understand what there is to improve for the welfare of the employees, taking in consideration the different situations and needs, trying to respect the employee in all his human nature, making him happy, satisfied and proud to work fro a company so respectful. In this way, employees work with passion, leading to a better chain in the entire production process. Hence many companies that create kindergardens in its facilities, services that help employees moms, other than respecting different faiths.

Simultaneously it is necessary to observe what your company does, what your product is and how does it impacts on the community around you. Then figure out how you can improve the lives of the families of your employees and the community. How to do it? There are so many variations that can concern the manufacturing process or otherwise.

EBBF:  Communication is the bridge between CSR and the image that a company wants to give, there are those who only stop at appearances, greenwashing whilst others actually carry out impactful CSR policies. What makes the difference in a communication strategy related to CSR?

MARTINA: A difference in a communication strategy linked to CSR is to be authentic in the CSR activities, to believe in them. Only in this way it is possible to create an real and continuous impact. CSR must be at the base of companies’ philosophy and activities and not a side area.

CSR begins from the awareness of what is happening around us and in the world. Talking about CSR, we must talk about common sense, respect and civic sense done with the head, deleting (or at list reducing) EGO and jealousy. You need to listen, observe and respect who and what surrounds you, trying to put into actions strategies that respond to the needs of the territory and of the community.

Professionally it is important to set guidelines both in marketing and in business plan, creating a real strategy considering the different stakeholders with whom you are dealing with, till setting some measurement indicators (KPIs). Last but not least, share with everyone-employees , community – the different targets that have been reached.

EBBF: Considering your experiences, can you tell us how you learned the CSR strategies you’re putting into practice, who you need to engage with and how you keep up to date on the topic to better develop your work?

MARTINA: I recently took a gap year, it was then that I realized how many things can be done to help this world be a better world, to help people survive but also live, as well as make them aware of what surrounds us and that each action has a reaction.

When I came back, I decided to do my job but trying to help others. After that, different realities and wonderful “angels” came into my life and allowed me to learn the theory and then also the practical implementation of CSR. Among these “angels” who always accompanies me faithfully is EBBF with Daniel Truran and Tamara Anderton, that advise me and allow me to confront, growing in experience .

Through them I met wonderful people, like Kit Bigelow – former representative of the Bahai at the U.S. Government – an extraordinary person with great sensitivity and sweetness, but at the same time, an impressive strengh. With her in Washington DC we made a series of very interesting experiences and still now we confront each other both on the professional and personal path we are on, trying to improve ourselves and our actions in various fields.

I always start from the base that the best teaching is the sharing & confrontation, that begins from the observation and then leads into the “put into practice”.

Working for Akilah Institute for Young Women – International NGO located in Rwanda – has been a hard challenge for me, as it led me to travel U.S. for a “safari” of fundraising that made me understand the mechanisms of a different country & culture, other than their professional dynamics in the Nonprofit. Through this experience I came into contact with many people of great content with whom the sharing is always active as with Saji Prelis – resp . Search For Common Grounds for all global projects related to children and youth – and Beatrice Lentati – Historical Italian fundraiser that has been doing this job for 40 years, nationally and internationally.

My contacts with the Nonprofit allowed me to touch their dynamics , but above all the various needs that exist in the world , so considering CSR as the Will and consciousness of the individual and of the enterprises to take care of their territory and community , it becomes the bridge between profit and non -profit .

Other than continuing to confront & share, I read books, and observe what happens in the web and in the world in general so to keep myself informed about situations and people, thus understanding what you can do to change and improve the world and ourselves.

It is a slow process, but big changes come with small steps.

(Interview by Giuseppina Cuccurullo)

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