By amending the rules of the Code of Public Contracts (Legislative Decree 50/2016), Fiscal Decree 2020 (Legislative Decree 124/2019) represents a key step towards greater diffusion of social and environmental impact assessment. Such novelty must be analyzed not only in relation to the concrete application of the new law, but also for its inspirational value for further initiatives in the more general context of the Impact Economy - namely, the ecosystem of financial and entrepreneurial tools capable of balancing profit with the pursuit of common benefit goals.
With a first step, the Decree includes the impact assessment among the criteria to be used by the ANAC (National Anti-Corruption Authority) for the "calculation" of the company rating - a useful tool to determine the reputation of economic operators in public procedures. While waiting for the ANAC to adopt the guidelines aimed at regulating the way in which the rating is issued, the legislator intends to reward companies that measure their impact.
The second feature concerns the possibility for the Public Administration to award a higher score in calls for tenders if (i) the companies carry out a social impact assessment, or (ii) the offer concerns "goods, works or services with a lower impact on health and the environment, including goods or products from short or zero kilometer supply chains".
It should also be noted, with regard to the methods of impact assessment, how the legislator expressly refers to the discipline of Italian “Società Benefit” (a specific legal status of benefit corporation), which introduces a specific tool, the "external evaluation standard", for a comprehensive, articulated, credible and transparent assessment of the impact generated by the company.
It emerges, therefore, how the impact assessment - through the above-mentioned standard - becomes a transversal tool capable of enhancing, rewarding and making more competitive the companies that undergo this measurement process, regardless of whether they are qualified as “Società Benefit”.
In this sense, as mentioned in the introduction, the innovative scope of Fiscal Decree 2020 is to be assessed in the wider context of impact investing and purpose-driven companies. At a global level, governments are implementing regulatory measures and policies aimed at spreading such investment and entrepreneurial practices, capable of balancing profit with the pursuit of social and environmental impact.
Indeed, even if Fiscal Decree recalls the external evaluation standard of “Società Benefit”, numerous other entities are already implementing measuring and reporting practices. This is the case, for instance, of the Start-ups with Social Vocation or the Social Enterprises. Decree Law 179/2012 requires the former to fulfil impact reporting obligations, through the drafting, once a year, of a "Social Impact Assessment Document" - following the indications of Ministerial Circular No 3677/C of 2015. On the same direction, under Legislative Decree 112/2017 Social Enterprises must draft a social report in light of recent ministerial guidelines (Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policy Decrees of the 4th and 23th of July 2019).
All the above-mentioned regulatory developments, as well as Fiscal Decree 2020, provide entrepreneurs and investors with new tools which go beyond the conventional division between for-profit and non-profit entities, with the identification of a hybrid cluster of companies committed to social and/or environmental purposes. Social and sustainability goals (increasingly binding even under the SDGs hat) strategically become factors capable of increasing the competitiveness of both investors and companies.