Sustainability glossary

Sustainability glossary



In its literal meaning, this term is a synonym of responsibility.

An organisation is "accountable" if it periodically accounts for and communicates what has been done during its activities transparently to all interested parties. Transparency, sharing and capacity to provide services as a result of its activities enables all persons concerned to build the reputation that the company deserves and consequently decides whether or not to trust it in the future.

Assurance letter

An assurance letter is a conformance certificate written by the auditing company commissioned to certify the Sustainability Report. For the year 2008, the assurance process was carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the same company as the one that certified the Annual financial statement.

The Sustainability Report assurance process is based on the ISAE 3000 standard, issued in 2004 by the International Auditing and Assurance Standard Board (IAASB), the same organisation designated to issue account auditing principles. The activity was carried out with a view to verifying the statement made by the Board of Directors according to which the Report was drawn up in accordance with the provisions laid down by the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines version 3.0 issued by the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative).
(Source: Snam Rete Gas – Sustainability Report 2008, Assurance letter chapter)

Code of Ethics

Clearly defines the values and responsibilities that the company recognises, accepts, shares and adopts both inside and outside the company. The Code of Ethics lays down that all activities must be carried out in conformity with the law, within a framework of fair competition, honesty, integrity and good faith, in respect of the legitimate interest of customers, employees, shareholders, trade and financial partners and the community in which the company carries out its activities.

At Snam Rete Gas, the Supervisory Body has been assigned the functions of Guarantor of the Code of Ethics.
(Source: Code of Ethics – Snam Rete Gas – June 2008)

Corporate Governance

Set of rules, at all levels (laws, regulations, etc.), that govern the company’s management. Corporate governance also includes the relations between the various stakeholders and the company’s targets. The main actors are the shareholders, the management and the board of directors.

The term corporate governance is often used to highlight the features of the structure and operation of a company’s governing and control bodies, the relations between one another and their relations with the bodies representing the shareholders and the management structure.
(Source: Transparent information and ethical management: contents and background conditions, in M.A., Business economics papers in memory of Raffaele D’Oriano, Vol. I, Cedam, Padua)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility (also known as Entrepreneurial Responsibility) is the conduct that the companies should adopt in conducting their activities in a responsible way towards society as a whole and contributing to sustainable development. 
(Source: Relations with stakeholders and corpora social responsibility problems – ENI – September 2005)

Energy efficency

Within the context of the energy management policies introduced in previous years and in progress for upcoming years, aimed at pursuing actions to rationalise, contain and optimise energy consumption, Snam has further strengthened activities aimed at energy savings and the use of renewable energies.


Ethical rating agencies

Companies responsible for selecting potential participants in the Ethical Indexes. Ethical rating may be defined as a brief assessment of a security in which an investment could be made on the basis of social and environmental responsibility criteria.

Ethical stock market index

Ethical stock market indexes are characterised by the criteria for selecting the securities of which they are constituted. Such selection is made by giving priority to conduct demonstrating the companies’ social responsibility as well as their financial performance.

The main ethical indexes on the international markets are the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, Ftse4Good and the Ethical Index Euro.

External audit

An external audit is an activity carried out by a third party to accept the conformity of the ethical and social responsibility tools adopted by the company. It improves the company’s credibility and reputation and stimulates continuous improvement.


Feedback means literally what comes back, the reaction or response to a given action. The concept of feedback plays a fundamental role in communication processes. The quality of the feedback, and the way it is used in the communication process, are signs of good communication. In this case, the meaning of a communicative act can be said to lie in its result. Communication and feedback received are fundamentally important elements for strengthening and improving the relationship between the company and its stakeholders.

GRI (Global Reporting Initiative)

International independent association whose mission is to develop and spread worldwide guidelines on Sustainability reporting, the latest version of which is called Sustainability Reporting Guidelines version 3.0. These guidelines indicate the principles and indicators that organisations can use to measure and publish data on their economic, social and environmental performance.


An indicator is a quantitative or qualitative variable that measures and describes complex events that are difficult to represent. The measurement serves to define the strategic targets to be set within the scope of a Sustainability Plan, enables the efforts made to reach the targets to be monitored and, finally, enables the results obtained to be assessed and compared in time. They may be single indicators or compound indicators (consisting of a combination of two or more single indicators).

ISO 14001

The entire set of ISO 14000 standards provides managerial tools for organisations that wish to keep their own environmental aspects and impacts under control and improve their services in this field.

A characteristic key of all ISO 14000 requirements is their voluntary nature. "Voluntary", in this case, signifies an absence of any legislative obligation as to their use. The decision to apply the ISO 14000 requirements is therefore a strategic decision to be taken with care by the company’s management.

ISO 14001 is the standard that can be implemented by any kind of organisation that intends to improve the execution of its activities by adopting an environmental management system  (1).

The ISO 14001 standard (implemented in Italy in the UNI EN ISO 14001:1996 standard and subsequently the UNI EN ISO 14001:2004 standard) is a certifiable standard that can be obtained from an accredited certifying body that operates in respect of given rules, certificates of conformity with the requirements set forth in it. 
(1)  (Source: ISPRA – EX APAT  – The ISO 14000 standards)

Low environmental impact

With the same energy usage, natural gas combustion produces 25-30% less carbon dioxide than refined products, and 40-50% less than coal. The reduction of emissions per unit of energy produced is even more impressive thanks to the possibility of using natural gas in high-yield applications and technologies such as condensing boilers, cogeneration plants and combined cycles used for electricity production. A combined gas cycle, with a 56-58% yield as compared with the approximate 40% yield of traditional steam cycles, enables a 52% reduction in CO2 emissions as compared with a traditional fuel oil-powered plant, and 62% as compared with a coal-powered plant.


The mission of a company or any organisation is its ultimate aim, the reason for its very existence and, at the same time, what distinguishes it from all others. The mission establishes the fundamental aims and purposes that the company intends to pursue and the consequences it intends to generate through its activities; it is the raison d’être of the activities undertaken by the organisation.


The acronym N.G.O. stands for Non-Governmental Organisation, a term that indicates any local, national or international organisation or group of individuals not created by a Government, that is, that does not belong to a governmental structure and that is committed, with no profit, to social solidarity and cooperation for development. It was originally defined in law 49/87 and identifies organisations that, after a very strict selection procedure, obtain recognition of their suitability for managing cooperation projects from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The projects of NGOs are based on full respect of justice and equity criteria, they operate in a wide variety of fields of concern on various levels: foreign policy, economics, the defence of human rights, globalization, foreign debt issues, relations between the Northern and Southern hemispheres , but, above all, peace.


Closed cycle phytodepuration systems are installed at gas compressor stations for the comprehensive treatment of domestic wastewater produced onsite. These systems help to eliminate this type of discharge because wastewater is treated and completely absorbed by planted vegetation prior to the separation of solid sediments.
Phytodepuration is a system that uses shrubs, plants and flowers instead of traditional purifying systems.
The effectiveness and functioning of the purification system essentially depends on the behaviour of the plants used. Plants have an elevated capacity to absorb and use certain elements, thus preventing the contamination of surface or subterranean water bodies; they also promote microorganisms in the soil that attack and destroy a good portion of organic pollutants.

To function properly plants need an environment that ensures adequate light, water, thermal insulation and the chemical elements needed for organic synthesis. Land is therefore an essential component of this environment as it supports and nourishes plants. In phytodepuration systems, natural habitats for cultivating plants are artificially reconstructed; pollutants are removed through complex biological and chemical-physical processes, an essential part of which is the synergy between plants and the microorganisms that flourish in their habitats.

Protected area

Geographically defined area that is designated or regulated and managed to reach given conservation targets. (Source: Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992)

Socially responsible investment

Socially responsible investment (SRI) is the practice on the basis of which environmental and/or social considerations are integrated with the financial assessments made when choosing whether to purchase or sell a security or to exercise a right over property. SRI consists in selecting the securities of companies, most of which are quoted on the Stock Exchange, that satisfy some social responsibility criteria, that is, that carry out their activities in line with the principles of transparency and honesty towards their own stakeholders.

Stakeholder engagement

The overall process through which the company’s stakeholders are identified, analysed and consulted.

Effective and strategically aligned involvement of the stakeholders may:

  • lead to a fairer and more sustainable social development by giving those who have the right to be heard the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making processes;
  • improve the company’s risk management and reputation;
  • take into account all its resources (know-how, persons, economic and technological resources) in solving problems and reaching targets that cannot be attained by the single entities;
  • provide an in-depth comprehension of the environment in which the company operates, including the developments of the market and the identification of new strategic opportunities;
  • enable the companies to learn from the stakeholders, thus improving the results of their products and processes;
  • inform, educate and influence interested persons and the external environment to improve their decision-making processes and the actions that have an impact on the company and society;
  • establish a relationship of trust between a company and its stakeholders.

(Source: The Stakeholder Engagement Manual - VOLUME 2: THE PRACTITIONER’S HANDBOOK ON STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT -AccountAbility, United Nations Environment Programme, Stakeholder Research Associates – October 2005)


Individuals or groups who have an interest in the company and, in particular, who, in relation to the company’s activities or a specific project:

  • are subject to positive or negative effects;
  • have or could exercise some influence on them;
  • are interested in the results and consequences.

Categories of stakeholders include: shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, public institutions, competitors, local communities, pressure groups, means of mass communication, etc.
(Source: Relations with stakeholders and corporate social responsibility problems – ENI – September 2005)

Sustainability KPIs

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a quantitative indicator used to monitor specific strategic targets associated with the sustainability policy for continuous improvement. It is measured with pre-established frequency, generally more frequently than other indicators and is used to assess the trend of the results in time irrespective of changes in activity.

Sustainability Report

Based on the Triple Bottom Line approach, the Sustainability Report thus takes into account economic sustainability (capacity to generate income, profit and work), social sustainability (capacity to guarantee equally distributed conditions of well-being and growth and capacity to respect human rights and workers’ rights) and environmental sustainability (capacity to safeguard natural resources and the ecosystem’s capacity to absorb and tolerate impacts).
(Source: CSR-SC project, Italian Welfare Ministry)

Sustainable development

There are over three hundred official definitions of sustainable development. The first in chronological order and the best known is the one contained in the Brundtland report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Sustainable development is based on the integration of 10 components: environmental, economic and socio-cultural dimensions, equity between individuals, equity between territories, equity between generations (the equity dimension), diversity, partnership, networking and participation (system principles). The 1992 UN definition is also worthy of mention: Sustainable development means improving the quality of life whilst living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems as is the 1994 ICLEI definition: "development that provides environmental, social and economic services to all the inhabitants of a community, without threatening the operation of the social, natural and built systems on which the supply of such services depends".

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22 August 2018 - 17:08 CEST