Legacoop, Gamberini's route. "We have businesses to envy and no prejudices about Meloni"- Corriere.it
Stimone Gamberini has been the new president of Lega Coop for a week. Born in Bologna, 49, he created his first cooperative at the age of 20, but was mayor of his municipality (Casalecchio sul Reno) for ten years before returning to the world of cooperation. He presented himself at the congress as a unitary candidate, therefore chosen from a prior consultation and prepared the nomination assembly with a tour of the decentralized organizations throughout Italy together with the outgoing president Mauro Lusetti. Calm manner, he delivered the final speech of the congress at Mentana speed, he has great captains of Coop companies behind him and therefore can afford to promise discontinuity.
I followed your congress and I got the impression that there was a lot of talk about the distinctive identity of the Coop League, a lot about major global issues and little about the economy. And the state of health of the companies you represent.
The congress was the final stage of a long consultation process which lasted 5 months and which served precisely to discuss the sectors and our businesses. Let's say we had already done our homework.
Can you explain to us what the expression distinctive identity means today?
Reaffirm the diversity of cooperation. Our traditional cultural positioning and our value platform have been plundered by the shift of part of the corporate world towards ESG objectives and therefore we feel the need to update our identity. paradoxical that the zeitgeist is moving towards mutualism and we are unable to intercept this trend. To translate those innovations into the concrete choice of the cooperative form as a way of doing business. If the accountant-type is faced with a group of young people, he proposes them to found a Srl and not a coop.
Is a reputational reason perhaps in the weight that the expression "false cooperatives" has assumed in public communication?
Also. The false cooperatives already existed in the early 1900s and the deputies in the Parliament of 1919 denounced their dumping action. The phenomenon is the same even today. But I must say that things are changing either because in logistics there is now a swirl of Srls which unfortunately fulfill that function and also because it is increasingly clear who we are and who the counterfeiters are.
Let's come to business. Cooperative housing has undergone a ferocious restructuring, many large companies have disappeared. a definitive figure or do you plan to go upstream?
It was a disaster for the sector and not just for the coops and this was due to the lack of an industrial policy. And the entire Italian system pays the consequences, because in the end there is a lack of players capable of creating complex infrastructures. But I don't hide, there was a blow. Once the construction industry represented 20% of our total turnover, today at 10%. Historical brands have disappeared and, with hindsight, some of those companies could perhaps have been saved and not liquidated. It would have been enough if the State had behaved with us as it did with large private individuals. But that 10% today made up of healthy and capitalized companies.
changed for their business model.
Somehow yes. I'm thinking of Cmb which specializes in hospital construction and high-rise structures, reaching positions of absolute excellence on the market. Today we are able to choose and not chase tenders at the lowest price. So we focused and specialized while maintaining a sufficient margin. A different approach from other Italian players in the sector.
In large-scale distribution, the season of high inflation sees costs rise and consumption fall. What strategies have your companies adopted? And is it fair to say that the aggregations that you have launched internally have not given the desired results?
Meanwhile, adding Conad and CoopItalia, the cooperative world controls about 30% of the market, it should not be forgotten. Then it is evident that we must be faithful to the historical roots of consumer coops. We give priority to the needs expressed by our members, not always to the indications of market surveys. We don't choose our customers, we are loyal to the territories even at the cost of paying for it in terms of margins. As for inflation, we have chosen to absorb part of the increases and not dump them downstream: even private individuals have paid for it when they have temporarily made the same choice. You don't run away.
Is there an internationalization prospect for your large-scale retail trade?
A cooperative also exists in Saint Moritz, but joke aside, our aim is to respond to the needs of consumers and retailers, so we stay within the borders.
Agribusiness has given you some extra satisfaction. The recent Taste survey on cheeses saw Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano in the top positions in the world.
We are present in three key supply chains such as milk/cheese, oil and wine and in all of them we have managed to build transformation and distribution platforms of excellence. The more structured companies export 40%, but in some niches we reach 80% by making the most of the PDOs and local products. Let's say that in the agri-food sector we have managed to interpret the need for innovation better than elsewhere and we represent an extraordinary vehicle for promoting the export of Made in Italy agri-food products.
To the point of becoming your first sector?
Not yet, large-scale distribution now accounts for approximately 40% of the entire coop system. There is a balance, in terms of turnover and employment, between agro-food, production and services and social cooperation. The latter with significant growth rates in the last ten years.
Is logistics a sore point? You are mainly present in porterage.
Look what's wrong. That was the case up until 10 years ago, while today we have moved towards the top end of the business. We manage entire distribution chains on a turnkey basis. There are our companies full of engineers and we have at least 7 groups, the result of combinations and mergers, with a turnover of 200 million. What we lack, not only in this sector, is financial partnerships, subjects willing to invest in us without asking us to become Spas.
Let's move on to insurance and what we could define as the special relationship you have with Unipol.
Unipol is a large insurance group whose control is firmly in the hands of consumer cooperation, which has supported the company's growth process together with the market. As for performance, we can only consider it a successful story and investment.
At the end of the congress you said that the Alliance of Cooperatives which sees you together with Confcooperative and Agci cannot aspire to organic unity. Goodbye dreams of glory?
We have understood that organic unity cannot be achieved because it is difficult to merge organizations that are so different in terms of operating models, social foundations and relationships with businesses. But my intention is to encourage everyone to get out of today's impasse and give us intermediate goals. I am thinking of unitary structures on individual objectives such as, for example, the fight against false cooperatives. No merger but many joint actions.
Your allies criticize you for your relationship with politics, for the revolving doors used by your leaders: once to assume positions in administrations and once to go back to cooperating. Will you give a cut to this tradition?
I don't believe in absolute incompatibility. I was mayor of my municipality for 10 years and it was an educational experience of the highest quality. Administering is not a bad thing like being elected to an assembly, even if it were Parliament. Today already so few skills come close to politics and we are thinking of excluding others regardless?.
But the revolving doors only concern the Democratic Party and not other parties.
Historically we are born from a cultural area of progressive left and democratic Catholicism and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. The important thing is that as Lega Coop our representation action is not legitimized by the link with this or that party. With this or that government. We derive legitimacy solely from our social base and we represent their needs and interests without prejudice.
So what is your opinion of the work of the Meloni government?
The government has only been in office for six months, we are aware of the current difficulties, we constructively hope that it will be able to deal with the country's many emergencies, the red tape of the public administration, too many territorial and economic inequalities, a tax system that does not reward those who work or invests, young people forced to emigrate to make their dreams come true. On these issues Legacoop is ready to play its part without prejudice, as we did in our congress by discussing with ministers and representatives of the Meloni government.
In the final intervention, speaking of capitalism, he used the adjective extractive. I have also heard similar terms in the speeches of other executives. Are you that pessimistic about the health of the market economy?
I was referring to technological platforms, to Big Techs that behave with respect to the market with a purely extractive logic. I don't want to generalize. Mine was not an overall judgment on Italian capitalism.
In the congress several executives denounced that often your working partners do not make ends meet, they are working poor. a disturbing news.
Unfortunately yes. We are referring to those who work in public procurement or in the cleaning sector and are forced to work involuntarily part-time right from the tender stage. They are the fruits of the culture of the maximum reduction, open or hidden.
A curiosity: in the preparatory materials of your congress you used the schwa. Why this choice?
It was a proposal put forward by those in the organization who deal with gender policies and we adopted it to underline, as already from the language, cooperation presents itself as an offer of inclusion.
I'm out. Speaking of your predecessor Mauro Lusetti, you underlined that we are different. So we will have a lot of discontinuity during your new mandate?
Mauro led the organization through difficult years. Of course, we are different in the way we interpret the role, I am more interventionist and more tied to the concreteness of the processes by virtue of the experiences I have had. I think that Lega Coop, in addition to the representation action, will have to support the activity of the cooperatives to strengthen their ability to compete, enhancing their commitment to sustainability and inclusion. So I'm different from him also and above all because the times and challenges that await us are different.
Subscribe to the newsletter of The Economy
Whatever it Takes by Federico Fubini
The challenges for the economy and markets in an unstable world
Europe Matters by James Fontanella-Khan
Italy and Europe seen from America
And don't forget the newsletters
The Economy Opinions and the Economy 6 pm
Mar 14, 2023
© REPRODUCTION RESERVED