Fondazione Zegna: from philanthropy to sustainability


Improving the quality of life for people and communities, safeguarding the environment, promoting culture, developing the potential of young people and supporting scientific research. These are the four main areas in which Fondazione Zegna has been active for over 13 years to perpetuate the values, philosophy and actions of Ermenegildo Zegna, who founded the wool mill that still bears his name in Trivero (Biella) in 1910. Since its set-up, the Foundation’s mission has been to support long-term projects that are constantly monitored in relation to the changing needs of the beneficiary communities and host countries. Such projects therefore evolve over the years, albeit within the framework of consolidated relationships with key international partners. We asked Anna to give us a summary of Fondazione Zegna’s work in the various areas in which it operates.   The capacity to develop projects on the basis of the changing needs of populations is one of the main characteristics of Fondazione Zegna’s activities. Why is this? Over these 13 years, our approach has evolved, from a concept of pure philanthropy to one of sustainability. In this way we’ve been able to intervene not just on a single aspect of the life of a community but in different areas, such as health, education and environmental protection, thus achieving intervention at a local level but with international resonance. Our project in India alongside Care & Share is emblematic. Its main focus is the education of children of all ages but when economic crisis in that country put the educational process at serious risk, we stepped in to guarantee self-sufficiency in terms of food for a small community in the Krishna district of the State of Andhra Pradesh.   How important is it to guarantee a proper education for the young in these disadvantaged areas? Education is vital for getting onto the labor market. Young people follow professional courses and that prepares and trains them. This ensures them a future and restores their dignity. This is why Fondazione Zegna pays the salaries of teachers at Daddy’s Home school and offers scholarships to older kids who want to go on to university or higher professional training. A very similar approach,but in a completely different context, is adopted by the project for the San Patrignano Community. Girls do “weaving” courses to help them acquire autonomy in society.   Unfortunately, populations’ needs change in humanitarian emergencies. How does the Foundation react in such cases? In these cases our priority, along with the organizations rooted in the territory with whom we have long-term relationships, is to build projects and intervene specifically to contribute to the reconstruction of the country by actively engaging the population. We have set up a specific fund for these emergencies.   In the last few years the concept of emergency in Italy has become associated with hydrogeological disaster… Just last year, together with the FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano, we launched a reclamation project at Punta Mesco in Levanto (La Spezia), in the Cinque Terre national park in Liguria. This is the only case, in Italy, of public-private collaboration not only to upgrade an agricultural-rural settlement -in an area of 80 km2 – but also to revive ancient trades and traditions that will guarantee added value and create jobs. Another example of virtuous collaboration between the public and private sectors is the “Panda Corridor” project with WWF China. Here too, we managed to directly involve local communities in the creation of new models for eco-tourism, sustainability, environmental education and the safeguarding of a natural resource that was risking extinction.   Culture plays a central role in the Foundation’s various projects. Which of the projects focus specifically on culture? In addition to the exhibitions at Casa Zegna, our strategy last year was two-pronged, combining tradition and innovation: on one hand the recovery of memory through our archives, and on the other collaboration with contemporary artists under the ALL’APERTO project. Our acquisition of the Heberlein archive enabled us to enrich Casa Zegna, the Foundation’s historical archive and cultural center, with a collection of 2,200 volumes catalogued and indexed to allow searching by fabric and pattern. In the new edition of ALL’APERTO, on the other hand, the artist Marcello Maloberti has created a work that has given new life to the terraces of the Centro Zegna, a space much loved by the Trivero community in the past. Ever since the Center was set up by Ermenegildo Zegna, it is has been an important place for meeting and relaxation. Today, thanks to Maloberti’s permanent installation, its terraces are once again playing a central role. Find out all Fondazione Zegna’s projects

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