We are updating this page, after the communication of the committee of 29 August 2020

The Economy of Francesco: an event concerned with the Custody of Creation

The organisation of a complex event necessarily requires choices to be made, often for reasons of an exclusively financial nature. Such events always have an impact on the surrounding environment, and we believed it was our responsibility in primis to attempt to mitigate that impact, before requesting virtuous behaviour from those taking part.

With this aspiration in mind, we chose to make the most of an existing experience in Assisi: the Sustainability Project of the Monumental Complex of the Sacred Convent of Assisi; the Fra’ Sole Project was entrusted with the responsibility of implementing a number of actions aimed at organising and conducting an event that was sustainable from a social and economic point of view, as well as in environmental terms. 

Inspired by the gift to humankind that is Laudato si’, and paying the same attention the encyclical letter does to the concept of integral ecology, our aim is for The Economy of Francesco to make a real contribution, through virtuous behaviour, to combating the climate crisis currently under way. 

In Assisi we are expecting thousands of young people from all over the world, invited here by Pope Francis to discuss the role currently played by the world of economics and finance, to which must be added by an in-depth look at the climate issue.

This has led us to reflect on the three aspects – environmental, social and economic – that characterise sustainability.

The terms ECONOMY and ECOLOGY are both derived from the Greek oikos, meaning home; such a close link compels us to take responsibility for our common home, not as owners, but as custodians. 

Although it is undeniable that there is no such thing as a zero-impact event, there are certainly a number of organisational choices that can be made to significantly reduce impact, through a critical management of resources in contrast with the predominant culture of waste. 

The organisational choices, in terms of the various – and complementary – environmental, social and economic aspects, are important, but each of the participants will be called upon to play their part too, by adopting a number of specific behaviours. 

The pandemic under way has compelled us to rethink the entire event, and to calculate its environmental impact differently, and it will be the very process of approaching Assisi that becomes the place of our action as Custodians of Creation.

THE CHOICES MADE BY THE ECONOMY OF FRANCESCO IN THE LIGHT OF COVID19

A number of actions that had substantially been completed will be reconfirmed; although the means of distribution will be reviewed, participants will receive a cotton backpack containing a number of useful items such as a customised thermal drinking bottle. The aim of this is to drastically reduce the amount of disposable materials used and the abuse of plastic, and to optimise the use of water. 

This reduction will be valid both in the City of Assisi and in the places of origin of the participants. The Municipal Council of Assisi has restored 37 historical water fountains; the free water distributors provided for in the villages of the Economy of Francesco will be installed to meet the effective needs identified.

A number of important choices have also been made regarding Catering, from the responsibility for preparing lunch for participants entrusted to the students from the Hotel and Catering School of Assisi to the origin of the food served: we have specifically chosen socially sustainable food products from farms and companies located in the areas affected by the earthquake or committed to the redevelopment of land seized from organised crime.

To make the most of these choices, participants will receive their packed lunches in certified biodegradable, compostable bags compliant with the EN 13432 standard; the same material will be used to wrap the rolls. Compostable materials have also been chosen for the packaging, so that it can be disposed of along with any leftover food and with the bag in the separate collection bin for organic waste.

For the same reason, the decision was taken not to use disposable plates and to provide reusable, foldable cutlery that participants can continue to use after the event, like the drinking bottle. 

Efforts have also been made to reduce the ecological impact of the participants’ work: in the backpack, the young people will also find a notebook in FSC-certified recycled paper, and a pen made from biodegradable Mater-Bi biodegradable, so that their working notes are also taken using sustainable instruments.

THE INVISIBLE CHOICES

Not all the efforts to reduce environmental impact are so clearly visible; there are some choices that need to be illustrated, as well as a number of activities whose impact will continue after the event. The current health crisis has altered the situation, requiring a number of changes to the choices made; other choices will be modified along the way.

A lot of work has already been done, but there is even more still to do, which will require the precise, direct effort of all those who will be playing a part, in any way, in this Sustainability Pilgrimage, which will not come to an end with their encounter with the Holy Father.

With the help of participants in their countries of origin, we are collecting data that we will then be processing with a view to identifying possible solutions to offset the emissions produced.

Our aim is to create a “Forest of Francesco” with plants to offset the emissions produced; the forest will continue to grow with plants linked to the subsequent editions.

Before considering how to offset emissions, however, we have to reduce them, and all sectors are constantly being analysed in depth.

An in-depth study has been conducted on the communication materials, so as to use those with the lowest impact.

Both electrical energy supplies and the management of energy flows have been carefully studied and designed to reduce environmental impact and increase the use of certified renewable energy sources.

It is important to point out that the City of Assisi has been studying flows for some time now, in order to prepare the most effective mobility solutions, taking account of the objective difficulties of a UNESCO World Heritage Site like the City of Assisi.

The Economy of Francesco, and its commitment to an Integral Economy, is not something that will come to an end, and in these pages, we’ll continue to offer updates on the integral economy practices that will gradually be implemented.

Our aim with these good practices is to make an impact and to convey the urgency of the message that there can be no future if we do not take care of our common home.

This starts with little everyday actions, with aware, informed choices that lead to a careful, critical consumption of resources and the promotion of a circular economy that values material and encourages its reuse.

No less important is the adoption of an ethical finance model that moves away from abuse and speculation and increasingly towards supporting the weakest, most vulnerable parts of society, as Saint Francis teaches us.

Starting out from the regulations developed by the Fra’ Sole project for the Sacred Convent, our aim is to develop a resource that can also be used for other events, not only ecclesiastical.

All these activities have been made possible first and foremost thanks to the choices made by the Committee, the good practices in terms of sustainability already applied in the City of Assisi and the surrounding area, and above all thanks to the involvement of Fra’ Sole and the practical efforts of the project partners.