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Why Dentsu Italy’s creative agencies have become a benefit corporation

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By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

April 4, 2022 | 4 min read

Holding company Dentsu has reorganized its Italian creative agencies into a benefit corporation, a legal structure that elevates a business’s social impact to equal status with its profit-making activities.

Dentsu’s creative agencies in Italy include Mcgarrybowen/The Big Now, Isobar, MKTG and The Story Lab. They are all part of Milan-based Dentsu Creative SRL, one of the network’s five umbrella companies in Italy. That company has legally altered its articles of association, the documents that state its purpose as an organization. Typically, a limited company’s articles will state that it exists to create value for its owners and shareholders. In contrast, a benefit corporation includes a commitment to providing value to society alongside that commercial purpose.

In the case of Dentsu Creative, the company has stated it will focus on providing digital skills education to young people in Italy. As part of that commitment, Dentsu will now publicly declare its performance on social issues in a report attached to its annual financial results.

Dentsu Italy

Dentsu Italy / Dentsu Media site

Dentsu EMEA chief Giulio Malegori said: “At Dentsu, we have always understood the intersectionality of our business and societal issues and we do not take this privilege and responsibility lightly.

“I applaud our creative team in Italy for taking the lead on anchoring their entire operations around social impact and fully harnessing the power of their creativity to deliver common good and prioritize the long-term societal benefits over short-term outcomes and hope more agencies will join us in this movement.”

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Benefit corporations have existed in the US as a legal framework since 2010 and have been utilized by agencies before – Havas New York gained the status in 2021.

In 2016, Italy was the first European country to allow businesses to define themselves as ‘società benefit’. Since then, businesses such as coffee brand Illy have signed up.

The change is distinct from the third-party B Corp accreditation, which several agencies – including Havas’s New York and London shops – have already achieved.

Emanuele Nenna, chief executive of creative and executive board member of Dentsu Italy, said: “Ideas can shape the world we live in. The creative community at Dentsu Italy has the collective desire to use our expertise to make a positive impact on the communities we operate in. Becoming a benefit corporation gives us the legal framework to drive growth from good for our clients and to use the power of storytelling to make our society inclusive to all. I am proud and honored to lead our team into the next phase of our creative journey.”

In addition to reporting on its progress, Dentsu Creative will be required to appoint one of its staff as an ‘impact manager’, with responsibility for its social purpose work.

A new digital skills program called The Code has been launched by Dentsu in Italy, providing school pupils and people just beginning their careers with digital training and free workshops. In a statement, Dentsu said the scheme would target rural schools currently lacking in digital resources and training opportunities.

The company has said it will put staff and clients through a new round of diversity, equity and inclusion training “to create shared values and accelerate their collective contribution to society”.

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