Ermenegildo Zegna gets involved in social and environmental projects.

Ermenegildo Zegna is no stranger to the fashion scene, but the family business impresses beyond its sophisticated collections through its devotion to social, educational and environmental causes. The Zegna family’s vision for global betterment began in 2000 with the creation of Fondazione Zegna (Zegna Foundation) with an aim to conserve the environment, contribute in developing local communities and support medical and scientifi c research training for youths.

With an extensive history in Trivero, Italy, descendants of the Zegna family started the foundation through small-scale contributions to cultural development, while consistently seeking involvement that would eventually lead to larger projects.

The foundation continues to capitalise on its long-term plans through strong partnerships with various organisations. The foundation has recently partnered with the Italian National Trust (FAI) on multiple projects that focus on preserving Italian landmarks such as the Punta Mesco.

The Zegna Foundation and FAI aim to revitalise the 45ha Punta Mesco, nestled within the Cinque Terre National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site. The project involves the efforts of local and regional authorities to repopulate the monumental site after two decades of abandonment.

The land was acquired by the Fiascherino Co of Monza in the 1990s with the aim of setting up family homes. However, the plan was vetoed because of Italy’s environmental preservation laws in 1999. During that same year, the Cinque Tree National Park was inaugurated. Since then, the landmark has suffered degenerating infrastructure and overgrown vegetation as a result of human abandonment. Noticing this, FAI and the Zegna Foundation sprang into action and began their project on July 22, 2013.

Podere Case Lovara marked the beginning of the project’s first phase, which opened its doors to the public on June 24, 2016. The restoration of two buildings (built in the 18th and 20th century) was one of its most striking changes, along with the revitalisation of Punta Mesco’s farmlands.

Through this initiation phase, FAI and the Zegna Foundation introduced sustainable energy that runs on eco-friendly sources, in addition to implementing water purifiers that recycle rain water for consumption and sanitary usage. The organisers also revived the park’s agriculture by planting an olive grove, vegetable garden and orchard around the perimeter of Podere Case Lovara.

It is not all about Europe when it comes to the Zegna Foundation’s social and educational targets; Africa and Asia are in its sights for the near future. Through collaboration with India’s Share & Care, Africa’s San Patrigano and Amref, the foundation has set its sights on providing education while addressing pressing social issues. Battling infantile death is one of the priorities for the organisations, along with facilitating various types of training for individuals who have been rehabilitated from substance abuse.

The altruistic spirit does not quite stop there for this menswear brand: Aside from the specialised sub-company, the Zegna Group cashes in a yearly investment of €1 million ($1.53 million) for scholarships dedicated to gifted youngsters in the research department — those still studying or new to the workforce.

Although the scheme has not gone global just yet, it is apparent that Zegna has displayed tremendous effort and progress through its years of active participation in environmental and social projects — it will be interesting to see the projects and partnerships that the Zegna Foundation will be involved in next.

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 746 (Sept 19 ) of The Edge Singapore.