Internationalization and sustainability: is it really possible today?

The answer is yes, one can talk about Internationalization and Sustainability by creating a link between these two worlds, going so far as to talk about Sustainable Internationalization.

What many companies find difficult, however, is the “how” to do it, since the topic of sustainability is still very idealized and not very concrete, especially for SMEs that do not have the tools and means to equip themselves with structures dedicated to studying this area.

Internationalization and sustainability: we understand what it means.

What does it mean to do internationalization sustainably?

In business practice, it implies the creation of a business model that makes the strategic objectives of internationalization paths complementary on the one hand, with those of social and environmental responsibility on the other. The structuring of internationalization paths, therefore, can no longer be based exclusively on product-related levers, but must also take into account the sensitivity and importance that the country in which one intends to arrive attaches to the “sustainability” dimension.

Hence the growing importance of Sustainable Internationalization.

While this increased attention represents a greater effort on the part of companies, improving their impact by working on ESG levers can translate into new opportunities for the company itself. This is because attention to certain issues creates an added value in the company’s offering that, as also in the previous insights, is increasingly recognized and rewarded by both clients and partners, who are increasingly attentive to these issues.

Obviously, the level of sensitivity related to these issues depends from country to country, also depending on what are the major perceived issues and, consequently, the policies adopted. In fact, while in more developed countries such as the United States and Japan the main issues are related to the reduction of pollution levels and thus environmental impact, in poorer and developing countries the focus is more on land development policies and equitable access to resources, aspects more related to the social dimension.

Sustainable internationalization: to do or not to do?

Addressing the issue of sustainability in internationalization processes can no longer be limited to the choice between “to do or not to do,” which is becoming more and more taken for granted, but must evolve and is evolving rather on figuring out what to do and on which dimensions to intervene, taking into account the economic return of initiatives.

A path to internationalization must therefore also include an assessment of the aspects that affect sustainability, taking into account which of the ESG levers to work on depending on the country in which one intends to internationalize.

It is therefore necessary to understand how to do this.

A first useful reference is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, signed in 2015 by 193 UN countries. The 2030 Agenda has since been declined into numerous goals, 17 to be precise, better known as the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs).

Each refers to an issue of global concern that can be traced back to one of the ESG levers: reducing global poverty and hunger (SDGs 1 and 2, social dimension), preserving terrestrial and marine biodiversity (SDGs 14 and 15, environmental dimension), and building sustainable infrastructure and institutions (SDGs 9 and 16, governance dimension). Businesses can then begin to think about these issues, taking into account, on the one hand, the areas of greatest sensitivity for target countries and, on the other hand, their own investment opportunities and target sector.

We at Roncucci&Partners have been helping Italian SMEs to face the challenge of foreign markets for more than 20 years, and today, as then, we are able to activate the most suitable skills to structure a path that allows companies to prepare for the challenge of Internationalization while also considering the dimension of Sustainability.

Elena Parazza


At Roncucci&Partners we help companies develop themselves and their business, embrace change and evolve to thrive in a world that is increasingly complicated, insidious and requires great expertise. We do this by applying punctual methods and rigorous strategies, the result of many years of experience and the richness of the numerous success stories we have conducted all over the world. Passion and method are indeed our guides to enhance the present and build the future.

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