My idea of Humanistic Capitalism and Human Sustainability

Speech by Brunello Cucinelli to the World's Great Leaders on the occasion of the G20

Rome, 31 October 2021

I am honoured to be here among you, the distinguished leaders of our wonderful Earth. I will try with some emotion to express to you my idea of Human Sustainability and what I mean by Humanistic Capitalism.

I spent the first part of my life in the country, we were farmers, we did not have electricity, we worked the land with animals, we collected rainwater, we had a great respect for the earth. The Greek philosopher and poet Xenophanes stated: 'Everything comes from the earth", and we lived in harmony with Creation. The first bale of grain we harvested went to the community at my grandfather's behest. From there I learned the great theme of life: the balance between profit and giving back; that period of my life is still a gift to my soul.

Discorso di Brunello Cucinelli ai grandi della Terra
        in occasione del G20

As a boy, I saw my teary-eyed father, as he was subject to humiliation and offense at work, and even today I do not understand why he should be humiliated and belittled; however, inspired by the pain I read in those eyes, I decided that the dream of my life would be to live and work for the moral and economic dignity of the human being. I wanted a company that made healthy profits, but did so with ethics, dignity and morals; we are listed on the stock exchange, I wanted a company that had a balanced and gracious growth. I wanted human beings to work in slightly better places, earn a little more in wages and feel like thinking souls at work. Let us try not to turn our backs on poverty.

I wanted a small part of the company's profits to go to beautify all of humanity and I wanted people to work a fair amount of hours and be online the right amount of time, so that Technology and Humanism could be harmonised and a healthy balance between mind, soul and body could be restored, because the soul and body also need nourishment every day.

Discorso di Brunello Cucinelli ai grandi della Terra
        in occasione del G20

Discorso di Brunello Cucinelli ai grandi della Terra
        in occasione del G20

We try to respect the laws of every State, and thanks to my esteemed President Draghi, our Italy has regained its credibility.

Our business is located in Solomeo, a small 14th century medieval village near Assisi. We work in old factories built in the past century, some have been restored and embellished to make them modern, others have been demolished and the land has been reclaimed for agriculture, especially vineyards, olive groves, orchards and wheat; so finally we can say that we have not consumed our beloved land. We have restored the village by listening to the wise word of our masters and we have built a theatre that we consider to be a secular temple of art, then a monument to the Dignity of Man and an immense park called "Project for Beauty".

Discorso di Brunello Cucinelli ai grandi della Terra
        in occasione del G20

Discorso di Brunello Cucinelli ai grandi della Terra
        in occasione del G20

And now we are going to build a universal library; for this idea we were inspired by the great Ptolemy I of Alexandria and the Emperor Hadrian when he stated: "Books showed me the way of life; when I grew up, life made me understand the content of books. Whoever builds libraries will have built public granaries for future generations".

Discorso di Brunello Cucinelli ai grandi della Terra
        in occasione del G20

This is our idea of Human Sustainability and what we call Humanistic Capitalism. In greeting and thanking you, I hope my heart has suggested the right words for a request addressed to you, I like to believe, on behalf of the whole of mankind: "Oh my esteemed and powerful temporary guardians of Creation, you who are responsible for the beauty of the world, please show us the way to life. May Creation protect us and enlighten us towards a new universal Humanism".


Our Ideals for Life and Work

Ten Rules

I. We love and respect Mother Earth: we cultivate our land according to nature and we welcome its fruits as its greatest gift.

II. We do not use more resources than it is necessary or natural. We make careful use of the universe.

III. We always act as loyal and affectionate guardians of creation.

IV. We believe in the moral and economic dignity of human beings.

V. During work we support fair profitability and harmony between profit and giving back to the community.

VI. We seek harmony between fair work and human privacy.

VII. We commemorate our forefathers. They taught us to respect the law, and our story is written in their words.

VIII. We believe in universalism and we act displaying great respect for all civilisations.

IX. We welcome fair change in order to experience the best from our time.

X. We are fond of young people and pass down to them hope and the dream of a bright future awaiting them.

Brunello's office

Brunello Cucinelli, FW 1995 campaign


Humanistic Capitalism and Human Sustainability

My early years spent in the countryside, my life in a farming family, left the seed and then the sprout of Humanistic Capitalism and Human Sustainability in my soul. Ours, my family's, was a life in contact with nature, because nature gave us everything. Indeed, we did not even have electricity, and we worked the land with animals, and collected rainwater. There was mutual respect between us and nature, and everything was done in harmony with Creation.

I understood that everything we had came from the Earth, and I experienced in this way, quite simply, the thought that the Greek philosopher Xenophanes expressed many centuries ago: "All things come from earth", as I reminded the world leaders gathered for the G20.

In this harmony with the earth, there was a correspondence between what we got from our work and what we gave to our neighbour; I remember that every year, after the harvest, my grandfather would give the first bale of wheat to the community, an ancient symbol of the balance between profit and giving back, and this symbol became one of the cornerstones of humanistic capitalism, one of the greatest gifts of my youth and my future.

Other equally fundamental gifts came to me from pain, such as the one I experienced one day when I saw my father's tearful eyes after being humiliated at work. Those eyes were not just something personal, because they spoke to me of an offence to the dignity of the human person, of any human person, and this wound, which remained forever in my soul, became for me the imperative and the will to work all my life to foster the moral and economic dignity of the human being.

I dreamed of a business to make profits ethically, with dignity, without causing suffering to people and offence to Creation, or at least as little as possible. I liked to envisage more pleasant workplaces, where one could enjoy the view outside, and I wanted people to earn a little more, because we are all thinking souls, and because we can no longer turn our backs on poverty.

I was thinking of a fair job, in terms of working hours, quality, and harmony between technology and humanism; I was thinking of a job that could foster the creative spirit and of a fair amount of online time, because only in this way can the soul, like the body, be nourished every day.

Plato says that inner order is a virtue, and I have faith in the State: I am convinced of the goodness of respecting laws, even those that we may sometimes like a little less.

I know that our mother earth should not be consumed, but used, so that it can regenerate naturally, and until today I have dedicated myself to preserving what exists, to restoring what has been forgotten by time, to leaving a memory of beauty here, in my little homeland that is Solomeo, the hamlet of cashmere and harmony.

Slowly, with dedication and joy, we have restored the Castle, the village and its outskirts; the Theatre was born, our secular temple dedicated to the arts, and later, in the valley, the Park for Beauty with the Monument to Human Dignity, the vineyard and the Winery, as a token of devoted and grateful children to the great Mother Earth. On Monte della Cima, the Wood of Spirituality completes the spiritual symbolism of the Solomeo area, that is, the dialogue between spirituality, up high, culture, in the Hamlet, and work and nature in the valley.

It is precisely culture that will find its selected home in the new Universal Library of Solomeo, in an eighteenth-century villa that is being restored, right next to the Theatre and the Church of Saint Bartholomew. Love and knowledge for books from all over the world are the reasons that have sustained the greats of all times. In this I was inspired by the ancient Library of Alexandria, created by the King of Egypt, Ptolemy I, and I still think of Emperor Hadrian, according to whom he who builds libraries builds granaries of the soul for the immense benefit of posterity; Hadrian, who had books as a guide to govern himself and the world around him.

In culture and spirituality, as well as in economics and the environment, are the forms that complete the meaning of Human Sustainability, and sustainability is one with Humanistic Capitalism, as an inclusive conception of everything material and immaterial that concerns the human person. The matrix and lowest common denominator of all this is universal humanism.

I like to think of an inclusive sustainability of material and spiritual values, a concrete place where the environment, the economy, culture, morality and the spirit live together. I am convinced that in this way we can have a sustainable and complete action, because in spite of technology we live immersed in nature, and as Leibniz put it, nature "does not make leaps", that is, the relationships between things are of continuity and not of disruption. For this reason we imagine that there should be environmental, economic, cultural, spiritual and moral sustainability.


Environmental sustainability

Every day, on my way to work, I drive through the scent of the fields, the smell of wood burning in the fireplaces, accompanied by the song of nightingales and the water flowing quietly in the Caina small stream. This serenity, this moderation, this providence of rural life appears to my soul as a lovely symbol of environmental sustainability. I sometimes think that all that we are doing today for a better environment, for the reduction of global warming, focusing on the composition of materials, the removal of harmful ones, on landfills and the control of polluting emissions, is in some ways like the ideal departure towards a world where we go back to regenerating, reusing, repairing, recovering, in other words to using the gifts of mother earth according to the natural rule, and this is something within everyone's reach, a conviction that has perhaps been influenced by the first part of my blissful life, spent in the countryside.


Stories of St. Francis: preaching to birds, Giotto, 1266-1336, Assisi, © Scala Archives

Economic sustainability

At our company, everyone does the following: we don't clock in, but we all strictly observe the working hours; we don't want people to be online for business reasons after the end of the working day and on weekends; we want salaries to be slightly higher than average, especially for those classified as blue-collar; we think that the lunch break should be as lovely as the lunch eaten with the family; we surround the workplaces with gardens and landscape, which are there for everyone to see thanks to large windows that make everything visible and present.

When we think of the business, we prefer gracious, constant and balanced development, and this too is a lesson that comes from rural life, where fast accelerations and large harvests cannot become the rule because doing so would damage the great harmony of nature; nature teaches us never to be too afraid of painful events – which often teach us something, as Saint Augustine said – and to follow the regular pace of our action. A hailstorm will never affect the whole countryside, but only part of it; a financial crisis cannot last that long, whatever its causes. And just like Ulysses said, it is enough to keep the rudder steady until the storm is over, beyond which there is always sunshine.


Allegory of Good Government - detail (Prudence),
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 1285-1348 ca., Siena, © Scala Archives

Cultural sustainability

That great part of human thought of all times that is philosophy offers us a scenario of thought often crowded with very different ideas, and there are few things on which there is substantial agreement: one of these is the strong link between culture and the health of the soul. In Solomeo we make sure that culture is available to everyone. It is our way of contributing to that physical and spiritual connection without which culture would remain an unexplored and useless island, and we don't like that. In Solomeo there is a Theatre, an Academy, a School of Contemporary High Craftsmanship and Arts, and a Universal Library under restoration, all of which are freely open to everyone, precisely to encourage that positive close encounter igniting the spark that makes culture bear fruit and makes it sustainable with respect to the human soul.


Man holding a book, Parmigianino, 1529 ca., Vienna, © Alamy Stock Photo

Spiritual sustainability

Almost every day, as I watch the expanse of the Park for Beauty unfold in the valley of Solomeo, I am as astonished and moved as the first time, and I immediately feel the spiritual benefit of such an experience. I like to think that there is a sustainability of matter and a sustainability of spirit. The former is the one we keep most under scrutiny, and rightly so, because to lack control of material things is not acceptable. But at the same time I believe that spiritual values, while sometimes appearing less immediately to the senses, are no less compelling or important for the health of the human person, and for this reason I consider their sustainability as vital as that of matter.

When I’m at work and from a window I see in the distance the beauty of an olive grove gracefully designed in the line of many arches chasing each other, or admire a hillock outlined by cypresses regularly placed at the right distance, or contemplate the gentle curves of the vineyard following an artistic idea, I think admiringly of music, which soars on the mathematical rule, and my mind goes to my esteemed Pythagoras, in whose opinion “number rules the universe”. How many artists, men of letters and philosophers over time have not emphasized this point? From the time of Plato, through all the medieval scholastic philosophy, and then in the Enlightenment, up to idealism, positivism, existentialism and finally to the present day, the usefulness of contact with something beautiful, be it a painting, a book, or a landscape, is the seed from which the tree of wisdom grows, that wisdom that the human being cannot do without for their best life, just like my life, my soul and, I am sure, everyone’s soul, improves when we are treated with respect and benevolence.

Moral sustainability

I think of a wonderful book dating back to the 15th century and titled “Praise to the honorable merchant” by Benedetto Cotrugli, one of those universal spirits whom I have always looked up to as a mentor; a small manuscript of vital importance where he states that everything should be bought and sold at the right price. Cotrugli was certainly a humanist merchant, perhaps the first one, strictly speaking, and in this sense, with respect to history, almost a pacifist revolutionary who, for this very reason, still has a lot to say to the present day, especially regarding business ethics, and who asserted “the willingness and desire to purchase things with honor and without offending the Lord and thy neighbor”. His clear intent not to harm God or other people in any way seems touching and beautiful to me, and I’ve humbly tried to embrace this tenet in my daily business and in the care for Creation.

Still today, if we can be his moral heirs, we shall know that production must have the right price and the right profit. Not too many years ago, evading taxes could be considered by some as a smart action, and it sometimes sparked an imitative desire. Today this doesn’t happen anymore, things appear very different now. Paying taxes is a value, a duty and at the same time an act of respect to the society we live in and to other people. Just like profit, which must be harmonious and commensurate. How can excessive profit be justified? I crave none, and every single day I try to pay the utmost attention to ensuring that earnings are in line with the morality of my entrepreneurial business and with the high quality of my product. I’m convinced that such vision of the world is true to any human being and especially to young people, to whom we owe a lot and in whom we put our hope for a brighter future ahead of us. Today, with technology, everyone knows everything about everyone, and knowing that a company generates the right profit and distributes such benefit in a way that strikes the balance between profit and giving back creates an overall atmosphere of trust, esteem and serenity.


The tribute money - detail (Christ with the apostles), Masaccio, 1401-1428, Florence, © Scala Archives

Our commitment to reducing emissions

Our company has embarked on a plan to reduce "greenhouse" gas emissions by applying the principles of the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). Our commitment will lead us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% in terms of economic intensity, and by 70% in absolute terms for Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and by 22.5% for Scope 3 emissions over the period 2019 - 2028.


The Story

Il Sogno di Solomeo

Cover of the book "The dream of Solomeo. My life and the idea of humanistic capitalism", by Brunello Cucinelli. Courtesy of the Italian publisher Feltrinelli, 2018

Il Sogno di Solomeo

“The dream of Solomeo”, back cover. “The eternal values of beauty, humanity and truth are the ideals and the guide of our every deed.”

1998 Platinum
Il Sogno di Solomeo

Bust of Marcus Aurelius

Interview for the presentation of the book “Solomeo”, 1998

1996 Settimanale dell'Umbria
1999 Il Sole 24 Ore
The New Yorker

2010 - The New Yorker, "The Prince of Solomeo"

Benedetto Cotrugli

Cover of the book by Benedetto Cotrugli “Enriching oneself with honor. In praise of the good entrepreneur”, foreword by Brunello Cucinelli, Rizzoli publications, 2018.

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