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Category winner: Enel's Innovability:
Global Open Innovation and Sustainability

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This case won the Ethics and Social Responsibility category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2021. #CaseAwards2021

In conversation with... Felipe Monteiro and José Miguel García Benavente

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we were sadly unable to visit Felipe and José Miguel to present their awards in person.

However, they joined our Director, Richard McCracken, from France and Chile, to discuss their winning case.

The full conversation can be watched on the right, or each section can be viewed separately below:

The case

Francesco StaraceWho – the protagonist

Francesco Starace is the CEO and General Manager of Enel S.P.A, a global energy company. He joined the company in 2000 becoming CEO in 2014 and, in the five years that followed, Enel’s drive for sustainability and innovation saw them become one of the world’s leading integrated electricity and gas operators across five continents.


The case focuses on Starace and Enel’s achievements in the last five years. It explores Enel’s developments in their dual goals of sustainability and innovation – or what the company calls ‘innovability’. These strategic pillars embrace the notion of 'open innovation' using its innovation hubs, crowdsourcing platform and digitalisation, but with sustainability remaining at the core of the organisation.


Starace believes that technology and business model innovation are the key to reducing CO2 emissions and creating a more sustainable future by boosting renewable energy production. He sees the sustainability of Enel as essential to determine its long-term future as a leading 21st century energy provider.


Enel is an Italian founded multinational energy company that now has operations across five continents.


The case explores the period between Starace being appointed CEO in 2014 and the World Economic Forum in January 2019.

Key quote

You could say we could continue to do our own business the way we used to do, and probably nothing would have happened in the next five years to us. We would probably be fine. But if we wanted to go and look beyond that, we should change immediately […] sustainability is needed because without it innovation cannot fly in an energy company." - Francesco Starace

What next?


Clearly successful, with share price rising 66% in the last five years and much international acclaim, Starace maintains his sense of urgency, knowing that the energy sector’s transformation towards sustainability will happen faster and deeper than people think. He wonders if Enel is adapting fast enough to harvest all the opportunities that this transformation unlocks.

Instructor viewpoint

Discover how this case works in the classroom.

Instructors “We used this case for our Master in Management Global Strategy Course in 2020.

“We like teaching this case in the classroom because it allows the students to take a deep dive into what it would take to implement open innovation in a large organisation and the implications of such an approach. We believe the case provides excellent background materials to enable the participants to debate their opinions as they put themselves in the shoes of the managers. We also like the extensive complementary teaching materials such as the interview videos.”

Tina Ambos, Professor of International Management, and Katherine Tatarinov, PhD Student and Teaching Assistant, at the Université de Genève.

Instructors "Getting large corporations to wholeheartedly embrace sustainability goals is perhaps the most pressing challenge of our generation. Despite good intentions, there are not many corporate leaders and top management teams that manage to convince their stakeholders, shareholders and thousands of employees to work towards sustainability goals. Enel is an exception and a shining example in that regard.

“The case offers detailed and specific insights into how Enel’s leadership achieved this objective in a global context and by leveraging innovation. It also allows for rich class conversation on the main challenges that the top management face in getting a global organisation to innovate towards sustainability.”

Ivanka Visnjic, Associate Professor, ESADE. 

The authors


Felipe Monteiro and José Miguel García Benavente

This is the second win for Felipe, following his Hot Topic case competition win in 2018, and first for co-author José.

Remarkably, it’s INSEAD’s 95th Case Award, and fourth in the Ethics category (2009, 2013, 2019, 2021).

An honour

Felipe and José said: “We are proud to bring this award to INSEAD. It is not only an honour for us as case writers, but it is also recognition to INSEAD for its focus on developing new compelling case studies. We are also happy to see that business schools worldwide are focusing on bringing to the classroom this highly relevant and timely topic of how organisations can use innovation as a powerful tool to enable a more sustainable future.”

Sustainability and Enel Sustainability and Enel

They continued: “Many companies are trying to become more sustainable, and many companies are trying to boost their competitive advantage through innovation. But there are not many companies that have made such a radical commitment towards sustainability and innovation as Enel, to the point of putting those two areas together at the core of their strategy.

“The energy sector used to be seen as conservative, slow-motion, and maybe, ‘boring’; this case proves the contrary.”

Full support

The authors said: “The case is a comprehensive description of the implementation of the ‘innovability’ strategy of Enel. This was only achieved thanks to the full support of the company. Enel gave us full access to a great number of top executives for interviewing across the company. Furthermore, the main protagonists, Starace (CEO), Ciorra (CIO), and Tentori (Head of Innovation Hubs, Startups and Business Incubation), continued to collaborate with us by coming to INSEAD to engage directly with our students in the classroom.”

TimingTiming, timing, timing

Felipe and José concluded: “We think that timing is everything for a good case. We believe in ‘live cases’, meaning cases that describe strategies and transformations that are happening right now.

“When we started writing this case, Enel was in the fifth year of implementing its innovability strategy. We arrived in good time to describe a well-sounded process that was just starting to harvest its results. At the same time that students are reading the case, they can see the company and its protagonists all over the business press talking about the issues they read in the case. This generates a unique experience for the students when preparing and discussing the case.”

About the authors

Felipe Monteiro is a Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy at INSEAD.
e felipe.monteiro@insead.edu
tw @lfmonteiro

José Miguel García Benavente is an engineer specialised in the energy sector. He was an MBA student at INSEAD when he wrote the case.
e jose-miguel.garcia@insead.edu

Interested in finding out more?

Download the case and teaching note

Educators can login to view a free educator preview copy of this case and its teaching note.

Enel's Innovability: Global Open Innovation and Sustainability
Ref 719-0058-1

Teaching note
Ref 719-0058-8


View all the 2021 winners