Skip to main content

New Case Study: Enel

Beset by stakeholder challenges, the CEO chooses innovation over tradeoffs

In Australia, Aborigines and Enel crews built the Bungala solar farm on Aborigine-owned land. Courtesy Enel Group.
In Australia, Aborigines and Enel crews built the Bungala solar farm on Aborigine-owned land. Courtesy Enel Group.

The Yale Program on Stakeholder Innovation and Management recently completed a case study on Enel, one of the world’s largest electric utilities, headquartered in Rome. Thanks to our program donors, the case is available to businesses and accredited academic institutions for free by emailing

The case documents the former Enel CEO Francesco Starace and the confluence of stakeholder challenges he faced. In May 2014, the company was one of the most heavily indebted utilities in Europe, which worried shareholders. Communities and activists chronically protested its new international power plant projects, delaying their construction. EU regulators demanded lower emissions from power generation. Enel’s management team and workforce were accustomed to methodically planning and building enormous, multi-billion-euro fossil fuel power plants that were technically obsolete by the time they came online.  

Starace saw these challenges not as unrelated but as conjoined constraints on the company’s long-term success, even viability. But how could he get his management team to view and address these issues holistically? He issued two comprehensive dicta: 1) No new power plants in communities that didn’t want Enel there. 2) Investments only in power plants that could be online within three years. The case, set in 2008-2019, explores how these dual requirements set into motion a company-wide transformation that unleashed innovation in Enel’s culture, shifted its business model toward renewables, forged new ways to engage communities, and resulted in a near doubling of the company’s market value.

The Enel case study has been taught by Jon Iwata, Y-SIM Practice Lead and Yale SOM Lecturer, as part of a new elective course, MGT 840: Stakeholders, Management, and Capitalism. Additionally, it was utilized in the MGT 929: ESG Investing course led by Stefano Giglio, Professor of Finance, and will also be taught in Executive Education courses developed by our program. 

Case written by Gwen Kinkead, Project Editor at the Yale School of Management, executive summary by Stephen Maiden, supervised by Professor Ravi Dhar, Professor Stefano Giglio, Y-SIM Practice Leader Jon Iwata, and Yale SOM Director of Case Research Jaan Elias.