Sergio VazzolerWe don’t want you to be sustainable, we want you to close!” said a poster protesting against McDonald’s in the melee of #noexpo day in Milan, which attracted wide media coverage. Then there are the TV programs, articles and interventions from various quarters against the occupation of Expo by sponsors described as “unpresentable”: joining the hamburger king in the dock are Coca-Cola, Barilla and Ferrero. We realise that any attempt at analysis is likely to be exploited by Italy’s do-gooders; yet something needs to be said, whatever use might be made of it. Many people believe that the above-named multinationals are not legitimate testimonials for a universal exposition dedicated to food and nutrition. Now, it is a given that the problems regarding the values of a correct diet are largely unresolved for these food giants: the abundance of sugar, calories and palm oil is hardly compatible with a healthy diet. Therefore, the objections and pressure to do more and better on the sustainable food front are legitimate, indeed necessary, to “supply content” for debate on the key Expo theme. Perhaps the point to be discussed is this: what attitude should we take about the presence of these “awkward” sponsors during the Expo months? And, vice versa, what role should the companies in question have? Let’s take an “ecopragmatic” approach: let’s eliminate all ideological preclusions and preconceptions and concentrate instead on listening to one another and analysing in detail the merits of sustainable business action. Associations, opinion leaders and civil society would benefit from attributing full legitimacy to the presence at Expo of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and other big names in the food industry: this is the only way for a proper debate on the unresolved issues and a program setting out objectives and end results. With a bias-free approach that takes into account a number of important recent projects introduced by these corporations (water purifiers in Africa and “slim” bottles at Coca-Cola, action against deforestation and the introduction of vegetarian menus at McDonald’s, the activism of Barilla on the Milan Charter, the growing territorial responsibility of Ferrero) and identifies gaps to be bridged and contradictions to be resolved. Meanwhile, those who have the privilege and duty of representing these brands at Expo should come out of their trenches and take a more open-minded stance to the specific requests presented by some highly critical but not for that reason prejudicial sections of society. Leaving aside detractors who want to put the blame for all ills at these corporations’ door (and often fail to respect consumers’ spending decisions), there is still plenty of scope for debate about shared value and corporate social responsibility. The first step, however, is understanding that you don’t take part in this game simply by organising your own company events or with top-down storytelling. When you move from brand communication to unbranded communication, you have to embrace in full the third of Marianella Sclavi’s always relevant “seven rules of the art of listening”: “if you want to understand what someone else is saying, you should assume they are right and ask them to help you see things and events from their perspective.” From now to October, let’s not throw away the extraordinary opportunity offered by Expo to shorten the distances between content in the pavilions of the participating countries, Slow Food and civil society and the content of the corporate pavilions. To feed the planet (better), we have to move away from vetoes and self-referential communication and start testing new practices where territorial identities, social cohesion and global challenges form a single playing field on which everyone can and must take a role.  ]]>