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Cultural Heritage Triggering Corporate Investments “Heritage Grab” or Sustainable Development?

Cecilia Pasquinelli

1. Introduction

The concept of cultural heritage has been constantly changing and is still expanding. A difference between tangible (e.g. physical items) and intangible heritage (e.g. oral traditions, performing arts, and rituals; UNESCO, 1972, cited in O’Brien, O’Keefe, Jayawickrama Sc Jigyasu, 2015) has been increasingly accepted, which testifies to an increasingly sophisticated approach to heritage conceptualization (Vecco, 2010). Beyond the traditional conception of heritage as coinciding with the remains of past glories and aesthetic grandeur, heritage concerns those activities and practices that, constructed in the present, are ‘somehow’ linked to the past (Kamel-Ahmed, 2015). This “living heritage” notion (United Nations, 2013) builds the bridge connecting past, present, and future of humankind’s path of progress (O’Brien et al., 2015).

The complexity of dealing with time is an intrinsic dimension of heritage (Hall, Baird, James Sc Ram, 2016). Heritage is continually in a process of construction (Kamel-Ahmed, 2015). Only recently has the international community acknowledged that the conservation of cultural heritage concerns “places where social and cultural factors have been and continue to be important . . . rather than ... a series of monuments offering physical evidence of the past” (United Nations, 2013, p. 13). A “functional approach” to defining cultural heritage is needed. From this perspective, cultural heritage is a dynamic capacity to “enrich people’s lives” by providing inspiration and a sense of place and community through a lived and contemporary experience (MacKee, Askland Sc Askew, 2014). This definition prevails over an understanding of heritage as “frozen” in time (Hall et ah, 2016), preserved and maintained “as it is” for future generations’ passive admiration. Relationship building, people’s engagement, and lively evolution are increasingly part of the cultural heritage notion. Even innovation (Sakdiyakorn Sc Sivarak, 2016) is not the antithesis of heritage, as heritage follows an unavoidable path of change.

These premises are important to this chapter, proposing a humanistic management perspective for outlining and analytically framing the role of corporate investors in cultural heritage and their capacity to boost local sustainable development. Corporate investors are intended in this chapter as private actors engaged with an economic process of value creation that, meeting economic constraints, may adopt “innovative approaches to enhance and extract value from cultural heritage” (Della Lucia & Trunfio, 2018, p. 36). The chapter proposes an analytical framework to reflect on local sustainable development, which combines the humanistic management perspective with land-grab literature, building on an analogy between land and cultural heritage as local resources for development.

Such literature helps conceptualize the dilemma of the corporate investor concerning the opportunity to behave as either a heritage grabber or a heritage enhancer. Land-grabbing literature allows us not only to cast a critical light on the privatization and hybridization of cultural heritage but also to reflect on those conditions that potentially allow the corporate investment to enhance the cultural asset’s value, benefiting both the investor and the local community. Accordingly, the chapter discusses three important aspects of corporate investment, namely the governance, the business model, and the access to the resource (De Schutter, 2011), and complements the outlined framework in light of the humanistic management perspective. Prioritizing human needs, motivations, and living conditions within a “community of persons” (Mele, 2003), the humanistic management perspective represents an answer to the limit of the market paradigm in local development. The resulting framework helps reflect on sustainability in cultural heritage exploitation by stressing the continuous responsibility and agency of the corporate investor in the pursuit of human dignity and well-being.

2. Setting the Scene

A small village in Tuscany, Italy, named Castelfalfi, is part of the municipality of Montaione. The whole municipality has about 3,680 inhabitants. It is located in the Tuscan countryside, 50 km from Florence. Fairly unknown as a tourism destination regionally, Montaione/Castelfalfi has historically drawn significant tourist flows relative to its population size. In 2005, Montaione hosted about 36,300 arrivals, achieving 53,800 visitors in 2018. The tourism model corresponds to “tourism in rural areas” rather than “rural tourism”, coinciding with mass tourism characterized by visitors looking for holiday flats for relaxation, aesthetic value, and comfort, rather than rural culture and agriculture, with limited engagement with the place (Berti & Rovai, 2011). In 2007, the Germany-based TUI Group, one of the major players in the global tourism industry with

19.5 billion euros in turnover in 2018 and 70,000 employees worldwide, invested in the purchase of the whole abandoned borgo (village) of Castelfalfi. The investment project included a huge regeneration project

(originally, about 290 million euros), affecting the landscape and the medieval fabric of the village by restoring casali (ancient countryside houses) and transforming them into luxury flats and a four-star hotel, restoring a castle to host restaurants and shops, constructing a new five- star hotel, improving an existing golf course, and recovering and revitalizing agricultural assets around the borgo.

Through a formal public debate steered by local government, a participatory process took place before the modification of the urban regulatory framework, which was necessary to allow TUI’s project to be implemented. This public debate, which took place in 2007, is considered one of the best examples of citizen participation in planning (Zetti, 2010). During the public debate, the concerns of the local community emerged. These concerns focused on the size of the project, the new construction, the style of the restoration, the impact on the hilly landscape, the integration of Castelfalfi with the local system, the need for TUI to guarantee openness and access to the borgo, the shops and services within it, and the role of agriculture in the regeneration of the area. Although there is no analysis of the impact of TUI’s investment in the territory and the evolution of the destination, TUI’s Toscana Resort Castelfalfi seems to have contributed to the relaunch of a mature destination not only by diversifying local offerings, creating new jobs, and drawing international events such as the Peugeut Drone Film Festival in 2017 but also by hosting smaller and local events for visitors and residents and steering commercial activities that are open to the outside world.

Sammezzano Castle, located 50 km from Florence, Italy, is an example of eclectic architecture with oriental inspiration. In the 19th century, the marquess Ferdinando d’Aragona transformed the historical castle, which dates back to Romans, into a colourful building full of art pieces made of handicraft tiles and plaster and surrounded it with a park with the highest concentration of sequoia trees in Europe. Under the protection of the law since the 1920s for its historic, artistic, and natural prestige, the castle was sold to a company that obtained the right to transform the castle into a hotel and restaurant in 1970.1 Since 2000, the castle has been abandoned. Although the castle is considered a cultural heritage asset, restoration and preservation interventions have not occurred; the castle remains closed and inaccessible, the target of vandalism and thefts. In 2017, an auction assigned the property of the castle to the Dubai-based company Helitrope Limited for 15.4 million euros, but the sale was later nullified. No investor showed up in subsequent auctions. In 2015, the citizens’ movement Save Sammezzano started its activities to boost attention for the castle and its artistic and cultural relevance. Active on social media platforms and instigating concrete initiatives, Save Sammezzano promoted the candidacies of the castle to the Italian Environmental Fund’s “Flearth Places” contest, which the castle won; to the 2018 World Monuments Watch; and to Europa Nostra’s 7 Most Endangered sites listing, resulting in its being ranked among the 12 sites at greatest risk and most deserving of restoration.2 However, the lack of a definite property owner is an obstacle to any restoration interventions.

Solomeo is a medieval village in the Umbria region, central Italy. The castle on the top of the hamlet, signaling the medieval roots of the village, was restored by Brunello Cucinelli whose company, which produces luxury cashmere garments, moved into in 1987. Brunello Cucinelli is one of the most iconic Made in Italy fashion brands, positioning in luxury segments with a net revenue of 607 million euros in 2019, recording a 9.9% increase over the previous year. In the 1980s, the village was losing much of its population; the entrepreneur understood that in the future people would again value villages, which are rich in history and culture, and come back to them, outside of large and crowded urban areas (Bianchi Martini, Corvino & Minoja, 2015). Over time the company expanded its presence in the village, and a new structure in the valley below the castle is currently occupied by the company headquarters and artisanal workshops where most products are manufactured. Today, the castle hosts the School of Arts and Crafts, set up by the entrepreneur in 2013, to strengthen the continuous learning and specialized manual skills utilized in high-quality manufacturing. Solomeo is branded as “the Hamlet of the Spirit” by Brunello Cucinelli, and it is the repository of the symbolic values the luxury brand stands for: dignity of human beings and beauty. The hamlet and the person brand of the entrepreneur (a “humanist-businessman”, Picchio, 2019) make the company highly reputable in global luxury markets, physically embodying practices of production responding to a “gracious growth” principle and communicating business as a way to combine profit with ethical, moral principles and dignity (Brunello Cucinelli SpA, 2019). Working conditions, involvement of locals and local small businesses and significant investments in the hamlet continuously strengthen the relationship of the company with the village, which is a unique tourism destination among several medieval villages in the rural areas of Central Italy. The creation of a cultural system named “Foro delle Arti” (Forum of Arts) composed of a theatre, an amphitheater and the “philosophers’ garden” where concerts and cultural events are organized (Bianchi Martini et al., 2015) contribute to local quality of life and make the hamlet an appealing destination as “pleasant periphery”. Also, attracted by the reputation of Brunello Cucinelli and the resonance of the brand, visitors experience firsthand the entrepreneur’s philosophy in Solomeo. A strong identification exists among the village, its community, and the entrepreneur: the hamlet is the laboratory and is meant to be the tangible evidence of a “humanistic capitalism” enacted by the entrepreneur and his brand.

3. Conceptualizing and Framing Emerging Issues

Different research streams help frame the issues emerging from the aforementioned cases. First, cultural heritage has been increasingly considered and discussed by policy-makers and scholars as a vital resource supporting local development and urban regeneration. The cultural turn in local development witnessed by the attention given to culture-led regeneration processes (Plaza, 2000; Bailey, Miles Sc Stark, 2004; O’Brian Sc Miles, 2010) and to the evolution of cultural economy (Scott, 1997) highlights the positive socio-economic role of culture in contemporary society. In this framework, tourism development has greatly contributed to the implementation of the cultural paradigm in urban planning and city management. In this regard, the coupling of cultural heritage and tourism has been largely discussed in relation to the activation of virtuous circuits of regional competitiveness boosted by their intertwining (Alberti Sc Giusti, 2012) and by the hybridization of local heritage and the creative economy (Della Lucia, 2015). The academic debate, however, also stressed that the use of cultural heritage as leverage for tourism development and urban regeneration may create negative issues of cultural commodification (Scott, 1997; Zukin, 1995), standardization, and “placelessness” (Evans, 2003), a controversial construction of authenticity according to tourists, residents, and governments (Cole, 2007), and threats to the conservation of material heritage under the pressure of unprecedented tourism growth (Garcia-Hernandez, Calle-Vaquero Sc Yubero, 2017).

Second, the privatization and the hybridization of cultural heritage connected to the selling of state-owned historic real estates have been discussed (Benedikter, 2004; Ponzini, 2010), as have the commercial exploitation of local culture through films, creative productions (Power Sc Scott, 2004), events, and festivals (Jakob, 2012) and the increasing number of public-private partnerships for the promotion of cultural assets, legitimized by a collective interest in urban regeneration and local development. Some scholars maintained a neoliberal agenda in built heritage management (McGuigan, 2005; Negussie, 2006), a marketing-driven appropriation of intangible cultural heritage (Muresan Sc Smith, 1998; Starr, 2010), and processes of falsification of heritage to meet the market “momentum”, not without conflicts between preservation and the building of a satisfactory tourist experience (Nuryanti, 1996).

However, cultural asset privatization and hybridization may infuse capital and entrepreneurial vitality into abandoned heritage sites, thus triggering tourism development and revitalization. Private actors can play a positive role in the cross-fertilization of cultural heritage and creativity, resulting in innovative ways of creating value by leveraging local culture and putting in place strategies to engage local stakeholders with regeneration processes (Della Lucia, Trunfio Sc Go, 2017; Della Lucia Sc Trunfio,

2018). Cultural entrepreneurship has, in fact, the distinctive ability “to draw on tangible and intangible cultural factors, to harness stakeholder collaboration to create value propositions which attract audiences” (Go, Lemmetyinen & Hakala, 2014, p. 6).

Two scenarios emerge from such discussion. The first relates to corporate investments in cultural heritage that are capable of triggering tourism development while supporting and strengthening the value of the cultural asset, not only by creating value for the tourism industry and guaranteeing the asset’s physical existence in the long run (e.g. restoration) but also by contributing to making it a “living heritage” (United Nations, 2013). This is possible by steering and fostering an evolving relationship of the cultural asset with local community. In this scenario, the business investor becomes a “heritage enhancer”. In this case, there is a tendency toward sustainable tourism that, based on the connections among the environment, local communities, and tourism (Liu, 2003), includes “cultural sustainability” as the forth pillar of sustainable development (Soini & Birkeland, 2014).

The second scenario concerns the business investor acting as a “heritage grabber”, disconnecting the cultural asset from the local community for the exclusive sake of private interest and market utility. While assuring the physical existence of the cultural asset for the pursuit of tourism development and the related economic objectives, the investor overlooks and undermines the opportunity to maintain or potentiate the asset as “living heritage”.

3.1 Investing in Cultural Heritage: An Analogy With the Land-Grab Phenomenon

In the light of two emerging scenarios (i.e. heritage grabber versus heritage enhancer), we refer to the land-grab literature to explain the modalities and dynamics according to which the corporate investment takes place. This consolidated literature supports the exploratory effort made in this chapter to frame and explain corporate investors’ behaviors and attitudes to cultural heritage. The title of this chapter is inspired by a report by Corula, Vermeulen, Leonard and Keeley (2009) titled “Land grab or development opportunity?” to stress how the analogy is utilized to frame the issues discussed in the chapter. The land-grab literature helps highlight the critical aspects to be considered when dealing with cultural heritage as “resource” for local development and suggests three analytical dimensions to understand corporate investors’ approach to cultural heritage.

The term ‘land grab’ (Cotula et al., 2009; Zoomers, 2010; Borras & Franco, 2010) refers to large-scale (trans)national commercial land transactions (Borras, Hall, Scoones, White & Wolford, 2011), especially in the context of developing countries going through processes of change in land use and land property. The analyses of land grab so far produced in rhe literature make a two-fold phenomenon emerge. On one side, large-scale investments are said to weakly reduce poverty compared with the alternative of improving land and water supply to local farming communities; they increase the export of agricultural productions (Lavers, 2012), raising food security issues (Cotula et al., 2009), and even when an effort is made to protect land users from eviction, the destructive effects on local livelihoods increase with commercial pressure on the land (De Schutter, 2011).

On the other side, the literature witnesses that, especially when “land is underutilized and abundant”, the benefits of large-scale investments are evident in terms of increases in the provision of goods and services, job creation, and access to technology and markets (World Bank, 2010, cited in De Schutter, 2011). This point makes the proposed analogy (i.e. cultural heritage-land) particularly meaningful in contexts having extensive endowment of cultural assets owned by the state and municipalities (For- mato & Presenza, 2018) which struggle in deploying sufficient financial resources to guarantee their restoration and functioning. Following the Portuguese and Spanish experiences, the Italian government promoted a national program, “Valore-Paese-Cammini e Percorsi”, that aims to sign concession agreements drawing long-term private investments in areas where regeneration and tourism-led development are pursued.

It is worth stressing the limitations of the proposed analogy. The investments in cultural heritage are different from land investments concerning industrial domains and geographical contexts. On the other hand, the motivations for the application of such an analogy concern the role of corporate investors with financial capacity to invest in “underutilized and abundant” resources; the impact of such investment on local communities and their path of development; and the development of local systems blocked by small-sized and fragmented entrepreneurial fabric.

Three analytical perspectives are proposed to frame the analogy and explain modalities and dynamics according to which corporate investments in cultural heritage assets take place. These are governance, business model, and access. Proposed by De Schutter (2011), these three dimensions are presented to entangle the corporate investment in cultural heritage.

The governance perspective refers to the capacity of different actors to play their roles and, particularly, their capacity to adopt optimal bargaining positions. Investments in developing countries that are often characterized by weak governance may carry significant risks for the region and local communities (Deininger, 2011). In relation to the focus of this chapter, this point draws attention to the maturity of the cultural heritage governance in order to evaluate the concrete risks of corporate investments. The governance perspective reflects upon the interactions among the different relevant players, namely the private actors (e.g. local actors and large-scale investors) and the public actors whose regulating role is deemed fundamental to setting the modalities of resource usage. The involvement and engagement of local communities in the process of regulating the presence of the investor in the region is a salient condition for the minimization of the risks connected to large-scale investments.

The business model locally adopted by the corporate investor is made possible by local circumstances and regulations. That is, the business model relates to the private investor, but it highly depends on what public regulations allow or forbid. If the governance perspective focuses on decision-making and the capacity of the different actors to raise their voices, the business model perspective refers to the capacity to design the functioning of an investment within a certain region, anticipating and shaping future interactions among all the actors. Through a bargaining phase of the investment, local government may play an active role in making the business model fit with local contexts. This, however, is not always the case in practice. Furthermore, local governments face difficulties in projecting the local systems and their needs in the future (put simply, what business model will suit a local community and its needs in the future?).

Access and, particularly, the definition of rules for protecting forms of access to and usage of a resource, beyond formal property rights, is extremely important to design the modalities in which the corporate investor will impact local community. Such rules are particularly relevant in the case of land that was originally communal, offering locals opportunities for fishing, hunting, and gathering. Access matters to cultural heritage, too. Heritage, in fact, “enrichjes] people’s lives” and inspires a sense of place in local communities (MacKee et al., 2014).

3.2 From “Heritage Grabber” to “Heritage Enhancer”:

The Humanistic Management Perspective

The three dimensions emerging from the land-grab debate compose the framework for analyzing corporate investments in cultural heritage and their role in local sustainable development. However, they are not enough to entangle such a role in the practice. The three dimensions miss including a dynamic perspective that, instead, highly matters when considering long-term impacts. Participation and regulation attempting to design access and to influence business models are necessary yet not sufficient conditions. Limited forecasting ability, planning capacity, and unbalanced bargaining power may limit the explanatory power of the three described analytical dimensions (i.e. governance, business model, access). Provided that public intervention in regulating and monitoring the process of investment is key to making corporate investments in cultural heritage contribute to local sustainable development, another important dimension has to be added to the framework: the humanistic management perspective.

The term ‘humanistic management’ describes the approach to business management that prioritizes human needs, human motivations, and human conditions and is oriented to “the development of human virtue to its fullest extent” (Mele, 2003, p. 78). The humanistic approach may be an answer to the limits the market paradigm revealed during the recent financial crisis, urging us to rethink management approaches and their exclusive economic rationale (Mele, 2009). It may also be an answer to the limits of coercive power and regulations in shaping sustainable development, as stated previously.

The inter-organizational model of humanistic management suggests that “humanism” implies looking beyond the borders of a single organization (Rocha & Miles, 2009), thus integrating an interest for the individuals who live in the surrounding environment into the central notion of a “community of persons” (Mele, 2003). Accordingly, if traditional literature has sustained the role of the external environment in shaping business competitiveness, humanistic management extends business responsibility and concern for human dignity to the territory hosting the investment and its inhabitants. This characteristic stresses the relevance of humanistic management to cultural heritage investments in a given territory and, so, to the local community.

In light of these premises, Spitzeck’s (2011) integrated model of humanistic management is utilized to frame business investments in cultural heritage. Using profit-making and humanistic rationale as dimensions of the proposed model, this author identified three typologies of business conduct that are useful for disentangling the role of the corporate investor as either “heritage grabber” or “heritage enhancer”. Such business conducts are described as follows: 1) challenge for the organization, 2) challenge for society (heritage grabber), and 3) humanistic management (heritage enhancer).

These three business conducts are described next and followed by interpretative hypotheses referring to the cases introduced in section 2. The cases help show the application of the proposed framework through the formulation of working hypotheses that empirical research should test.

Challenge for the organization: Unlikely private investment. This typology refers to potential investments in cultural heritage that are not profitable for various reasons, such as location and usage constraints that undermine the appeal of the cultural asset in the investment market. Because investment in cultural assets often requires significant financial resources, profit and returns on investment need to be guaranteed. A lack of such guarantee is a challenge for the organization, which may decide not to invest. Business investments are here considered to be radically different from patronage, which instead may occur in contexts with no prospective profits.

In the Sammezzano case, the hypothesis of an unlikely corporate investment follows the evident difficulties in the sale of the castle, as emerged from rhe collected information. The long-term legal controversies and the uncertainties surrounding the castle may represent an obstacle and a cost for potential investors, to be added to the massive financial investment required to guarantee high standards of preservation and restoration. In a context of significant social mobilization and rising media coverage transforming the castle into a recognizable landmark with growing symbolic value, investments in Sammezzano have not concretized yet.

Challenge for society: Likely heritage grabber. This typology describes profitable investments in cultural heritage by business investors exclusively oriented to the market and immediate economic utility. The private investor of this type tends to seek investment projects in contexts allowing for simplified and rapid decision-making. This may be the case of contexts in which governance is restricted to key players (the seller and the buyer) of a commercial negotiation. The business model is entirely up to the private investor, who does not have limitations such as specific functions and activities to carry out in the cultural site, architectural constraints related to the size or quality of interventions, or requirements such as job creation or restoration or regeneration goals. The larger the governance, the more numerous the requirements and constraints. According to the business model, exclusive access to the resource (i.e. cultural asset) can be granted to the clients of the investing firm, while no access is guaranteed to the public audience. This exclusivity of access transforms the cultural asset into a closed and self-contained physical and functional structure, like traditional resorts. In this case, any intervention in favor of the local community’s access and active usage of the cultural asset is possible and derives from a deliberate and voluntary act of philanthropy of the company’s management.

In Castelfalfi, a risk of heritage grab was perceived by at least part of the local community during the first phase of the investment project, as the documents related to the public debate suggest. Even though there is no evidence to state the company adopted this approach, the reaction of the local community exemplifies this second typology. The public debate, in fact, raised concerns about the size of the project, the impact on the landscape, a style too unlike local culture, and the need for integration with the local system. Furthermore, guarantees of openness and access to the borgo were asked, and the need to significantly integrate agriculture in the ambitious regeneration plan was affirmed.

Humanistic management: Heritage enhancer. This typology posits that forms of humanistic management are necessary for the private investor to function as a heritage enhancer. In line with Spitzeck’s thesis (2011), we distinguish two modalities, as follows:

1) “Instrumentalising business”: This firm is aware that, without heritage preservation in pursuit of cultural sustainability, the cultural asset will lose its value, thus undermining the profit-making potential of the investment. In this case, profit drives the investor’s humanistic attitude. The private investor seeks contexts in which decisionmaking is carried out by governance configurations embracing a multitude of actors. These actors contribute to the project and will be “on board” during the implementation phase, with low degrees of conflict. Various actors’ involvement and the local community’s engagement impart authenticity to the cultural asset and, thus, value to the business. The business model is up to the private investor, but rules and requirements emerge from the participative decisionmaking. Access is guaranteed to the public audience, and locals have free access to the heritage site. The presence of and relationship to the local community are key sources of value creation for the firm in the tourism industry.

This way of conceiving of humanistic management may evolve problematically. As Spitzeck (2011) suggested, if profit motivation decreases over time for the instrumentalizing business, then there is a risk of a change in the managerial approach such that the investor may shift from being a heritage enhancer to a heritage grabber. We must consider the additional monetary costs the heritage enhancer sustains to shape forms of open access and “humanistic” business models. Initial rules and requirements may change or weaken over time, for instance, under the threat of divestment that, once the investment is completed, creates serious socio-economic problems for the local community, such as an increase in unemployment, as well as political consensus issues. At that point, the preservation and enhancement of the heritage asset’s cultural value are in the hands of the investor, whose priorities, as said, may change.

Castelfalfi is hypothesized as a potential case of heritage enhancement based on the “instrumentalising business” approach. The governance dimension played a role in this case: the investor entered in a tight dialogue with the local community and government, as the public debate process and related documents revealed.

In the implementation phase, events and commercial activities in Castelfalfi and the capacity to draw local presence in the borgo are valuable assets not only for the community but also for the company, raising the authenticity of the Castelfalfi experience in the Tuscan hills. As the investor replied to the requests that emerged from the public debate, the targeted segments are cultural and wellness tourists seeking events and cultural activities, potentially interested in local products and appealing experiences. Considering the relatively recent investment (the last opening in the borgo was the five-star hotel in 2017), the proposed theoretical framework suggests the relevance of adopting an evolutionary perspective on the “instrumentalising business”. An analysis of future developments is

106 Cecilia Pasquinelli

necessary ro understand continuity and strength of effort in steering and favoring the relation of the local community with the borgo.

2) “Truly humanistic management”: Private investments in cultural heritage guarantee cultural sustainability and sustainable development in the long run. The pursuit of “unconditional human dignity” (Mele, 2003) and the legitimate and responsible corporate conduct pursuing the vision of serving society and fostering citizens’ quality of life are the pillars of humanistic management. Profit-making is not the only priority, although it is fundamental to business (otherwise the organization will face a challenge, according to Spitzteck). Humanistic motivations are the driver of business investments. This option is the necessary condition for turning the principle of sustainability into concrete and durable action.

The case of Solomeo is hypothesized to fit with the “truly humanistic management” modality, given the available information and the longstanding relation the company has established with the village and the local community, until identifying the global fashion brand with it. The humanistic approach emerges from the commitment to those values that are a common thread across manufacturing, human resource management, and design of space, including public space. It is worth noting that humanistic management in this case, also thanks to the reputation of Brunello Cucinelli’s brand, becomes the motivation and key attraction for tourists, willing to see and experience the laboratory of the entrepreneur’s philosophy, which—we can argue—is hybridizing local cultural heritage.

The proposed framework to analyze corporate investments in cultural heritage and their capacity to boost local sustainable development is summarized in Table 6.1, by taking into account the three dimensions

Table 6.1 Hypotheses for future research based on the proposed framework

Challenge for the organization: Unlikely private investment

Challenge for society: Likely heritage ; grabber

Humanistic management: Heritage enhancer






Governance Business model Access


Castelfalfi (I phase)?

Castelfalfi (II phase)?


Source: Author’s own elaboration emerged from rhe land-grab literature (De Schutter, 2011) and humanistic management (Spitzeck, 2011). Working hypotheses are formulated about the cases, as explained earlier, opening to future empirical research.

4. Conclusion

This chapter proposed a humanistic management perspective to interpret the role of the business investor in cultural heritage and integrated it with land-grab literature to provide an analytical framework. The framework is meant to support future empirical analyses aimed to assess the capacity of corporate investments to boost local sustainable development. Further theoretical insights can derive from the application of this framework, until suggesting the conditions under which the impact of such investments can be positive in the long run.

Three cases—Castelfalfi and Sammezzano in Tuscany, and Solomeo in Umbria, Italy—were used to provide concrete background for the proposed conceptualization. The combination of different streams of literature concerning the role of cultural heritage in tourism development and the implications of the increasing role of private investments in cultural assets resulted in the definition of a dilemma for the corporate investor: deciding to function as either a heritage grabber or a heritage enhancer. Borrowing analytical perspectives from land-grab literature, three dimensions for distinguishing heritage grabber from heritage enhancer were utilized: governance, business model, and access. The relevance of these dimensions emerged in the three cases: in Castelfalfi, the governance dimension prevails in explaining the heritage enhancement. Access is central to the three cases: in Sammezzano, grassroots mobilization and the volunteers organizing forms of temporary access to the castle for visitors stress that, beyond the physical abandonment, this cultural asset continues to be “living” and socially and culturally relevant to the local community. The salience of access is confirmed by the results of the public debate in Castelfalfi since one of the key points was the explicit request of guarantee of access to the borgo. Finally, the company’s business model is the prevailing aspect in the Solomeo case: especially, the identification of the hamlet (and the people living and working in it) with the company’s core values is at the core of Brunello Cucinelli’s brand.

Flumanistic management, completing the framework, contributes to explaining the heritage grabber’s and heritage enhancer’s conducts, motivations, and behaviors by stressing the continuous responsibility and agency of corporate investors in the pursuit of human dignity and well-being.

This framework opens to future research. The proposed hypotheses should be tested through dedicated empirical efforts. The aforementioned cases were taken from the Italian context, belonging to peripheral and rural areas in Central Italy, with similar cultural and socio-economic characteristics. Other geographical contexts should be considered to validate the proposed framework, to see if and to what extent the role and relevance of the different framework components change when explaining heritage grab and heritage enhancement from a sustainable development perspective.


  • 1. Information retrieved from, last access 11 July 2019.
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