Water supplier Padania Acque Gestione is letting customers who have defaulted on payments settle their account with community services. The Water Bank scheme is currently underway in the Cremona province, which has suffered hugely during Italy’s ongoing economic crisis. Customers of Padania Acque Gestione who have defaulted on water payments can now settle their debt by performing community services such as tending public gardens or helping the elderly. The company sought out the alternative scheme as a means of helping struggling families without resorting to charity or aid. The initiative has access to public funding and will evaluate appeals on a case-by-case basis with the assistance of an ethical committee.
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The combination of economic instability and resource insecurity is reminding individuals and businesses alike that money is not the only currency of value. We're seeing a rise to alternative forms of payment, including swapping and exchange of services, as well as the sharing economy.
Business that are able to show empathy to their customer's situation could improve their brand and commercial resilience, and gain customer loyalty. What gains might there be for society more widely if traditional services such as utilities could be paid for through kindness in the community?