Sustainability: driving innovation in the ceramics industry

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By focusing on environmental, social and governance sustainability, companies gain competitive advantages and promote change that benefits people.

From single-firing to ventilated walls, reducing tile thickness, and recycling heat or water used in production processes, attention to sustainability has always underpinned the search for innovative techniques and new tools to drive change. In terms of competitiveness, sustainability can offer companies new business processes, organisational models to improve management of workers’ health and safety and of the supply chain, as well as new products that meet end consumers’ evolving demands. Without a sustainable development strategy for the environment, people and performance, there is a real risk of losing competitiveness.

With increasing environmental concerns and a growing awareness of the need to adopt sustainable practices not only towards the environment in which we live, but also towards people, communities and performance, the ceramics industry has had to face a number of challenges to remain competitive. In response to these challenges, sustainability has proven to be crucial, pushing the industry towards increasingly innovative solutions.

Extraction of raw materials, intensive use of energy and water, and greenhouse gas emissions are just some of the issues that have highlighted the need for a more sustainable approach. Moreover, consumers’ demand for eco-friendly products is steadily growing and their interest is shifting towards companies that can offer high-performance, yet green products, while also paying attention to proper supply chain management.

Investing in the research and development of technologies that can reduce the environmental impact of the entire lifecycle of products and production processes is a competitive advantage that can transform companies into industry leaders. And turn them into role models for the entire ceramic industry. For example, the company has developed new production techniques that have made it possible to reduce tile thickness, cutting the impact of logistics. Energy consumption has been cut by channelling the heat produced by the kilns in the factory to other process steps (dryers, spray-dryers) and to the heating system. Thanks to a careful management process, the company recovers 100% of the water wasted in tile production, avoiding the discharge of industrial waste water into watercourses or the sewage system. The industrial water recycling rate goes one step further, standing at 120% because it also includes water from other companies in the industry.

Sustainability in the ceramics industry also requires the use of sustainable materials. The Research and Development Department works every day to develop new environmentally friendly ceramic materials, such as those obtained from renewable sources or recycled materials, or made with Inkjet digital printing, which can reproduce a very wide range of surfaces, from stoneware to the finest marble. These materials offer significant advantages in terms of reduced environmental impact and lower use of natural resources.

Despite the progress that has already been achieved, the ceramics industry has significant potential to develop even more sustainable solutions in the future when eco-friendly production will increasingly become a prerequisite for companies’ success and for environmental conservation.