The Open Circle: listening and sustainability

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Today sees the launch of an in-depth area on the website and an internal ESG information and engagement campaign is already underway. For the company, the sustainability challenge is a project that must be shared with its employees and production chains. We discuss this with the company's CEO Mauro Vandini.

What was the starting point for this long-term project?

It stems from a history and a corporate culture that has always placed people, limiting environmental impact and improving results at the centre of its development, in other words, sustainability as we understand it today, in its three pillars of environment, people and governance. The UN Agenda, the Green Deal, new European and non-European Directives, self-declarations, environmental and social certifications have increased awareness, as well as confusion, especially in recent years. We therefore decided to provide clarity, with an open approach, starting by listening to stakeholders, both internal and external, in order to define together the crucial issues on which to work as a company.

The name speaks for itself; the goal is to be inclusive and transparent

We have played a major role in our history by ensuring that the ceramics industry has closed-cycle production, in which everything is recovered and put back into circulation. However, we believe in an open and interdisciplinary approach to sustainability. Sustainability is everyone’s concern – the company, employees, suppliers, associates, future generations, local areas – and in order to grow it must be conscious and shared, welcoming the most diverse contributions. Hence the name and image we have chosen, an open circle, the beginning of a journey that starts with greater awareness.

People first”, more so in this case than ever before

Last year we carried out an extensive round of interviews and a survey involving employees at all levels of the organisation, as well as suppliers and institutions. Training in the specific area of ESG has emerged as one of the crucial topics. It is complicated – especially for a company that exports to more than 140 countries – to navigate through hundreds of environmental certifications. It is equally difficult to recognise activities that have been performed for many years as distinctive elements. I am thinking, for example, of the EPD in the environmental field, the Top Employer certification in the social field or the procedures and obligations in the field of Governance that we have as a company belonging to a group listed in the United States. Together with the best experts, we organised a training course on the three ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’ pillars, in five languages, aimed at the entire company workforce and our agents. It involved almost a thousand people and opened a direct channel on these topics.

Now we are moving forward together, what are the next steps?

Further and significantly improving on other important issues, such as the consumption of raw materials and energy required for the production and quality of our products. These are very big challenges, even for a company that is part of an international group. Innovation helps us every day to improve processes and products, to make more conscious use of energy sources and raw materials, to promote the circularity of processing materials and packaging, and to ensure the safety and healthiness of our plants, both for the people who work there and for neighbouring communities. We recover 100% of everything that goes into the production cycle and, in the case of industrial water, as much as 127%. However, we are confident that we can make further progress thanks to a more widespread culture of sustainability that will increasingly take into account the three pillars on which it is based: people, environment and results, without which we cannot conceive of providing continuity and financial and economic solidity to environmental and social sustainability policies.