Talking to Alberto Franchi, President and CEO of Franchi Umberto Marmi, means exploring a pairing that to many will seem unusual: that between marble and sustainability. And yet, thanks also to the work of companies as alert as the one in Tuscany - fifty-one years of history and a strategic position in the extraction of Carrara marble - the pairing of natural stone and environmentally friendly production becomes a daily practice.
Can you give us some examples of how Franchi Umberto Marmi works in a sustainable way?
"For us, the sustainable use of the marble raw material is a concrete measurable paradigm. It is not qualitative, but quantitative, and it needs to be so to support the business model we have chosen for our company: a transparent model that we apply to all stages of the process, from extraction of the raw material, to transport to processing and subsequent applications. Among the concrete sustainability items are the green energy supply, the use of electric vehicles in the quarry, and the optimisation of waste, which we prefer to call second-derived material. Also, technological quarrying methods that allow us to extract the minimum amount of marble necessary, while constantly monitoring the health of the mountain. In the gallery, we even use a system of coring and fixing with resins that allows us to extract only the marble actually needed, with full respect for the mountain. We are also working to make our Carbon Neutrality data official - the balance between greenhouse gas emissions generated and reabsorbed emissions - In the same direction we have moved with the Life Cycle Assessment, a voluntary certification that Franchi Umberto Marmi has implemented by providing the Environmental Product Declaration, a true eco-label for marble. Thanks to this, we can claim, data in hand, that Franchi Umberto Marmi's Bettogli marble slabs are materials recognised worldwide for environmental certification and building rating by the main programmes".
How do you use waste?
"As we have already said, we prefer not to call them scraps or waste any more: the circular economy model that we have embraced constantly commits us to the management and valorisation of materials derived from marble quarrying, the so-called secondary by-products, which will become new products to be placed in the most varied markets: granulates and sands for construction, high quality carbonates for the food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries...'.
Your products and collections are aimed at the luxury market. Is there no conflict between sustainability and the high spender market?
'Absolutely not. The new idea of luxury necessarily passes through that of sustainability. Today's high-spending consumers are looking for guarantees on their chosen product that go far beyond the brand's fame or prestige. We see this in every sector: increasingly, the purchase choice is conditioned by those criteria that refer to the concepts of responsibility, low impact, circularity and ethicality of the production cycle. A transition is taking place: from the luxury of ostentation to sustainable luxury. Particularly in design and planning, which concern us most closely, the designer or architect makes an upstream choice that marches in favour of sustainability and proves to be a fundamental figure in raising awareness of the ethicality of marble.
How important is storytelling in conveying your commitment?
"It is an essential and vital aspect of the company: telling and emotionally engaging our audience is really important to convey the commitment we put into what we do every day. Marble-related storytelling is a natural way of telling a story, it belongs to our culture and makes us unique: we consider that in general very little is known about the world of marble, especially about certain aspects of it. It has not yet been publicised: that is what we are aiming for. To make our knowledge and experience of marble available to the world, and for this we have created the Franchi Academy and a dedicated company blog. Two containers of experiences and stories that aim not only to make people aware, but also to create affection and bonds".
The risk of greenwashing is always around the corner: how do you avert it?
"We do not have to avert it, nor do we fear it. We have embarked on a serious and concrete path to build our sustainability day by day. It is the certifications and related numbers that speak for us on this very important issue. We also refer to an ethics and seriousness that are part of our corporate DNA'.