*Maria Porro, Assarredo President
When it comes to sustainability and the drive towards a circular economy, Italian furniture production has a lot to say to the world. This is not a self-proclaimed statement (it would not be fair, considering that Assarredo represents that world), but one that comes from a joint research issued by the University of Oxford and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.
As a matter of fact, the two authoritative sources place our country in second place among those able to export “the greenest and most complex products having a highly advanced green production capacity”. It is good news. Yet it is on its potential that Italy gives its best: according to this study, exploiting what we have already achieved in a systematic manner will lead Italian furniture companies to become a competitive and undisputed global player in terms of sustainable and technologically advanced production.
It is a great achievement. Yet we should be careful not sit on it but to act. Which is precisely why, as president of Assarredo, I see this as a great responsibility.
To turn power into action we need a coordinated effort: sharing goals, strengths and skills, moving in unison towards a common goal.
The Association is moving exactly in this direction together with the Symbola Foundation: we are working to produce a shared Manifesto, based on an objective photograph of the country's status quo in terms of sustainability. The aim is to define measurable and achievable goals that will allow made in Italy furniture, 5 years from now, to be at the very top international level in terms of sustainability.
We started this process with an initial survey, which is allowing us to understand exactly what is already there, how and why it was done, what the forces are at stake and what could be with little or big help. We involved 1,242 companies. Hence not only furniture companies but also their suppliers since circularity only functions as a system. The challenge is, in fact, the reasoned and realistic management of complexity.
The reality we have observed is very lively, full of praiseworthy but isolated initiatives. Understanding the best practices will help us understand which ones need to be supported by the system, which ones can be scaled, which ones have an important impact on other realities. Working as a team it will be possible to intercept Italian and European funding to support companies that need immediate and substantial advancement compared to those that have already moved.
The good news is that durability – a consequence of the quality of our production – is now globally recognized as a key variable in terms of environmental sustainability. Italian companies traditionally work with a short supply chain - positioned mostly in the national territory and this is a guarantee of compliance with the strict European regulations on working conditions, emissions and waste treatment.
This environmental and social sustainability is, more and more, the basis onto which building economic sustainability, and companies know this. It is no coincidence that, in the last 4 years, 31% of FederlegnoArredo companies have made substantial eco-investments. These are the most dynamic and at the same time the most competitive companies. Our aim, as an Association, is now to help others, to bring them to full capacity in this transformation that everyone wants, without often knowing how to move.
In this challenge we can also leverage on the help that comes to us from new technologies: to trace the raw material throughout its life cycle, to optimize production processes, reuse and reduce waste.
But if on the one hand a greater digitization of processes is certainly desirable, on the other hand that dimension of expertise and heritage that has made our furniture sector great in the world remains central to our ‘sustainable know-how’.
Being able to balance these two dimensions is the red thread that will have to underlie every development to come for the made in Italy design system.