MAGAZINE October 13th, 2022


In a constant process of transformation that begins with wool, up to the most refined yarn, through research, colour and technology, Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia unites, from 1850, Italian manufacturing tradition and tech innovation, ethics and enhancement. A path always evolving and dedicated to excellence, which is perfectly summed up in the company's motto: spinning trends since 1850. One that finds the foundation in the virtuous relationship with its territory of origin of Biella, and with the people who every day make it possible. Sustainability, for Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia, is a matter of identity. To better understand in which direction the company continues to move in todaty, we met its CEO Lorenzo Piacentini.

Zegna Baruffa and sustainability: a relationship that has always existed but that has evolved over time. Can you please tell us about how responsibility is part of your DNA since the beginning and how do you conceive it today?

«We are sustainable simply because concepts like welfare and zero km are part of our DNA from the beginning, more than 170 years ago, when, while contributing to the textile revolution in Italy, we conceived a citadel on a human scale where people could live, and not just work. At the time, the factory offered services of all kinds, from a hospital center to thae music band; and this interest for the everyday life of the community explains well how the district entrepreneurs are still perceived as heroes, who are even mentioned sometimes in history books. The social vision was joined by the very close link with the territory, which we have courageously maintained even in periods of productive relocation. This means that today, we are one of the few companies to say to have an entirly internal production cycle, including dyeing. This guarantees a strong internal tracking, both internal and towards our suppliers, since half of them are Italian and in our district. In summary: we are like this since the beginning, and we have evolved consistently with the values we have always believed in, even with very brave choices. Cultivating the humus of the territory even in very hard times, we were rewarded by earning that credibility and quality that distinguish us».

What type of attentions you have today, towards your employees?

«The approach to our people, today as when we first started, is based on that value of "care," also formally expressed in our sustainability report, by some key performance indicators (called KPIs) that are very important to us. For example, we can be proud of the fact that 54 % of our working population is female, and that the average salary is double digits above the contractual minimum, the contracts are permanent, and hiring of managers takes place locally».

What is the right recipe to survive - and thrive - after 170 years of history?

«It may appear trivial to say, but I think the secret is in the combination of quality/ service. On the one hand we have 600 employees and we produce three million products every year: this definitely requires a holistic vision and an industrial approach. At the same time, however, we are a company that still works manually project by projec, with a strong creative attitude. For example every year, between the catalog and the ad-hoc colours, we create about 35,000 colors, yet we are able to have a very high service rate, almost tailor-made, with each customer. The combination of industrial scale and tailor-made craftsmanship is one of our strengths».

How is your company working today to minimise environmental impact?

«Our sustainability strategy is divided into four key pillars: quality and innovation guarantee all sustainability standards, from the tracing of raw materials to the development of our catalogues. The second point is to have a sustainable supply chain: and I want to highlight again that internal and external tracking is a key element. The third pillar is to have operations at the service of the environment, and this is obviously important because being a chemical industry, water treatment is a priority; additionally: we use 100% green energy and recycle or recover up to 70% of waste. We can say that we are in halfway there, in the sense that there is no end to this path of improvement, but we adhere to and will adhere to all possible protocols to make our impact increasingly limited. The fourth point of our strategy is obviously about people, a topic I have already talked about. To resume: we are committed to a 4-point strategy, carrying them forward with very precise KPIs and - if I may - organizing ourselves. Each statement regarding sustainability is plausible if there is an important organizational structure behind it. We, for example, have an ad-hoc committee and, in 2017, we were one of the first companies to have made a sustainability report with Deloitte. This is not so much to put the signature of Deloitte, as much as it is to learn how to set in motion a serious strategy».

How do you see future challenges in the name of sustainability?

«Surely as an imperative. But also as a competitive advantage. Let me clarify: European legislation that will ensure sustainability budgets are integrated with financial ones, will lead to a historic change in the way that companies operate. This will happen soon, around 2023/24, and being ready can also represent a competitive advantage, both in terms of reputation and ability to respond to market demands when some business areas, which for now are niche, will become mainstream, driven by the new generation’s sensitivity. I’ll give you an example: we have a patent called “Ecolors”: natural, hypoallergenic  colours without harmful substances, particularly skin-friendly. It is true that working on more ecological colours at the moment means both working on a niche market and having problems in terms of quality standards achievable at the moment. But soon, technology and audience sensibility may evolve, requesting them as an unavoidable condition. There needs to be the courage to always push one’s own gaze a little further than the market opportunity of the here and now. The entrepreneur's task is also this: to catch the weak signals from the market and enthusiastically send them to one’s own team».

Any ambitions for the future?

«As a Pidemontese I prefer to talk about commitment rather than ambitious projects. More than a dream, we have a long-term responsibility, which is to be a company that comes from afar but that does not have nostalgia of the past, but indeed continues to put all the energy it has in looking ahead».



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