Alejandro Olmos, Sustainability Director at Araven Group, and Nuria Lozano, a specialist in the Department, explain in this interview the company’s commitment to making better use of resources as a hallmark of its identity and the work being carried out to achieve this, with the ultimate goal of “all employees taking on this project as a personal challenge”.
– Araven has highlighted its concern for environmental resources, what has it meant to create a specific Sustainability Area?
-A.O.: The commitment to the use of recycled materials in our products was already latent prior to the creation of the Area, being especially evident in some launches such as the Oceanis line. The launch of the Department in 2021 meant that we no longer focused only on products made with materials with a lower environmental impact, but the project opens the focus to the triple sustainable balance: Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG); with the first of these being the strongest commitment in its roadmap. Furthermore, the timing coincides with the formation of Araven Group, so that what were previously Araven S.L. shares now extend to the entire group.
“IN THE SUSTAINABILITY DEPARTMENT WE DO NOT ONLY FOCUS ON THE ENVIRONMENT, WE ALSO INCORPORATE THE SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE DIMENSIONS.
-What are the objectives of the Sustainability Area?
-A.O.: This area was created to lead all projects related to environmental and sustainable products and management systems, hence the integration of the Integrated Management Systems (IMS) department within the area. This involves, for example, actions related to energy efficiency, circular economy and carbon neutrality, among others; in addition to coordinating or managing actions of a social and governance nature, which in this case are led from the corporate side.
In 2020, we conducted a diagnosis using tools such as SDG Compass, which is a guide from the United Nations Compact for business action on the Sustainable Development Goals, with a methodology that allows us to expand our knowledge and identify the strategic SDGs. From there, we drew up our 2021-2025 roadmap, which integrates actions for the three dimensions – environment, social and governance – encompassed in Araven Group’s four strategic pillars of sustainability: sourcing, eco-design, circularity and integration. Our job is to make sustainability strategic in the company plan.
-How could these four pillars be explained in a simple way?
-N.L.: Sourcing is not only about sourcing greener raw materials, it is about knowing and taking action throughout the value chain, making sure that suppliers integrate sustainable practices in the development of their activity, as well as in our internal production; and of course, directing our consumption towards the demand for renewable energies.
Ecodesign means integrating aspects that improve from a sustainable perspective the whole life cycle of products, from their conception, through phases such as transport, use and end of life. The design stage is crucial to reduce the impacts caused and requires the implementation of circular economy criteria.
Circularity encompasses calculations of the corporate Carbon Footprint in all its scopes, defining strategies to reduce and compensate our impact by minimising and reintroducing our production waste, which we have called the Zero Waste project, and establishing upstream and downstream alliances, i.e. with suppliers and customers, which can even lead to the servitisation of our products.
And the integration pillar is where the social and governance part also appears, with the development of policies, procedures, management systems, and the obtaining of certifications and seals that endorse the performance of our business sustainability. And, of course, the key to the project: employee awareness, because if we don’t all join in, little by little, this is not going to succeed. We want all employees to take this project as something personal, because in order to be more sustainable we have to involve the whole of society, inside and outside the company.
“EMPLOYEE AWARENESS IS FUNDAMENTAL, WE WANT EVERYONE TO TAKE THIS PROJECT PERSONALLY”.
– How do you work with the different sections of the company to implement them?
-N.L: Certainly, we are a driving, detection and evaluation area, but we have to work transversally and at all levels. For each of the pillars, we establish several sub-pillars aligned with the SDGs, or in other words, the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, which are continuously re-evaluated, focusing on those that are a priority for Araven Group. Specifically, numbers 5, gender equality; 8, decent work and economic growth; 9, industry, innovation and infrastructure; 12, responsible production and consumption; and 13, climate action. We have also worked on others that are specific and not global, such as 14, underwater life, with the Oceanis line.
The way of working we advocate is with multidisciplinary groups, in order to actively contribute to the proposed projects and, as a consequence, generate a sustainable culture of our own. On the other hand, from the beginning we thought it was essential to measure the processes and their results in order to establish goals and timetables. We have several qualitative and quantitative indicators, based on international norms and standards.
FOR EXAMPLE, “ALL OUR TRANSPORT PRODUCTS ALREADY USE BETWEEN 25% AND 100% RECOVERED OR RECYCLED MATERIALS FROM AUTHORISED OPERATORS”.
-A highlight is the use of recycled materials in Araven and Shop&Roll products. What are the challenges involved?
-A.O.: We have to distinguish according to business areas. We can have the greatest impact on purchasing transport equipment. The requirements are that the materials must guarantee the same functional qualities, which implies a large number of approval tests because recycled materials are more unstable in terms of production. Producers are becoming more and more efficient, but the challenge is to guarantee a recurrent and stable supply so that our production meets the performance and quality requirements. So, we go step by step, and if we cannot guarantee 100% recycled material in a product, we try to ensure that it is at least as high a percentage as possible. It is difficult to generalise, but all our products here already use between 25 and 100% recovered or recycled materials from authorised operators.
In the Merchandising area we work with a wide range of materials and at our headquarters in Madrid we have an open project called Alternative Materials to look for the most sustainable options, with which we calculate and compare the carbon footprint of the different options. To achieve this, we have also planned a group project called Green Purchasing Policy, which guarantees a commitment to purchasing the most sustainable viable alternatives.
To achieve this, we have also planned a group project called Green Purchasing Policy, which guarantees a commitment to purchasing the most sustainable viable alternatives.
In the case of the hospitality industry, the certification of operators is an additional challenge that limits us to a few materials, as legislation requires migration tests to be carried out on products that will be in direct contact with foodstuffs. We want to go further, but more steps have to be taken at the industrial level. On the other hand, in our three areas we also use recycled or recyclable packaging, complying with the European legislative trend.
-And do customers know and appreciate all this effort?
N.L.: Without a doubt. Customers themselves are increasingly demanding more sustainable practices, both in the activity itself and in the products and materials. For this reason, one of our priorities is to show our involvement, backed up by certifications and objective facts, always avoiding greenwashing, that is to say, ecological marketing that does not correspond to reality. This year we are preparing Araven Group’s first sustainability report, in which, on a voluntary basis, we will present all our performance at the same level as the financial information, following the GRI standard, which is one of the most recognised for its reliability. Here we seek to anticipate the requirements that will come with European regulations; to take that extra step that characterises us.
A good example of how sustainability is valued is the success of our Oceanis range, which was launched in 2020, prior to the creation of our department. It was a time when plastics were gaining a bad reputation in the markets and, looking for sustainable alternatives, we found this possibility of using discarded fishing tackle in our baskets and trolleys.
“WE AIM TO MAKE OUR PRODUCTS MONO-MATERIAL AND SEPARABLE FOR EASY RECYCLING OR REINTRODUCTION INTO THE INDUSTRY.
-Another point of sustainability is what to do with products at the end of their useful life, reusing and recycling them, how do you promote this aspect?
-A.O.: First of all, we are concerned with resistance and extending their durability, for their reuse; although in the end there is always waste, our premise is that it should take as long as possible to generate it. In addition, companies must produce them in order to be able to manage this waste, so we also want our products to be mono-material and separable to facilitate their recycling or their reintroduction into the industry. At this stage, the first impulse comes from the users and it is a pleasure to see, for example, that airtight food containers have a second life, being widely reused to store cleaning products or other items once they can no longer be used with foodstuffs.
-And how do you work to improve sustainability throughout the company’s operations?
-N.L.: We have already implemented all kinds of actions. For example, in eco-efficiency, carrying out assessments of our energy and water consumption and implementing measures such as the renovation of lighting and insulation in our Madrid headquarters; or contracting renewable electricity supplies. Another example is the specific seals such as Aragón Circular and RSA, or the ISO 14001 Environmental Management certificate achieved for the Madrid headquarters in 2023. Also noteworthy are the employee training and awareness actions, the most recent being a communication on responsible consumption on the occasion of Black Friday. Corporate social responsibility actions are also very important, collaborating with entities that we try to always be local and that have a purpose linked to our priority objectives linked to the SDGs.
“BY 2022 WE HAVE ACHIEVED A 5% IMPROVEMENT IN THE CORPORATE CARBON FOOTPRINT”.
-Can you quantify the reduction in emissions that has been achieved with all these actions?
N.L.: An action such as using our waste as a material, converting a waste into a resource, means, in addition to not generating the waste itself, reducing to zero all the emissions of extraction, production and transport to our facilities compared to the supply of a virgin raw material. Or, in another case, our new reusable egg trays have an important impact at the end of the consumption chain, on our emissions and those of our customers, as they replace single-use trays, and therefore the overgeneration of waste.
How can all these implications be quantified? The system we use is the calculation of the corporate carbon footprint, including the three scopes or six categories applicable to our corporation, which measures not only the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the company’s activity or its consumption, but throughout the entire value chain. In this regard, it is worth noting that we have achieved a 5% improvement, in relation to turnover, from 2021 to 2022; and in 2023 we have implemented reduction actions that will be reflected from next year onwards.
“TRANSPARENCY AND ETHICS PROVIDE THE COMPANY WITH AN ADDITIONAL LEVER AND A DIFFERENTIATING VALUE AS A COMPETITIVE FACTOR”.
-A.O.: What impact does this have on Araven Group?
-A.O.: The benefits for the company go beyond image and brand positioning in the market. Sustainable innovation saves costs, helps to identify new business opportunities and, of course, contributes to a better present and future legacy for the planet and society. In addition, transparency and ethics provide the company with additional leverage and differentiating value as a competitive factor, reinforcing its leadership position in all the businesses where it operates.
-And what are the next objectives of the sustainability department?
N.L.: In addition to those mentioned, we are going to promote the aforementioned green purchasing at all levels, extend eco-design in our most demanded products and, as a consequence, achieve ISO 14006 certification. The goal is to integrate the DNA of sustainability at all levels of the company.