Italian Conference Explores Man-made Fibers and Sustainability

What is the interplay between sustainability and industry's ever-greater environmental responsibility? What steps should firms take in response to the new geo-economic realignment of the planet? What strategic choices must be adopted given the constant growth in production and consumption of man-made fibers?

These issues were discussed on Nov. 29, at UniversitÀ Carlo Cattaneo - LIUC in Castellanza, Varese, Italy, during the conference "The man-made fibers industry between globalization and sustainability." The event, which was organized by LIUC together with Assofiber Cirfs Italia [Italian Man-made Fibers Association] and the Manufacturers' Association of the Province of Varese, presented an analysis of the international scenario, strategies aimed at acquiring and maintaining competitiveness, and new markets, through the experience of a number of large Italian companies in the fibers industry, including RadiciGroup.

"Today sustainability has entered the domain of sales and competitiveness," said Maurizio Radici, vice president and COO of RadiciGroup and president of Assofiber Cirfs Italia. "The main focus of our group's efforts is making sustainability a total systemic approach to the management of our businesses, at all stages in our production chain, from chemicals to plastics and synthetic fibers. Concrete action is needed, starting from the smallest responsible steps that each individual can take in his or her daily routine. Sustainability is an overall vision of corporate management and, for this reason, we need to be committed not only on the environmental front but also on economic, human, production-commercial and social levels."

Speaking before Radici's talk were Rodolfo Helg, professor of international economics and director of the LIUC Institute of Economics and Management, and Aurora Magni, professor of industrial textile applications at the LIUC Institute of Industrial Engineering Applications.

During her report, Magni emphasized that worldwide consumption of man-made fibers had grown exponentially during the past 10 years. "From the second half of the twentieth century up to now," Magni said, "consumption of man-made fibershas never stopped growing. In 1960 these products made up 22 percent of textile materials in circulation, but by 1991, they made up 45 percent. Today man-made fibers comprise 66 percent of world textile fiber consumption. And consumption is still on the rise: an increase of 5 percent per year in the last decade, driven by both the biological limits of natural fibers and the increase in world population. The development of man-made fibers has been an adventure in industrial and scientific thought."

European fiber manufacturers are demonstrating a tangible commitment to sustainability. Evidence of this is the rising number and quality of man-made fibers produced with recycled materials, the greater use of renewable source energy, the growing use of biopolymers, the reduced amount and greater recycling of production rejects and the fact that non-recyclable waste from man-made fiber textiles can be efficiently incinerated to generate energy. What
s more, compared to Asian production, the production of man-made fibers in Europe is less energy intensive, because of more innovative and efficient plants, as well as energy sources that produce fewer emissions.

During the LIUC conference, two other important Italian industrialists in the fibers sector spoke: Paolo Piana, president di Sinterama and CEO of Trevira,
and Giulio Bonazzi, president of Aquafil and Cirfs. The two executives described the international organization of their manufacturing firms, focusing on their respective approaches to sustainability.
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