GreenEcoNet

Connecting SMEs for a green economy

L’Aquila: environmentally sustainable Italian food

L'Aquila's picture

A small company sourcing Italian ingredients to import and package for UK food retail, catering wholesalers and food manufacturing customers that ensures resources used (e.g. energy, water, stock and packaging) are used as efficiently as possible.

L’Aquila is a small privately owned business, operating in a very competitive industry sector where the pressures on margins are such that social and environmental considerations are not always prioritised. We aim to be an example to others proving that the prioritisation of social and environmental considerations constitute an economic advantage.

The implementation of a strict environmental and sustainability code in L’Aquila working practices aims at minimising waste and its correlated costs way before sustainability was “fashion”. Since the business has been created thanks to private funds, any cost efficiency makes the difference.

The solution

One of L’Aquila’s clients, Pret A Manger, collaborated with WRAP (www.wrap.org.uk) to set out a Supply Chain Partnership. Under this cooperation, L’Aquila management attended a workshops on food waste and packaging optimisation as part of the client’s sustainable resource management forum.

Since then, L’Aquila implemented several measures to meet environmental and sustainability targets listed in their environmental and sustainability code of practice. These measure mainly focused on:

  • Introducing more accurate forecasting and advance order requests, particularly for seasonal products, to reduce potential wastage;

  • Reducing the risk of damaged goods in transit and consolidating transport journeys by offering incentives for customers to order by the pallet load/loads;

  • Asking staff for suggestions on how to reduce the company’s carbon footprint;

  • Re-using card or, where this is not possible, compacting it for recycling;

  • Standardising some carton sizes following suggestions made by staff;

  • Working with overseas suppliers to supply products in cartons that can be re-used; and

  • Promoting more sustainable styles of packaging (i.e. encouraging customers to choose an aluminium pouch rather than a rigid plastic pail).

(Source: WRAP; more information on the targets are available here:

http://www.laquila.co.uk/about-us/environment-and-sustainability.html)

Furthermore, L’Aquila is committed to creating working conditions that are fair, equitable and rewarding, and working in environmentally sustainable ways.

(More here: http://www.laquila.co.uk/about-us/corporate-and-social-responsiblity.html)

Results

The results achieved from the implementation of measures indicated in their code of practice can be summarised in reduction of waste and correlated cost savings. This process, however, is not a one-way ticket since L’Aquila management team is constantly reassessing what the business is doing, where the budget has been spent.

A small group of 3 to 4 people gets involved in the company in different ways from inhouse policies to running the business day to day, to those deciding what to do with the suppliers and customers. They are constantly challenging themselves to work with customers and employees on how to do things differently so that L’Aquila can be more environmentally and socially sustainable and efficient. The aim of this periodic analysis is the identification of costs that could be reduced or eliminated, according to the most environmentally and socially sustainable alternative.

However, sometimes measures identified cannot be implemented, but this does not keep the management from constantly investigating further potential savings and increased efficiency by reducing waste material and time.

Enablers

A key success factor for the business to develop its code of practice has been the participation to the Supply Chain Partnership developed by one of its customers. The participation to the workshop provided by WRAP has also been key towards the achievement of relevant waste efficiency gains and correlated cost savings.

Barriers/challenges and Lessons learnt

It is hard to introduce and achieve a change towards greener businesses rather than by justifying it for economic reasons, there is basically the need of a business case.

This challenge is mostly related to the code of practice because L’Aquila is a small company but customers are large companies and their very big structure results in decisions not relying only one person. Conversely, in small companies there is usually 1 or a maximum of 2 people deciding, therefore, it is easier and more practical to develop and implement a sustainability code of practice.

There is therefore the need to be able to market L’Aquila’s sustainability code of practice to large companies who not always have their same perspective on CSR. This is due to either larger companies not perceiving the urgency of the sustainability matter, neither the need. Additionally, there is the perception that a transition to more sustainable code of practice implementation would translate into a bureaucratic burden that very often large companies are not willing to bear.

Further details

How was the green solution financed?: 
Would you characterize the green solution as: 
I would rather not say
Operating and maintenance costs: 
Not applicable
Emission reductions description: 
Yes, but not possible to quantify, yet.
Energy consumption description: 
Yes, but not quantified, yet.
Material consumption savings description: 
Yes, but not possible to quantify, yet.
Technical and capacity requirements?: 

There is the need to involve in the decision-making process all components of the business, which translates in sitting on the decision table not only the owner of the business, but also members of staff working on a daily basis into the operational part of the business.

Regulatory framework prerequisites and constraints?: 

No.