Pieralberto Ripari is the CEO of the heel factory Albert Components, where technological innovation and handcrafted tradition fuse together in the development of a new approach towards sustainability: The Green Project. In this episode we discussed together the main drivers and constraints that are faced by footwear brands when buying more sustainable heels.
Topics of the interview
0:00 – Intro
00:35 – Albert Components milestones since 1967
01:24 – The Green Project: the commitment to sustainability and circularity
05:11 – Are footwear brands willing to pay more for eco-friendly products ?
06:10 – Product and material certifications to guarantee transparency
07:47 – Sustainability as an investment for long term value creation
09:56 – The Tricky Question: “if you had a magic power, what would you do to make the fashion industry more sustainable?”
Could you tell us about your work and your heel company, Albert Components?
Albert Components is a historic company because we are practically the fourth generation that is carrying on the family business, and as the fourth generation of entrepreneurs we are making heels for shoes,and everything related to components of the shoe.
Could you tell us about your commitment to sustainability?
Our major commitment started with the Green Project almost one year ago before the lockdown. To explain you in few words how the green project works, we practically buy materials or recycled materials, or we buy materials with a lower percentage of petroleum. At the end, the product we sell is made of 50% / 60% regenerated materials depending on the type of product we make. In this way, we have already a 50 % reduction of toxic materials and toxic additives and this is the first part of the GreenProject.
Let’s say we tried to bring it into a more circular economy. How? We bought special ovens for drying the materials, while first it was done externally, then we bought special refrigerators.Practically, when the heel once printed gets into the cooling tanks, we have a 99 %recirculation of the water, therefore having lower consumption and lower emissions.
For what concerns the entry and exit of to the various materials, we also use a specific machinery for internal recycling, so also here there is a saving in transportsand therefore less emissions in the air.We are trying to make a totally internal chain, internalizing many processes that are linked to a higher carbon footprint. It will take some time to get to 100 % circularity, but we are almost there.
Are footwear brands willing to pay more for eco-friendly products?
I made this kind of speech to all the fashion brands we are working with, but at the end, I found myself wrong because only some companies are looking for this type of greener product instead many companies are not ready yet.
Look we have chosen to adopt this Green Project more and more, because it is fundamental for thefuture,and it will be a matter of time. I believe that in a year or two everyone will have to get used to this system.What we are doing? We are presenting the Green Project to everyone, some fashion brands ask for it, others not. It is a problem when even large groups say that the problem could be the economic cost. But it is a fact, the Green Project generates costs because you make important investments and purchases. As I said before particular refrigerators for water recirculation,and other specific machinery in use. But many footwear companies have strongly delocalized their operations, they produce in China, Indonesia or Vietnam and they don’t want to pay more than what they are already paying.
If you had magical power, what would you do to make the fashion industry greener?
This is not an easy thing to say, my major concern is that once companies would be able to make a shift to a greener production, then I don’t think all the final consumerswill be able to understand the real value and cost of sustainability. Maybe for this reason many brands are not ready to make this change happen.
Thank you Pieralberto for sharing your experience with us, it was extremely interesting.
Traceability Journey is a project by The ID Factory. Our mission is to raise awareness about the importance of traceability for sustainable value chains. We are doing this by engaging with ESG consultants and sharing best practices from the fashion supply chain.