Interview to the Architect Marco Capellini from ddn
What is your role and your contribution within the Ministry team. that is responsible for the programme?
I worked with a team of experts that for many years has addressed the Carbon Footprint from the point of view of Social Design. Which basically consists in tracking the social chain; along with the environmental chain, and then gathering all the information on a single label, a label that will explain the social and environmental values of the product to consumers.
What do you mean by tracking the social chain?
It means tracking all the parties that participated in the making of a product: from the semi-processed to the raw materials… and then checking the social aspects of the companies, the individuals, cooperatives, and their record of social services, respect for workers’ rights, initiatives, education and the protection of these rights and of health… The first case was the Brazilian company Osklen.
Tell me about Osklen and this research study in Brazil.
For Brazil we referred to the parameters of the Millenium Goal: eight points defined by the United Nations for the year 2015, which call for the respect of a series of factors in the development of products. So for Osklen, we tracked the chain: companies, people, cooperatives, and we went to observe the condition of the individual manufacturers. We gathered the information into a system and traced the map of the supply chain that highlights social commitment. In the case of Osklen, we analyzed six products, following the agreement between the Ministry of the Environment, the Forum das Americas, Instituto-e, a non-profit agency working on the environmental level, and the Osklen Company, guided by fashion designer Oskar Metsavahat.
Any other projects in Brazil?
Our projects in partnership with our offices in Brazil include a series of exhibitions for the Ministry of the Environment, and a book titled “Italian Design for Sustainability” which features products that combine both aspects. A book that became an exhibition in São Paulo in 2011 and in Rio de Janeiro last July during the Military Olympics. There are also many meetings, seminars, initiatives with Brazilian institutions and companies. And, in November, we participated in a major trade fair in Rio.
Why are you so active in Brazil?
Brazil represents a part of my activities, but at this moment I consider it to be a very interesting, growing and strategic country. I am interested because it has a vast legacy of natural resources, of raw materials that it is trying to cultivate. So that responds to my interest in materials. In fact, in November we’ve opened MATREC in Brazil, with a network to handle information and to promote joint actions. The Brazilians are very conscious of the cultural aspect, and in particular culture relating to materials, and in this they are very different from the Europeans. Their products are based on a very interesting crafting concept, to which they add a boundless imaginative capacity for using colours, which continues to amaze me. In the development of furniture, fashion, fabrics, graphic design.
Can the Carbon Footprint programme be useful to Small and Medium-size Businesses?
Absolutely, because the theme of environmental and social sustainability is strategic if you want to be competitive in the international market. Every new product needs an environmental identity: the larger manufacturers are able to organize this on their own, but the smaller ones need help. The fact of developing a project with ingrained parameters of sustainability does not raise their price but their value. Manufacturers are afraid of these “revolutions”, but not all of them, because I can mention several, even in Italy and specifically in the field of furniture, that are developing environmental innovation and growing. For example Regenesi for accessories, commissioned international designers to make objects that respond to the guidelines of sustainability and recycled materials. Or Alisea, which also produces design objects, or Essent’ial for home decorating accessories. Or even Kube Design, a company that was founded to make boxes and now makes design products out of recycled cardboard. Without forgetting Valcucine, a company whose environmental commitment and efforts we have been appreciating from the very beginning.
Can you give me an assessment of the environmental efforts of companies in the furniture industry?
I have noticed that companies in this field have taken giant steps forward, and are increasingly declaring that they use certified wood, and renewable raw materials. Often people think that the first thing to do is analyze the product, whereas the problem may actually be the process, or distribution. Then there is the end-of-the-life-cycle, which is fundamental. We are now working on indicators for renewable materials, which will allow us to calculate the age of a product. The age of a product should correspond to the years required to regenerate the materials that it uses. It is true that the wood and furniture industry needs to make progress in terms of environmental strategy. But some companies have started to, and have gotten off on the right foot.
Is there a message that you wish to send about sustainability within the context of relations between Brazil and Italy?
The relationship between Italy and Brazil is an important one, because these two markets have been observing each other for years, and are developing projects synergetically. We have a lot to learn from them and vice-versa, they can learn from us. The aspect of materials is fundamental and the great effort we are making with the MATREC data base is starting to bring results on the international level. It is strategic for companies to know how to choose materials on the basis of their environmental characteristics. It is not enough to put a green sticker on a material to say it is “eco”, you need to understand all its intrinsic environmental characteristics.