With EFFIGE the Environmental Footprint Becomes a Competitive Advantage

Assofond, with another four industry associations, takes part in the European Life EFFIGE project for the certification of the environmental footprint of Italian products, promoted by Pisa’s Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies and Enea, the National Agency for New Technologies

by Roberto Guccione

“Made in Italy and environmental footprint: a winning partnership for competitiveness?”, the congress which was held in Milan on March 27th, promoted by Sant’Anna Advanced Studies Schools’ Institute of Management and by the Lombardy Region, was the occasion to take stock, along with companies and public institutions, of the progress of the “Made Green in Italy” scheme for the evaluation, certification and communication of the environmental footprint of Italian products, whose implementing regulation is close to its final approval. Particularly, the main projects which involve some of the key industries of our country’s tradition and excellent production were illustrated, such as the TRACCIA agreement (Regional table to increase competitiveness using the environmental footprint) promoted by the Lombardy region and the EFFIGE project (Environmental Footprint For Improving and Growing Ecoefficiency) financed by the European Union’s Life Program.
A focus on the environmental footprint is one of the actions foreseen by Law 221 dated December 28th, 2015 – “Regulations in terms of the environment to promote  green economy measures and the containment of the excessive use of natural resources”, which has been in force since the beginning of 2016. This law envisages a set of measures which will affect significantly the various aspects of environmental norms and green economy, in the direction of greater simplification and promotion of reuse of resources and environmental sustainability, foreseeing incentives to reward the virtuous behaviours of consumers, manufacturers and institutions. Among various measures, Law 221 foresees a measure aimed at starting off a virtuous circle between the competitiveness of Italian productive systems and environmental sustainability, capable of providing companies a formidable support to use as leverage to improve the image and appeal of the products on the market. In this respect Italy has the opportunity of being the first among the EU countries to apply the innovative PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) method, suggested by the European Commission to measure and communicate to the market the environmental impact of products so as to favour, in consumers’ opinion, the “greener” ones. The PEF method is based on the well-known LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) approach, a tool which is still not widely used in small and medium enterprises, but which is arousing increasing interest especially on the part of companies producing goods Made in Italy.

The Life EFFIGE project
Actually, from heavy industry to agriculture, right up to restaurant services, the need emerged on companies’ part to understand how their products and services affect the environment, so as to take more specific action and to improve environmental performances. The Life EFFIGE project was created to respond to this demand by means of the PEF methods tested in four production segments (metal foundries, wood furnishings, food cultivation and restaurant services) involving numerous companies in this activity. The very same companies which will take part in this project will also be involved in the improvement of the environmental footprint of their products and services, planning strategic activities aimed at creating more sustainable products with characteristics which will make them more competitive.
The initiative is supported by the Institute of Management of Pisa’s Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, which plays the role of coordinator and technical partner of this project. Along with the St. Anna school, technical activities will be supervised by Enea, the National Agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development. Along with the two technical partners, five organizations will also take part in EFFIGE, representing the four industries involved in the experiment: Agrica and Mantua’s “Verdi Terre D’Acqua – Green Waterlands” Agricultural and Touristic Consortium for the food and agriculture sector, Assofond for the Italian foundry domain, Federlegno Arredo for the furniture industry and CAMST for the restaurant segment. These five organizations will help numerous Italian enterprises to apply the PEF method with “pilot experiences” of eco-innovation and competitiveness. The distinctive element of the project is actually represented by the synergy among companies, the academic world and the association and consortium scene.
Besides, EFFIGE is finalized to the development of instruments for the application of PEF in small and medium enterprises, helping them to experiment new approaches and methods which might make them more competitive. The project’s partners will work on two fronts: on one hand, more scientific activities concerning the calculation of the environmental footprint, on the other hand, they will engage in the definition of ways and means to communicate the products’ environmental footprint, so as to make them more competitive on the present market. The project’s partners will work both with Italian and European companies which will experiment with the tools and methods developed thanks to EFFIGE to evaluate their real efficacy even outside the nation’s boundaries, turning EFFIGE into an opportunity even for companies outside Italy.
The project’s activities began in September, 2017, and will be completed in 2021. During the whole duration of the project, the participation to both national and international events is envisaged, where the experience of the different industries will be promoted and communicated; many training initiatives are also scheduled for manufacturing companies, consulting firms, students and so on, so as to turn the PEF method into a better-known and more often applied tool.

EFFIGE and Assofond companies
Assofond will carry out, within the project’s framework, an average industry study regarding two representative products, that is, raw cast iron and steel foundry castings, finalized both at quantifying their average environmental performances and at providing the basis to define the industry’s PEFCR (Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules), that is, the specific product rules which will be useful to all companies wishing to carry out a PEF study of their product. Also within the project’s framework, six PEF studies will be carried out on two products by three associated companies, to validate the PEFCR, by testing the industry rules and endeavouring to develop measures to reduce the environmental impact of their products, based on what will result from the studies, and to measure its effects over time. Companies which will cooperate with Assofond within this project’s framework are Fonderie Ariotti, VDP Fonderia and Fonderia Boccacci.
The industry rules will be tested on a iron casting, manufactured in each of the three foundries, which is used as a mechanical component for wind energy generation towers: the “Torque Arm”.