Being sustainable is part of our history.
2021 was a year that moved at two speeds. In the first half of the year, business was sluggish due to the carryover effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, while in the second half the main markets reported strong signs of recovery.
In these circumstances, we pursued the activities relating to sustainability with integrity, commitment and the concrete actions which have always characterised us.
We gave maximum priority to PEOPLE’s health, renewing our focus on managing and implementing protocols for preventing the Covid-19 infection and becoming pioneers in the wool textile industry by implementing trial introduction of wearable exoskeletons.
We renewed our commitment to the ENVIRONMENT: we doubled recovery of wastewater in the manufacturing process, purchased electricity from renewable sources and offset the amount of CO2 derived from using methane with investments in projects for environmental protection.
We allocated important investments to PRODUCT R&D which came to tangible fruition in July 2021, with the launch of the new Offlimits range, and we consolidated our commitment to sourcing sustainable raw materials and to a transparent supply chain, obtaining the RWS and RMS certifications.
Being sustainable means studying results to set new goals.
In 1982 the Barberis Canonico family’s holding company acquired the Greenhills farm in Pyramul, New South Wales, an Australian region renowned for the production of quality wool. Subsequently, the Clavering and Logiamond farms were purchased in the same region.
The decision to establish a presence in the preferred supplier country was motivated by wanting to be actively involved upstream in the wool supply chain to strengthen the relationship with local farmers, test the most sustainable management practices first hand, and support the breeding of Saxon Merino sheep; thus establishing an enduring link between quality research and best animal husbandry practices.
In order to limit water consumption and capture dyes and auxiliary chemicals, we improved the reuse of dye baths by equipping the department with storage tanks and recirculation pumps.
Consequently, we reduced the amount of pollution in the wastewater directed towards the treatment plant, which currently consists of a basin for primary filtration and water clarification.
In 1987, we set up our own wastewater treatment plant at the Pratrivero yard. The water for the main part arrives from the dyeing and finishing departments, which only utilise organic chemicals that are fully biodegradable.
The state-of-the-art plant consists of a primary mechanical filtration division; an aerobic treatment plant with activated sludge for accelerated biodegradation of organic pollutants, complete with clarification tank; sedimentation and sludge recirculation; and a tertiary activated carbon treatment station with sand filtration.
The outgoing water is well within the regulatory limits and can therefore be sent to the final industrial wastewater treatment plant.
In 1998, thanks to the upgrades to the plant and the resulting improvements in wastewater treatment, we were authorised to discharge into surface waters.
NOISE CONTROL ENCLOSURE SYSTEMS FOR TEXTILE MACHINERY
Anticipating by two years Italian law No. 277 of 1991 regulating the protection from noise, the introduction of noise control measures marked a turning point in the textile industry’s working conditions. Acoustic cabins evolved in step with the adoption of new looms and developed over 4 generations.
1ST GENERATION: 1989–1998
In 1989 we created the first acoustic cabin for rapier looms: a sound-proof metal half-shell lowered from the ceiling. Within a decade 72 looms out of 78 were sound proofed.
2ND GENERATION: 1998–2004
The second type of cabin was placed on the floor. In May 2000, all 88 rapier looms were fitted with individual enclosures.
3RD GENERATION: 2004–2015
In 2004, the introduction of air-jet looms required a new type of acoustic cabin: a half-shell with sliding doors. In 2006 all 50 looms were equipped with such systems.
4TH GENERATION: current cabins
In 2015, the newest air-jet looms required fourth generation soundproof glass booths, which guarantee the best noise control ever achieved.
Since 2020, the Pratrivero weaving plant has been fully equipped with soundproof cabins, while the upgrade of the department in Pray, which commenced in 2017, is currently at 50%.
The new finishing department was set up in a large, bright building. The hall was equipped with an innovative air treatment system that purifies and controls the temperature, creating a comfortable microclimate in the work areas.
Water and power-consumption reduction measures were implemented in the plant: the machinery can utilise either cold ground water or hot (40°C) water obtained from heat exchangers and cooling air compressors, as well as recycled water from the company’s wastewater treatment plant.
The careful arrangement of the machinery, the organisation of the parking and the goods transit areas, have resulted in the hall being kept tidy, safe and clean.
The new dyeing department is distinguished by the almost total automated process for top and yarn dyeing. The automatic dosing of dyes and auxiliaries eliminates waste and optimises dyeing formulas ensuring perfect colour reproducibility.
The automatic handling of materials in loading and unloading the tubs permits to move even very heavy loads without involving operators.
Additionally, all the machines including the piece-dyeing machines were equipped with their own tanks to collect the first dye bath, resulting in significant savings on dyes and auxiliaries. The heat collected by cooling the bath with indirect heat exchangers, supplies a large tank of thermoregulated hot water ready to fill the next tanks.
To treat the effluvium generated by singeing during the finishing process, in 2003 we created a regenerative thermal combustion system, by upgrading the existing plant machinery, which consisted of a wet scrubber-like system.
The new equipment, which retains the scrubber tower as a dust abatement pre-treatment, comprises three large alternating flow towers for thermal recovery, and a treatment chamber in which the volatile organic effluvium is completely oxidised through high-temperature combustion. The olfactory impact on the surrounding environment is thus neutralised.
Reconfirming our commitment to the younger generations, in 2003 we issued a call for scholarship applications by students in secondary schools and technical university courses.
To maximise all the talent in the region, since 2017 besides the employees’ children, the scholarship also includes students from the Biella and Valsesia regions who attain high distinctions in their final examinations and in the subsequent university courses.
The aim is to reward excellence by supporting young people and their families by contributing towards the costs of completing their studies.
Vitale Barberis Canonico is a shareholder of New England Wool (NEW) based in Australia, which has always worked in the sustainable production of superfine wool and the promotion of best practice relative to animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
In 2005, New England Wool was the first to establish its No Mulesed / Ceased Mulesed declaration system, anticipating the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX), which created and introduced its National Wool Declaration (NDW) in 2010.
Shortly thereafter, it introduced an incentive policy awarding a premium to each bale of No Mulesed wool on top of the value determined at auction, with the objective of covering the additional rearing costs.
New England Wool continued to actively support NWD, the Classing Code of Practice for shearing, animal welfare requirements and environmental sustainability, by developing the SustainaWOOL Integrity Scheme introduced in 2015.
In 2008 we adopted the Organisation, Management and Control Model pursuant to Legislative Decree 231/01, with a document drawn in accordance with Confindustria Guidelines and approved by the Board of Directors.
Model 231 includes:
The task of monitoring and verifying the effectiveness of Model 231 is entrusted to the Supervisory Body, whose members are independent from the Company and have autonomous powers of initiative and control.
In 2009 TÜV Italia awarded us with the certification of compliance UNI EN ISO 9001:2015 standard for the Quality Management System.
UNI EN ISO 9001:2015 is the international standard reference for an organisation that intends to plan, implement, monitor and improve both operational and backing processes, planning and implementing a Quality Management System as a means to achieve its objectives. First and foremost, maximising customer satisfaction.
With a view to energy efficiency, we replaced the previous thermal power plant with a methane gas system. The new thermal power plant comprises four steam generators that supply the finishing stages and a hot water generator for the dyeing process.
The four boilers have a very low thermal load and are equipped with high-efficiency burners, powered by hot water and preheated air, both recycled. This results in high boiler efficiency (97.5%) and emissions that are well within the prescribed limits, specifically relative to nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Boiler burners can be fuelled with alternative fuel, and a diesel storage tank ensures production continuity in the event of a disruption to the methane gas supply.
In 2012, we developed a new corporate welfare package: in addition to the existing Life Insurance, we provided Supplementary Health Insurance, Long Term Care (life annuity for care fees), an annual tax-exempt expense voucher, an hour bank for accrued voluntary pension funds towards early retirement, and company-funded healthcare to cover the period between the INPS due date and the end of each calendar year.
The package is designed for both full-time and part-time employees as well as fixed-term employees (including outsourced workers), for whom a recalculation of the premium is provided based on the part-time percentage and the duration of the contract, respectively.
In 2012 we were certified by the Associazione Tessile e Salute (Textile and Health Association). The Association assesses the production process and confirms the absence of dangerous substances in order to guarantee the origin, traceability and safety of the textile product to the consumer. Among others, it collaborates with the Italian Ministry of Health and the Ministry for the Environment.
The search for excellence in raw materials led us, in 2014, to create the Wool Excellence Club, which is based on four pillars: quality, training, retention rate, and sustainability.
The objective is enhancing the fibre obtained through sustainable and environmentally friendly practices which safeguard the Saxon breed of sheep, producer of fine wool and progenitor in the Australian breeding system since its development in the 18th century.
Another objective is consolidating the relationship based on trust and virtuous cooperation, with the Australian producers through direct, personal and enduring interactions based on communication and reciprocity. Farmers are supported through particularly favourable purchasing policies.
Every year, through the Wool Excellence Award, we reward the farm that has produced the best quality wool through good animal welfare practices.
We have been subscribed to the SustainaWOOL Integrity Scheme since its inception in 2015.
The SustainaWOOL Integrity Scheme protocol requires livestock management at the highest standard in terms of animal welfare, ethics and product quality. It also guarantees integrity and traceability throughout the entire production chain.
In 2016, the Pratrivero wastewater treatment plant built in 1987 was upgraded with a second line.
The biological treatment of activated sludge, which ensured the quality of the water output was within the legal limits, and allowing it to be discharged into surface waters, is now flanked by an ultrafiltration line with MBR membrane bioreactor and an ozone decolourisation system.
The purified water is therefore suitable to be recycled for the rinsing processes in the finishing, significantly reducing the removal of water from the environment.
In 2018 we negotiated a New Integrative Corporate Agreement, maintaining previous benefits and improving their contents.
An important addition was the VBCard, a suite of regional services, facilities and partnerships for our employees. Completely conceived and designed in-house, it boasts about 120 institutions and shops. The offer ranges from medical to recreational benefits, including the food sector and personal care services.
Since 2018 we have issued a Sustainability Report, which describes the initiatives and achievements attained in the economic, social and environmental sectors during the reporting year.
The Report’s objective is to illustrate our sustainability strategies and the relative performances in the Pratrivero and Pray production plants.
The document is prepared on a voluntary basis, responding to a need for sharing the most significant outcomes in the area of Social Responsibility with our stakeholders. It also serves as an incentive in pursuing the path of sustainability by setting increasingly challenging goals.
In 2019 we were certified by TÜV Italia for complying with the UNI EN ISO 14001:2015 standards for Environmental Management Systems, and the UNI ISO 45001:2018 standards for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems.
UNI EN ISO 14001:2015 is the internationally recognised benchmark for an organisation wishing to manage its environmental responsibilities in a systematic way, by contributing to the environmental pillar of sustainability. The expected outcomes of Environmental Management Systems include fulfilling the compliance obligations and achieving environmental performance and objectives.
UNI ISO 45001:2018 is the international criterion by which an organisation intending to implement Management Systems to improve the Health and Safety of workers, provides safe and healthy workspaces, prevents work-related injuries and illnesses, and proactively improves its OSH-related performance.
Since 2019 we have been part of the Alperia Green Energy programme, which certifies the purchase of renewable energy in accordance with current legislation. The green energy supplied by Alperia, derives exclusively from renewable sources and is produced in the hydroelectric plants of South Tyrol without any CO2 emissions.
This important move has enabled us to save over 10 million kg of CO2 annually, contributing significantly to building a sustainable future.
From our ultra-centenary commitment to people and the environment, in 2019 we created HOPE (How to Optimise People and Environment), a range of fabrics with a low environmental impact.
The line includes fabrics made from undyed natural fibres, fabrics dyed with natural colours and mixed fabrics containing recycled wool. Every season the range is enhanced with new offerings, in a constant search for sustainable materials in line with the quality and style that set us apart. In 2020, we introduced Red Eri silk, a cruelty-free fibre of Indian origin with a characteristic orange hue. In 2021 Biella wool was added, a zero-kilometre fibre sourced from the Biella breed of sheep, which are reared according to the nomadic droving method (a practice that since 2019, is included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage).
In 2019 we commenced the process for adopting the Chemical Management 4sustainability protocol, which is a structured methodology for the implementation of ZDHC on the MRSL, the aim of which is the elimination of toxic, harmful chemicals to protect human health and the environment. To guarantee this, it incorporates activities and controls into the production process, and regularly and transparently measures the level of implementation.
On 25 July 2019, New England Wool transferred the intellectual property of SustainaWOOL Integrity Scheme on a non-profit basis, to the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX), manager of wool marketing arrangements, with the aim of entrusting this protocol to an independent body and thus increasing its authority, credibility and distribution.
The SustainaWOOL Integrity Scheme sets the benchmark for sustainability standards in wool production in Australia and guarantees integrity and traceability throughout the production chain to consumers. Specifically, it prescribes livestock management at the highest standard in terms of animal welfare, ethics and product quality.
Today it has over 1,100 accredited farms, subject to periodic sample audits, carried out by AWEX appointed auditors.
In 2020, SustainaWOOL obtained ISO 9001 certification.
In 2021 Control Union awarded us with the certifications for Responsible Wool Standard and Responsible Mohair Standard.
RWS is a voluntary standard that guarantees the wool originates from responsibly managed farms in compliance with specific criteria for animal welfare and reduced environmental impacts. It also guarantees traceability along the entire value chain.
RMS is a voluntary standard that guarantees the mohair originates from responsibly managed farms in compliance with specific criteria for animal welfare and reduced environmental impacts. It also guarantees traceability along the entire value chain.
Besides the purchase of electrical power from renewable resources, in 2021 we resolved to exclusively utilise climate neutral gas.
We chose Green Gas from the provider Alperia, which is certified to guarantee the amount of CO2, generated by the use of methane in our production, is offset by investments in environmental protection projects.
Alperia’s Green Gas is certified on an annual basis by TÜV NORTH, an independent industry certification body, and is compliant with the Voluntary Carbon Standard, one of the most widespread standards meeting the strict Kyoto Protocol criteria.