A few years ago, in his book Corporation 2020, economist Pavan Sukhdev explained how companies going forward would have to behave differently to those in the so-called “brown economy”, the unsustainable state of affairs that dominated the 20th Century. Sukhdev identified four main directions for change: aligning the goals of companies and public society to generate social and environmental harmony, wellbeing and equality; generating wealth while guaranteeing the protection of human, natural and financial capital; recreating a sense of community and belonging; and, finally, increasing the value of collaborations through improved education on social responsibility. Today – states Sukhdev – when discussing the circular economy, there’s a high risk of limiting discourse to the aspects of regeneration and recycling, but the circular model cannot disregard the responsibility of a business as a whole, including that of the individuals that work there. And this holds true from small companies all the way to multinational corporations.
Itelyum is an example of how the concept of circular economy can and should be extended, departing in this case from the core business of waste management and recovery and reaching a more inclusive vision that integrates economic, environmental and social concerns. The Italian group, formed from the union of 16 companies – including Viscolube and Bitolea – is an international leader in the regeneration of used lubricant oils and the production of solvents (both pure and from chemical waste). It distinguishes itself by offering environmental services to the industrial sector. Itelyum’s mission is to help preserve natural resources and improve quality of life through processes, products and sustainable solutions for waste management and the optimisation of the markets it services, sharing the goods it creates with its business partners, society and the environment.
There are three worlds within Itelyum. The first is Regeneration Solutions, which includes the activities of Itelyum Regeneration Srl: a European leader for over fifty years in the production of high-quality regenerated lubricant bases, thanks to a patented re-refinement process that was developed in-house. Thanks to technologies like catalytic hydrogenation, the regeneration plants treat used lubricant oils to create high-performing and sustainable group I+ and group II+ base oils, which are then used by the most important lubrication companies in the world. Gasoline and bitumen can also be recovered from used lubricant oils. And the environmental benefits are significant: Itelyum’s regenerated base oils emit half the CO2, four times less particulate dust and five times less acidifiers compared to base oils made from the first refining of crude oil.
Purification Solutions, which includes the activities of Itelyum Purification Srl, has been a leader for over forty years in the production and marketing of solvents, manufactured both as high-purity products and from the recovery of chemical waste. Every year it regenerates and recovers, with industrial efficiency and high levels of quality, almost 100,000 tonnes of used solvents derived primarily from the chemical and chemical-pharmaceutical sectors. The solvents can then return to their sector of origin, or they can be recovered with new formulations to satisfy needs in other markets. Much like with Regeneration Solutions, the Purification wing creates products whose CO2 emissions are up to ten times less than their primary production counterparts. Itelyum’s productive capacity in this regard is also impressive, reaching 100,000 tonnes of pure products obtained from selected petroleum derivatives, technical streams and virgin raw materials, and it is also integrated thanks to trading activities. Additionally, a dedicated department synthesises “starting materials” for pharmaceuticals and custom-made products, employing processes that benefit from the synergy with the solvent regeneration enterprise.
Finally, Environment Solutions unites, controls and coordinates 13 companies based in northern Italy that manage 450,000 tonnes of special waste each year, in every phase from collection, storage, transport and pre-treatment. Additionally, the group carries out service and mediation activities, environmental and safety consultancy as well as running an accredited laboratory for chemical and environmental analysis and two plants for industrial water treatment.
With 15 sites in operation across Italy, 500 employees and over 20,000 clients in over 50 countries, Itelyum has called into question the traditional objectives of a large part of society and the economy. It’s no coincidence that the vision it laid out at the group’s launch in March sets forth the idea that to be a recognised leader in a sector does not just involve responsible manufacturing, sustainable product marketing and offering integrated solutions, but most of all it means being an inspiration and an example for all those who believe that people, intellectual capabilities, social relations and natural, financial or technological resources are a capital that should be prized, not wasted or overlooked.
“With Itelyum – states CEO Antonio Lazzarinetti – we have given life to an industrial and service platform that is entirely devoted to providing sustainable solutions that are able to generate economic and environmental value for our employees, our clients, our shareholders and for society at large. Itelyum’s sustainability and responsibility policies are inspired by the highest international benchmarks, and in particular by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the International Labour Organisation’s Protocols and Recommendations, the SA80000 and ISO 26000 standards and by the Global Reporting Initiative. These politics are reflected in the Codes that Itelyum has adopted in the accords signed with social partners and in the commitments resulting from the United Nations Global Compact.”
To these ends, the group puts into practice the commitments it has made by setting out small, medium and large scale goals. For example, it aims to be constantly involved with local communities and completely transparent with its information in relation to the wider social world – including institutions and authorities, NGOs and representatives of the public and private sector – from the smallest working site to the highest levels of corporate management. Furthermore, all the companies in the group are required to enact principles of equality towards all employees, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, clients, final users and all other subjects involved in the sphere of influence of the group’s activity. Relationships with clients and suppliers are developed based on the creation of partnerships, the exchange of information and the sharing of commitments and common goals, promoting relations that invest time, competences and resources to support communities and enhance local development. And it doesn’t stop there: the group and its members are prohibited from intentionally demonstrating any kind of support for organisations that aren’t in line with the same standards of business integrity that they have themselves adopted for their companies.
The creation of the Itelyum group is not only a leap forwards in terms of business configuration, but also a model for the shouldering of responsibility that cannot be shirked by a 21st century company. This has been achieved by combining the creation of market value with environmental responsibility, by promoting responsible use of natural resources for the duration of products’ life cycle and adopting management strategies aimed at reducing consumption, thus maintaining the availability and quality of these resources. Itelyum has also embraced social responsibility by making a commitment to anti-discrimination policies, increasing its attention to the wellbeing of employees and local communities, and performing educational activities.
Pavan Sukhdev, Corporation 2020: Transforming Business for Tomorrow’s World, Island Press, 2012. Published in Italy by Edizioni Ambiente; www.edizioniambiente.it/libri/1076/corporation-2020