Four items for a shared venture

Quality of business relations, responsibility towards the territory, relevant economic saving objectives: Afuture in the words of four of Autogrill Group’s key players.

AfutuElie Maaloufre is a set of experiences promoted by Autogrill Group in relation to social, environmental and economic sustainability; it is a concept, a culture, a growth process, but specifically it is a methodology shared by all the different sectors in which the Group operates. Elie Maalouf – Chief Executive Officer of Food & Beverage North America and the Pacific Region – provides a precise summary of what sustainability means to him. In our sector, he said “the focus on the issues regarding sustainability vis-à-vis the landlords is particularly relevant. They are public and they are the expression of the political power and, therefore, they continuously need to demonstrate their ability to activate and protect the resources of the territory of reference, also through the reselling of local products.” It should also be added that “Landlords are continuously prompted by the local communities to consider environmental impact as a priority, mainly as a consequence of the activity of the airports in the surrounding territory.” In addition, he said that “due to the cost increase in energy and raw materials, organizations have been forced to re-consider production factors and processes in order to make them more efficient and effective and, therefore, more sustainable, both for the company and the territory.” In operating terms this “means focusing concerted efforts on the issues regarding re-use and re-cycling. For example, within HMSHost we thought it right and intelligent to start from our primary activity, to try and improve it and, afterwards, we started with the recycling of the beverage containers.” However, sustainability relates also to the attention of the people, the environment and the values. Maalouf continued: “The attention to social issues is not just something we must do but external to us: it is part of our corporate culture. With regard to welfare topics we can offer benefits and coverage packages that are considered among the most comprehensive in our sector.
This leads to low personnel turnover. We do our best to persuade people to participate in the life of the organization, so that they can enjoy what they do. Sustainability is also exactly this: an approach that helps to attract the best talent.
Who would not prefer to work in a healthy company that sincerely espouses the concept of business citizenship? The people working at the new sustainable Delaware Center store, for instance, are very proud to work there. In fact, we receive requests for transfers from other states,” without considering that “in our sector, consumers appreciate and reward those businesses that show a genuine commitment to sustainability.”

José Maria PalenciaElie Maalouf’s statements are confirmed by José Maria Palencia – Travel Retail & Duty–Free Chief Executive Officer – indicating another precise orientation.
Sustainability is a commercial partnership model as much as a stimulus for looking at the future, a responsibility but also a value. Palencia explains that “the relations in our business context represent a strategic and intangible element, being cross-sectionally correlated with the relations with the suppliers and the landlords, and are indispensable for developing a useful link that reflects the values, the vision and the mission of the organization.”
To comply with the sustainability parameters also when this is not requested within the commercial offer, means that “operating in a sustainable way has become to us a constant element as well as a competitive element.” In fact, Palencia continued: “In many developed countries this is already a legal imperative: organizations do not have the option to skip this.
They cannot even do without it. You have to be ready ahead of time, you should not be caught off-guard. Sustainability is an opportunity for a business, if considered over the long term. I am fully convinced about this. Because it stimulates  discussion, driving businesses towards understanding needs and problems in advance and, as a result, anticipating the definition of regulations. In this way, sustainability provides a competitive edge.” Moreover, it is necessary to consider another important factor: demographic trends. According to Palencia “we are currently experiencing a very swift demographic change, in which the middle class is growing rapidly. To us, this is definitely a critical element for the survival of the business. We have to be ready to involve all the people and anticipate any problems and criticalities of a social and environmental nature.”
It is necessary to always keep in mind that “our industry is strictly linked to travelling and secondary consumption. When we conduct our activities in special contexts, like in the developing countries, in order not to create an excessive distance between the situation of the country and our business, we know in advance that we need to take on a particular responsibility, avoiding a situation where layout and image of our stores appear totally extraneous to the local context.” More than ever “We also have another responsibility, which is to return value to the community and to the context in which we operate, through partnership projects with local institutions and NGOs.”

Aldo PapaThe words pronounced by Aldo Papa – Autogrill Italia Managing Director – validate the Group’s precise vision, by acknowledging as essential the relation between environmental sustainability and economic performance: “Some years ago we started measuring those main elements that had a major impact on inflation, which, in our case, were identified as the consumption of energy and water.
On the wake of such initiatives, it is our intention to continue improving our measurement system, because webelieve that these components will become increasingly important in our business in the years to come.” Today “sustainability is part of the organization’s decision-making process and Afuture has come a long way: buildings have been developed with a great attention to the environment, starting from the equipment, including the devices used to warm sandwiches, which are expected to consume half the energy used in the past while obtaining the same result in one fourth of the time.” The commitment towards the environment translates into very concrete actions, such as those designed to reduce packaging as a whole.
In this sense, collaboration with our suppliers is essential, because a lower cost for refurbishment associated with a lower cost of material recycling will have a positive impact on the final price to consumers. The actions performed in 2008, including the new Spizzico packaging, or in 2010 with the reduction of the sugar packets, implied a cultural transformation to be accomplished first at the corporate level and then also externally, vis-à-vis consumers, leading to a completely different perception of the product and its relation with the environment.” Actions like these, underscores Papa, are self-explanatory: “Both represent the core of sustainability, zero cost for the customer, advantages for the company, advantages for the environment.” But an important evolution has also taken place with regard to waste management: “With the Environment Destination operation we have involved the consumer, explaining how to correctly recycle the different types of waste.” In Papa’s opinion, all these initiatives lead to a very important consideration: “The most important results can be obtained thanks to the people and their ongoing involvement in relation to issues concerning the protection of resources, not only to the benefit of Autogrill, but indiscriminately, to everyone’s  advantage.” In fact, “If Afuture grew in these years, building up on robust foundations to demonstrate, also to us, the indissoluble link between the three dimensions of sustainability, is also a tribute to the people who have promoted and disseminated this culture.
Without them we would not have had the possibility to put in place those processes aimed at saving the resources of the environment and, consequently, we would not have succeeded in achieving such important results in terms of economic savings.” Therefore, it is high time to look for a new bid. Aldo Papa is fully convinced about this: “Afuture no longer is a project, but a behavior, and each initiative is now expected to entail energy and water consumption containment principles as well as cost abatement principles.
Lastly, it has now become fundamental to move from a phase of mere experimentation and reporting to the definition of improvement objectives.”

Giorgio MinardiGiorgio Minardi – Managing Director of Food & Beverage for Rest of Europe – also underscores his vision of sustainability as a complex set of values supported and constantly considered in the area under his competence. In fact, he explained that the introduction of innovative solutions lets the company align its economic objectives with social and environmental ones, and not only that, it also favors the prompt implementation and shaping of operating activities through specific initiatives targeted to employees, consumers and partners. Sustainability goes hand in hand with ethical behavior and dissemination of the objectives, and this process helps Autogrill both from within and externally. Think of an initiative like the introduction of biodegradable shoppers in France, a country in which their use is not yet compulsory. Certainly, this is a simple enough initiative, a small change, but it can trigger other processes: you modify a product, you share an objective with the supplier concerned, you disseminate an improved image, you support an eco-sustainable attitude, you do not pollute and you talk about the future, all in one ‘little bag’. Basically, the Rest of Europe business unit is constantly translating the Afuture philosophy into concrete actions with ecocompatible solutions that enhance the value of the territory and protect the environment. These are key principles,because innovation goes along with sustainability and because CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), in addition to being a process, is also a useful message to demonstrate to commercial partners and customers what challenges we need to face in order to identify innovative and sustainable solutions in our daily work routines.