Exclusive Talks with
Today we are inside the ONU campus in Turin, seat of theITCILO (International Training Centre of the ILO). In this important meeting place of the United Nations, which measures more than ten hectares and where scholars, researchers and technicians converge from all over the world.
We are here to talk not only about excellence and having roots in our territory, but also of space projects in space with our two guests, Fabio Grimaldi and Guido Gobino, to whom I would like to start by asking a question: how important is it to network with companies from such different sectors and what business relationships – even the most unexpected ones - can arise? For example, I know that yours is a spatial collaboration. So I’ll ask Fabio to tell us something about it.
When EBT was founded - we are now talking about ten years ago - the founding president Licia Mattioli, together with Paolo Pininfarina and other friends including Guido Gobino himself, had a farsighted idea: the fact of bringing companies together that were different in their activities but closely linked by one common denominator: quality. I found it to be a truly brilliant idea to network in that way: in that sense our participation in EBT has become in some way at the service of companies that are part of the network. In this case, the experience we had with Guido as well as with Paolo Pininfarina and other companies of excellence in Turin (even if they are not currently part of the network, like the BasicNet t-shirts sent to space, or Smat - the water from Turin that was sent into space) has been about giving a lot and creating a system. The experience with Guido has been remarkable, because in the meantime it was done at two different times with two different astronauts: first with Luca Parmitano and then in 2018 with Paolo Nespoli. With Paolo Nespoli we took chocolate into space – so the excellence of Turin in the field of food and chocolate - I think that Guido will explain that better than I can - allowing us to do research and also be able to give a return to branding for what is an important company like Guido Gobino promoting the activity that Paolo Nespoli together with his colleagues - in that mission - were doing in orbit.
Yes, as Fabio said, creating a network for us was a starting point for bringing together some very important realities of our territory, which at times were sometimes much bigger than we were. Licia Mattioli's vision of bringing together a group of companies that have made exclusivity and excellence bywords for a territory as important and excellent as Turin and Piedmont was truly a forward-thinking idea. With Altec it was formidable because we were able - as Fabio said - to send Turin's chocolate into space! And it wasn't that easy because for the chocolate to be approved by ESA it had to have certain characteristics; and at the same time, I understand that it was also greatly appreciated by the astronauts themselves - up there in space. In addition, the scientific aspect was a more profound understanding of how the sense of taste is impacted in space compared to down here on Planet Earth. Indeed, some very interesting things have come out: for example, the fact that certain sensations of flavour, rather than sweetness, are more pronounced in space. So things that usually taste so-so can taste completely different when there’s zero-gravity.
We know that ALTEC is the Italian gateway to innovation and space research and that in addition to the Turin headquarters, many researchers have moved to the headquarters of NASA and ESA and therefore to an international, or even spatial, vocation. How much important is the area around Turin in this context; how much do it give you a boost to research, innovation and training?
The gateway to space is an opportunity that can open up to any individual, which in this case for companies in Turin means being able to do research in space. Turin is the city of space and it is no coincidence that over time we have also had a reputation that we have carried alongside us which makes us proud to be known as 'the little Italian Houston'. This help us a lot in working in the space sector and, by default, doing research, development and training, because this is a territory that has an important pedigree of excellence this field, starting from the Polytechnic of Turin, the University, the Institute of Nanotechnologies and which today are a hotbed for more and more start-ups moving in the direction of the world of space. Bear in mind that the turnover of the space sector in Italy is about 2 billion euros: almost a billion is generated in Piedmont, in Turin to be more exact. Thales Alenia Space, which is also our majority shareholder, is a major player and has built over half of all habitable modules, plus the western part of the International Space Station. So in this the incentive is strong and we are very happy to join with the territory to all pull together.
Guido Gobino does not need any introductions: he is the master of artisan chocolate n Turin, in Italy and across the world. Master and craftsmanship are two words that bring us back to an ancient tradition of working with raw materials, but we know that innovation and technology carry an equally important weight. So I’d like to ask Guido what it means today to be a company of excellence in the food sector.
Good question, because being a company of excellence in the food sector means maintaining a clear understanding of our history. The history of chocolate in Turin is a 400-year epic of research, innovation, tradition and wisdom. But nowadays, we need to coin a new title: that of advanced craftsmanship which - in my opinion - is craftsmanship that uses technology to do research, to improve production and to guarantee quality. Therefore, more manual processing methods have, wherever possible, been abandoned and replaced with a technology that enables even higher quality. Remember, however, that our history is also made up of many manual skills that even now are required during processing. Let me give a somewhat technical example of the Gianduiotto - which you see here in maxi format – and which for certain recipes is still made entirely by hand. So the territory has an impact thanks to the fact that Turin has always had a great tradition of chocolatiers who came out of large companies that were in the Turin area in the 1950s, when there were more than 120 companies that made chocolate. These companies spread out and therefore the fathers and the sons and the sons of the sons of the chocolatiers have more often than not become chocolatiers themselves. However, this territory also guarantees us most of the raw materials, like the Piedmont hazelnut and the powdered milk that we are fortunate enough to receive from a company that only uses milk produced in Piedmont - a very high grade local product. All this means being part of a territory capable of maintaining a level of excellence that can be reflected in our chocolate production throughout time.
Altec is a company engaged in technological and scientific research, that is the improvement in living conditions for people on Earth, as well as sustainable development. So I’ll ask Fabio to tell us something about the social responsibility his company holds?
Even ahead of the territory and society as a whole, our primary responsibility is towards our colleagues and our collaborators. I believe that every day this must be the goal which we set ourselves. Above all, companies are made up of men and women who, together with the owners and shareholders, work together for the common good. So my first responsibility is towards my colleagues and our collaborators - responsibility that is especially important because being part of Exclusive Brands Torino means we must also guarantee quality. So every day we try to ensure that the everyone’s work is carried out within the within the broader concept of quality. When it comes to territory and society, we must also show a second important objective, which is that of sustainability, which nowadays unquestionably poses a problem which should not be viewed as such but as the leitmotiv of our daily lives, allowing us to leave it to our children and grandchildren - in this case speaking from space - a sustainable planet.
Sustainability is also one of the most important values for Gobino. So I’ll ask Guido to tell us something about their policy.
Yes, in the last few days we have presented our first corporate sustainability report. There are many things required to make a sustainability report and to make the company truly sustainable, which in our case had already been achieved, out of education, business ethics, certain processes, and business choices which were already 'sustainable'. So we said 'why not?' Let’s try to put it all down on paper, in black and white, and then communicate what we are able to do. In this way we have 'discovered' that 70 percent of our collaborators are women. We have concentrated on our packaging in order to make it as sustainable as possible, in collaboration with our suppliers who are working with us on this. We have installed water purification units and by avoiding the use of plastic water bottles we have saved about 480 kilos of plastic in one year. Small steps can add up to a lot. The issue of sustainability also passes into the hands of our suppliers of raw materials as well, because it is also social matter. Producers, especially of cocoa, can come from countries that are sometimes disadvantaged and where low prices are paid for raw materials, or where child labour is used. We feel proud and aware of this great but necessary sustainable commitment of ours. If more companies start to be ethical and to propose sustainability, in the long run even consumers will feel obliged to take advantage of the sustainability that those companies are offering and therefore perhaps we can all end up being a little better for it. I think so and I hope so.
I thank my two guests for their focused and clear vision of the future. Thanks again to Guido Gobino and Fabio Grimaldi.