Arper: sustainability is a journey

How can design and sustainability converge? A conversation with Andrea Mulloni, Arper’s Head of Sustainability, explores the answer.


“The design industry has a long history while the world of sustainability, as we know it today, has emerged quite recently. The real challenge is to bring these two worlds together. The first step a company must take today is to include sustainability in its governance. For Arper, sustainability is not just a task but a structural element within the company: it takes time, dedication, and study to work carefully on this aspect, including from a legislative point of view.”

Speaking is Andrea Mulloni, Head of Sustainability at Arper, an international design company, founded in 1989 by the Feltrin family. The company boasts a keen awareness of responsible practices across the board, from product design to business and production processes, from reuse and recycling policies to the use of materials with reduced environmental impact. “The second step is to create touch points,” Mulloni continues. “Sustainability is not a vertical activity but is by definition a transversal element. Each project touches all company areas, from logistics to product to finance. Meetings, training, counseling are preliminary to incorporating sustainability within business processes.”

Speaking of business processes, when we talk about achieving sustainable development, we sometimes associate critical issues from an economic point of view. For Mulloni, making people understand that sustainability is an ally is something of primary importance: “It applies to all industries, not just design: it is undeniable that there are costs, but it is an effort that pays off in the long run. We have to shift our point of view; it is a big step forward but not trivial one: from sustainability seen only as a compliance element to a real strategic asset. Arper began this process in 2005.” The year in which this company based in Treviso, in northeastern Italy, created the Arper Environmental Department, thriving to obtain major industry certifications and to measure its impact along the entire supply chain.

Technology stands as one of the additional tools supporting this endeavor, but how significant is its role within business processes for devising new solutions aimed at reducing environmental impact? “Technology is often seen as the panacea for all ills,” Mulloni explains. “Technology is an enabler; we should not delegate everything to technology in the hope that the answers will come somewhat automatically. Change comes through human intuition and the human mind, and in this sense, technology helps to speed up and enhance processes.”

The focus on environmental issues, both among industry insiders and end consumers, is on the rise. It is becoming increasingly prominent, spanning diverse geographical and demographic landscapes. “The market demand curve is steepening much faster than the time it takes to adapt one’s business model. Consumers will demand ever-higher environmental standards from brands, making sustainability a necessary value we must cultivate to remain competitive in the future. It’s not just a business imperative but a moral, sensitive, and culturally enriching value.”

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