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Selling Certified Italian Products Promotes Social Inclusion

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Created in 1985, Bologna-based Altercoop is a cooperative that employs former convicts and young people with mental health or social exclusion problems. Thanks to PEFC-certified products, sales in 2010 grew by 17% despite the financial downturn.

Today it employs 127 people (77 employees and 50 supervisors), and focuses mainly on the wholesale of paper and office and promotional products, which accounts for 80% of the company's turnover.

The managers of Altercoop have discovered that focussing on the distribution of certified products has opened the door to new customers and new markets. In light of this, Altercoop has decided to adapt its operations to ensure compliance with different certification standards, and to only use products sourced from sustainably managed forests. The company has obtained ISO 9001 certification and achieved PEFC Chain of Custody certification in August 2008.

New markets, new revenues
Commenting on the decision to only use products sourced from sustainably managed forests, Camilla Monteventi, Head of External Relations explained: "Consumers are becoming more eco-conscious, even in Italy. PEFC certification helps attract new customers, strengthen relationships with existing ones, and communicate that a company is genuinely committed to sustainable development and respect for human rights?

PEFC certification has also allowed Altercoop to participate in and respond to calls for tender by public administrations. "In Bologna today, all public tenders for the supply of paper products require certification; with the highest scores assigned to those who are able to provide evidence of certification such as PEFC."

Although Italy lags behind much of Europe in this area, it is catching up in Green Public Procurement: the government is now insisting on the inclusion of environmental criteria in all stages of procurement, including the purchase of goods and services, and encouraging the spread of environmentally sound technologies, and products and solutions with the lowest impacts on the environment and ecosystems. This is in keeping with policies called for by the European Commission - which for the last decade has advocated the adoption of sustainability criteria in procurement practices of states, regions and local authorities.

The adoption of sustainable practices and certification by Altercoop has resulted in an increase of 17% in its annual turnover (despite the economic crisis and the reduction in public procurement) from €23 million in 2009 to €27 million in 2010, €18 million of which were from the sale of PEFC-certified paper products. Crucially too, such increases offer greater guarantees of future employment for Altercoop's often vulnerable workers.

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Selling Certified Italian Products Promotes Social Inclusion (251.02 kB)