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THE GREEN ECONOMY ACCORDING TO SERGIO LUPI
Extraordinary determination and an apparently crazy idea become a lucrative business. Sergio Lupi, the 45-year-old entrepreneur from Ancona, has spent a lifetime swimming against the tide. In 2006, when no one was yet speaking about a âgreen economyâ in Italy, he decided to personally engage in battle with the oil lobbies, transforming his group, Sistemi 2000, that used to produce plastic furnishings for supermarkets, into a specialist recycling company. And there's more: Lupi does not endure the economic crisis but attacks it; he has doubled his investments, when no one in recent times has dared to do so, and has even taken on new staff.
Lupi, yours was a company like so many others. Why did you decide to change?
At the end of 2006, I had an intuition: how is it, I asked myself, that when oil goes up, the prices of plastic also increase, but they are not lowered when crude comes down? I racked my brains, and in the end I found the solution. What? All the products made by my factory from then on have been produced by recycling plastic bottles and caps. The baskets, trolleys and shelving, with which supermarkets like Sma-Auchan, Coop, Conad, Gs, Crai and Unes are crowded, are made from ecological plastic.
Were you ever afraid of losing the challenge of the green economy?
I have to say no, because company sales over the last years have shown continual growth. Two years ago they reached 7.2 million, and in 2008 they increased to 13.2. However, the best part is that in the first three months of 2009 there was a rise of 67 per cent, and even now, while we are in the midst of a crisis, we have a comfortable 30 per cent. My revolution turned out to be lucrative in the end.
What foreign markets does your company look towards?
Certainly that of Sweden, but within the European area, also France, Spain, Great Britain and Germany. The occasion we are waiting for is Expo 2015 in Milan, where we will present our project for an entirely zero-kilometre supermarket; but we are already preparing a structure entirely from flameproof recycled cardboard for Ecomondo in Rimini this October.
But what are you plans for the Italian large-scale retail market?
We have supermarkets that are already a stable presence in cities such as Rome, Milan, Ancona and Catania, but we are looking towards Southern Italy. Young people in the South have that âsomething extraâ and a real desire to work, which we believe should not be wasted.
It is encouraging to hear you speak about work opportunities for young people ...
That's how it is in my company. We are around 600 people (with sideline businesses reaching a total of a thousand), with an average age of about 30 years old. Generally we tend to prefer young people. I consider it more important to give them a chance, as long as they come from the world of large-scale retailing and know the basic mechanisms. On the other hand, looking at my own professional career, itâs not hard to understand why I think like this: before becoming an entrepreneur, I worked on the salami counter of a supermarket.