Categories: ISSA Member SpotlightBy ISSA Today Staff | November 19, 2022 << Back to Articles
“Less is More” is the motto of Sofidel Group. And we can clearly see this when we examine the mission statement of this multinational producer of sanitary and domestic tissue paper:
“Making everyday life tidier, cleaner, safer, more practical, and pleasant by investing in people, innovation, and promoting conduct based on sustainability, commercial transparency, and respect for regulations, with the aim of creating value for customers, employees, partners, shareholders, and the community.”
Sofidel is about people, sustainability, and cleanliness—three things we all value. Let’s see how they have managed to achieve their “Less is More” objective.
Origini italiane (Italian origins)
It all started in Italy in 1966, when Emi Stefani and Giuseppe Lazzareschi began their first business—a paper mill, Stefani & Lazzareschi, in Pracando (Villa Basilica), an area known for paper production. In 1969, they opened a new paper mill, Fine Paper, in Porcari, Lucca. This area has an abundance of water – a key component of a paper production operation. It is here that they began producing two-ply tissue paper.
As the years went by, they continued to grow, as did the need for more toilet paper worldwide. Looking beyond just paper production to providing the finished product led to their first converting plants in Italy in the late 1970s.
With the booming production capacity of the new plants, they started exporting finished products to other countries throughout Europe. In the 1980s, the company expanded even further, investing in additional plants.
Then came the commencement of Sofidel, which was created in 1988 from the merger of the Group’s main companies. The acronym “Sofidel” comes from Soffass (So), Fine Paper (Fi) and Delicarta (Del).
International expansion continued into the new century as it hit the United States of America, amongst other countries. Fabio Vitali, vice president of marketing of Sofidel America, recounts, “The company arrived in the United States in 2012 through an acquisition and began operation as Sofidel America in three locations: Green Bay, Wisconsin; Haines City, Florida; and Henderson, Nevada.
“Since 2012, the company has expanded its national footprint by relocating the Nevada plant to Las Vegas and adding plants in Circleville, Ohio; Inola, Oklahoma; and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Currently, the United States is a major market for Sofidel, with more than 1,600 employees and representing 25% of the total revenue of the Group.”
Headquarters in the United States for Sofidel reside in the greater Philadelphia area.
Vitali continues, “Currently, Sofidel is the fifth largest manufacturer of domestic and sanitary paper products in the world. The company earns more than US$2.5 billion in revenue annually and employs more than 6,500 people.”
Sostenibilità e responsabilità (Sustainability and responsibility)
Even through its migration into other countries, Sofidel has retained the passion, devotion, and responsibility it takes to ensure compassion throughout its business and products.
“As a company that understands the impact it has on its customers and the environment and ecosystems it encounters, Sofidel is committed to making quality, high-grade, and thoughtful products with a focus on sustainability, diversity, and corporate social responsibility. As a company, we promote sustainable energy sources and have achieved greater energy efficiency in our plants and processes,” says Mark Kirchgasser, vice president of sales, Away From Home (AFH) at Sofidel America.
In recent years, Sofidel has been a part of various environmental organizations with regard to climate, human rights, and social awareness. Since 2008, Sofidel has been a member of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Climate Savers program, an initiative that commits to reducing climate-altering emissions. They have also worked closely with organizations like ActionAid, Ocean Conservancy, Doctors Without Borders, and more.
“As of 2020, Sofidel has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 24%, thanks to investments in cogeneration, solar and hydroelectric power plants, biomass power plants, and in general, constant improvement of energy efficiency and company logistics,” claims Kirchgasser. Sofidel’s focus is to have 84% of its electric energy consumed come from renewable sources by 2030.
Further, Sofidel uses paper to package their brand’s goods and leads the industry as an example. Sofidel even encourages less plastic use by providing alternatives for plastic utensils throughout their offices. The company is also committed to reducing the use of certain plastics by as much as 50% in manufacturing by the year 2030.
Sofidel was also named on the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) A List for being a leader against climate change in the paper industry. CDP, a non-profit, third-party organization, helps organizations, regions, and more around the earth manage their impacts on the environment. CDP also recognized Sofidel for its leadership in the battle against deforestation with an A-rating.
Since entering the United States, Sofidel has expanded from serving business-to-business (B2B) markets to also serving business-to-consumer (B2C) markets. In line with their mission to consider their customers and our environment first, in 2016, Sofidel launched Biotech. “Sofidel’s Biotech paper contains harmless microorganisms that, when in contact with water, produce enzymes that reduce bad odors, clogged toilets, and consequently help away-from-home brands maintain a good brand image through good restroom hygiene,” says Vitali.
This and many other products are the fruit of Papernet, Sofidel’s sustainable hygiene brand. Papernet’s products aim to provide maximum environmental and hygienic performance through high-quality products made with an intentionally innovative and sustainable production process. Like Sofidel, Papernet is working to “decommodify” the commodity that is paper.
With the growing importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives throughout the world, Sofidel continues to be a leader in the development of sustainable hygiene products. For example, Sofidel launched its HyTech Seas paper towel and toilet paper dispensers that are made from recovered ocean plastic. The plastic nets are recycled into an injectable material that is used to form the dispensers. Sofidel repurposes one ton of recovered fishing nets for every 582 HyTech Seas toilet paper dispensers manufactured and one ton for every 484 HyTech Seas paper towel dispensers produced.
“This summer, we sponsored the Costa Cleanups Third Annual Beach Cleanup along the shores of South Padre Island in Texas,” Vitali reports. “This was a wonderful event where 350 volunteers gathered to collect over 15,000 pounds (about twice the weight of an elephant) of waste on the beach. We were excited to be part of this event and will continue to sponsor cleanup events around the country, particularly in the communities where Sofidel America has a presence.” This event of removing unnecessary ocean waste aligns with their mission of sustainability and the utilization of recovered ocean plastic nets in the new Hy-Tech Seas Dispensers. Together with Oceanic Conservancy, Sofidel aids and promotes the common goal of protecting the ocean and reducing ocean plastic pollution.
Diversità e inclusione (Diversity and inclusion)
One of Sofidel’s fundamental pillars is inclusion and social cohesion. Sofidel strives to support the advancement of minorities in the paper industry, working to ensure diversity in their corporate and manufacturing departments. Being a company founded and based in Italy, Sofidel fosters a multicultural environment for all cultures and nationalities. In addition, women make up a quarter of Sofidel’s workforce, and the company is a proud partner of Women Impacting Storebrand Excellence (WISE) and a proud sponsor of the Hygieia Network.
Having been built as a family-run organization, Sofidel Group has grown significantly but has never lost its family culture.
This supportive atmosphere empowers all its employees to grow within the company. The company offers opportunities for advancement, no matter an employee’s gender, race, background, etc. For all, empowerment is key to ensure they feel heard and included.
As part of its commitment to its teams and their families, Sofidel America is hosting 10-year anniversary events at all its U.S.-based plants this year. These include family activities, such as a photo booth, a balloon artist, arcade games, a magician, t-shirt tie-dying, a caricature artist, face painting, and more. Food from local restaurants is also provided. Employees are able to take their families on tours of the plants to highlight their workplace and help them understand the arduous work they put in each day.
“We’ve received such positive feedback about these events from our employees and their families. It has been wonderful to see, and we look forward to the upcoming celebrations,” Vitali is happy to say.
I’impatto di ISSA (The impact of ISSA)
Sofidel Group’s membership with ISSA has only helped bring them even greater success. “ISSA has been a big part of our marketing strategy and helping us to launch our brand in the United States,” says Vitali. “We have been exhibiting at the ISSA Show every year since our launch in the United States and have had success developing business and making key partnerships at the events. We also find the sponsorship opportunities at the show and advertising within ISSA media to be great tools for building our brand and positioning ourselves as a leader. Additionally, we are proud to support Hygieia Network, ISSA’s signature charity for promoting gender inclusivity within the industry.”
As a member of ISSA, Sofidel wants to encourage other ISSA members to prioritize caring for their employees.
“As a company with employees from many different countries, languages, and cultures, Sofidel has made a point to operate with purpose both in how we conduct our business and in how we implement our company culture,” explains Kirchgasser. To establish a safe space within the company for all their employees, Sofidel encourages a teamwork environment that disables titles or hierarchies and prevents a discouraging and hostile environment for their employees. In a business that is innately competitive, Sofidel also prioritizes respect not only within their company but also between themselves and their competitors.
“This year, we have been interviewing employees at our plants across the country in an effort to promote the different voices that make Sofidel what it is. It’s been eye-opening to hear their stories and how dedicated our employees are to Sofidel,” continues Vitali. Their People & Paper magazine focuses on testimonials from employees at all levels from all regions of Sofidel America, closing the gap between employees and providing different perspectives that connect their company and employees.
“Relationships are at the heart of ISSA, so we encourage other members and peers to connect with their employees,” says Kirchgasser. “Take the time to listen and provide understanding, so employees feel connected to your
And as for the “Less is More” principle, Sofidel continues to look for solutions to give “more” in value, products, and services with “less” consumption and waste. The goal is to create products with an ever-shrinking ecological footprint while simultaneously performing better. They care.
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