Dirk Vandenberghe and Valentin Casado proudly announce the launch of their new company names: Metallo-Chimique N.V. becomes METALLO BELGIUM N.V and Elmet S.L.U. becomes METALLO SPAIN S.L.U. From now on they will work as one team in METALLO GROUP. The green color going with the new logo visualizes the commitment to sustainability and the circle that closes on top of the M symbolizes the key position in the circular economy. Dirk Vandenberghe: ‘Personally, I believe only organizations with a well-defined purpose will thrive in the future, and I can be crystal-clear about the mission of our company: Metallo valorizes complex non-ferrous materials and returns metals back into the value chain.’
A few days before the official announcement of the new company names Dirk Vandenberghe (CEO Metallo Group and Metallo Belgium) and Valentin Casado (CEO Metallo Spain) make time to reflect on the story of the Metallo Group. The setting for this conversation? A morning walk in the natural park next to the Metallo site in Belgium. ‘The forest used to be the private property of the former owner of Metallo-Chimique NV. Today, it’s owned by the government and managed by the agency for preservation, conservation and development of nature’, explains Dirk to Valentin, while they walk through the revolving gate at the main entrance.
Both men can often be found in nature. As the Metallo Group employs over 500 people and realizes an annual turnover of approximately one billion euros, Dirk and Valentin are constantly making decisions that affect the lives of colleagues at Metallo and their families. The nurturing effect of nature keeps their minds focused and sharp. ‘I live very close to the coast in Spain’, says Valentin while walking next to the canal. ‘We have beautiful cliffs there and I love listening to the waves of the ocean. Whenever I have time, I take my dog Kora, a golden retriever, for a walk.’ Dirk too, enjoys being out: ‘I am fond of jogging. I need sports and physical movement to counterbalance the intellectual challenges I tackle every day. Certainly in summer I enjoy running in the woods.’
Being away from the office environment, inboxes and telephones also opens a broader perspective. The focus of the conversation isn’t on what Metallo does, or how people realize this, but why they do what they do. Dirk: ‘I’m a strong believer that a company should have well-defined mission and a clear idea of its role in society. Metallo’s purpose is to valorize complex non-ferrous materials and bring them back into the value chain. And we manage to do that with an environmental footprint that is significantly smaller than digging up new ores.’
Valentin emphasizes that Metallo gives new life to materials that would otherwise be considered as waste: ‘we receive all kinds of materials that do not have any economical value whatsoever. For some companies these materials are waste and pose a challenge. We offer a solution for their problem: by recycling and refining these materials, we can give them a new life.’
Metallo-Chimique N.V. and Elmet S.L.U. have belonged to the same group for more than two decades. Going forward they will completely operate as one company and one team. Dirk: ‘We’ve created one global procurement team a couple of years ago. People at Berango buy raw materials for Beerse, and vica versa. To reflect that reality we’ve decided to change the name of both companies to Metallo.’
When asked which word would best describe the new name for the company – a re-birth, a transformation, or metamorphosis? – Dirk thinks for a while, and then puts things in a historical perspective: ‘the company has made its major transformation in the seventies, by choosing to work solely with secondary materials, which is scrap. That was one of the most fundamental decisions in the history of the company and it proved to be a very good business model. Today, we hold a key position in the circular economy: we close the loop. That is why the M in our new logo closes on top. Also we’ve been innovating our metallurgical processes ever since the seventies, hence our slogan: the furnace of innovation. We’re continuing along that path. I see further integration of Metallo-Chimique N.V. and Elmet S.L.U. as a milestone, as an important next step to achieve our mission.’
Valentin agrees: ‘we’ve been exchanging best practices and collaborating on topics such as safety and environment for nearly 25 years now. This culture of continuous improvement has brought a lot of good things. The further unification of the two companies is a logical step.’
Dirk and Valentin share the powerful idea that there is only one way to build a successful company: by combining care for the environment, attention for people and profit into one strategy. For Dirk and Valentin, these three dimensions are intrinsically linked together. Dirk: ‘There is no contradiction between taking care of the environment and making profit. They go hand in hand. And certainly in our case.’
Valentin too, believes a sustainable strategy should incorporate care for the environment, for people and for profit. ‘Only the companies that are sustainable have a future. And once you decide to be sustainable, there is no way back.’ As he explains that people have become more conscious and more sensitive about the environment, he points out the responsibility this generation of business leaders has. ‘ I grew up in Bilbao, which is situated in a very industrial area in northern Spain. When I was a teenager, I liked to go fishing and if I was lucky I caught one fish in a complete month. The water of the river was heavily polluted. We inherited this from previous generations. Only yesterday I was reading that, thanks to ever more stringent environmental laws and investments in cleaner production processes, the river has managed to recover. If you go fishing today, you will find 55 different species of fish in the water. But the river shouldn’t have been polluted in the first place. We can learn from the past. Environmental laws secure the preservation of our planet. I have children myself, and in the end it’s all about them: they deserve a healthy future.’
The growing consciousness about the care for our planet affects the strategy of business as well. Sustainability has a long tradition within both companies, but when the private equity fund became a shareholder, the importance of the topic increased. ‘The reason is very simple: not being sustainable, or not complying with environmental laws, decreases the value of the company. Our shareholders continuously encourage us to minimize the impact of our activities on people, environment and climate’, explains Dirk.
According to Valentin, this is a blessing for the company: ‘the idea of sustainability has to be supported by every single person in the company. Shareholders have a crucial role. Dirk and me, we can have our ideas about how to run the company and how to make it more sustainable, but we need the support of our shareholders. Luckily, they encourage and support our strategy, which allows us to invest considerably in new technology. Often, we try to be ahead of new regulations. Once we know Europe is working on new regulations, we anticipate and start to think about how we can prepare the company for these changes. We are always ahead, trying to check what will be coming.’
Dirk considers the environmental legislation as challenging, but sees opportunities too: ‘new legislation often requires investments in new techniques, to reduce emissions for instance. Those who invest will have an advantage over potential newcomers. The stringent environmental laws increase the barrier for potential newcomers to enter the market. Over time, this will decrease the number of competitors and will allow us to receive a better price for our products, which in turn allows us to make new investments.’
Valentin brings another important topic to the conversation: ‘we were talking about the continuous improvements earlier, and about sustainability, but we believe that our best investments are to be made in our people. We are constantly taking new measures to ensure their health and safety. We encourage them to develop their know-how and grow as a person. If you can combine all these different dimensions in one strategy, then you’re building a strong company.’
Dirk: ‘Indeed. And equally important are the relationships with our suppliers and our customers. Therefore, I’d like to point out another symbolic interpretation of our new logo. The M that closes on top does not only refer to circular economy, it also refers to connecting with stakeholders and partners. We’ve done an inquiry about why our partners choose us as the recycler of their choice. Suppliers do business with us because we easily connect with them and because we’re accessible. We have partners we’ve been working with for decades. That kind of confidence and trust is amazing.’
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