Take a quick glance at your feet.
In all likelihood, you’re almost certainly wearing shoes. Before your feet slipped inside those shoes, what journey did they take to reach you? There is a good chance that at some point along their trip to reach your feet, they were affected by the work of EU alumni Luigi Grosso, founder and CEO of Euro Brand Management.
Grosso established Euro Brand Management in 2005 in an effort to innovatively stamp out unsustainable business practices in the footwear industry, while saving his clients’ money in the process. The industry is worth an estimated USD 48 billion, and around 20 *billion* pairs of shoes are made annually.
We caught up with Mr. Grosso to learn more about how our shoes find their way to our feet, and what his company does to ensure that they reach us in a sustainable way.
Hello Luigi, and thank you for joining us today. Please could you tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with EU?
I graduated from EU with my MBA in 1995. Now I live in Munich and I own a company in the supply chain sustainability business.
Why did you choose EU?
At that time it was the only school flexible enough to fit with my schedule; I was working for the Nike group out of Amsterdam, so I had a very tough schedule considering that I lived in Munich. I was travelling five and six days a week on the road, it was impossible.
So EU fit the bill for me, plus it was a night program which was great. I completed my MBA in three years because of my busy schedule.
In the year 2050, every company in the world will have to be a sustainable company.
Did you enjoy your studies?
Yes, very much so. Because I had graduated from university in 1975, it had been a long time since I had been in a classroom setting. So for me to be in a classroom with other colleagues that were about my age – who had ten or fifteen years of experience in industry – was a real positive. Working in industry, you’re sheltered from academia so I really wanted it to be a part of my background and as a tool for me to use going forward.
You like Munich – you stayed here after your studies – what is it about the city that you like?
Why do I like Munich? I guess I like Munich because of the quality of life, the lack of crime and the services that are available. I also like it because it’s close to the mountains and I can ski, which I like to do a lot of in the winter.
Can you explain a bit about what you do now?
We are in the supply chain sustainability business, primarily in the footwear industry. We work with companies all the way from the conception of the product to the delivery of the product to the consumer. Working along each step of this supply chain, we enable them to reduce their carbon footprints, carbon emissions and spend less money, all while working quicker and more efficiently.
What initiatives do they introduce to do that?
It varies, depending on the client. To give you an example, we have a client who is an Italian sports company who makes about 4 million pairs of shoes a year – small when you consider that Nike make about half a billion a year. We had an initiative to help them to reduce their paper consumption in their packaging. In one year we helped them reduce their paper consumption by 157 metric tons.
We helped them do it by redefining, redesigning and reusing their entire paper process.
Why is sustainability so important, would you say?
Because in the year 2050, every company in the world will have to be a sustainable company.
It will have to be so; there won’t be any companies in the world who will operate without one of their primary goals or objectives being sustainable business.
So how important is it today to teach current students about sustainability?
And what advice would you give to a student that was looking to work in sustainability?
Well, I would probably give them the advice to work in companies for at least ten or fifteen years before they go into sustainability initiatives on a full-time basis. That is, unless they have a scientific background, you know: a medical, chemical, pharmaceutical background.
Certainly, sustainability is a big word and people misuse it often. So, it is a process that requires a significant amount of understanding of how a company operates and so you have to have a vision of finance, marketing, sales, logistics, executive planning, human resources… You have to have a good understanding of all of them because sustainability effects every single company in every part of the world, every employee.
When you initiate a sustainable initiative, you need to apply it to all the different departments in a company, so you have to understand how they interrelate, how they work together, how they don’t work together and how they can all work together to make a company a more sustainable entity for the future.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
The difference I make from an environmental and sustainability perspective.
What does the future hold for you?
In five years I’m retiring (laughs) – I’m not a young one.
When you look back at your career are you proud?
Yes, I love what I do. I think that what I can offer and what I told students and the two times I spoke here, or when I speak in companies on sustainability. I always tell people the same thing “do what you like and you’ll make a lot of money.”
Thank you for your time Luigi, and on behalf of EU, we wish you the best of luck with your business in the future.
If you would like to hear more from the interview with Mr. Grosso, you can find the segment in our Learning from Leaders series.