Fantini Rubinetteria is currently engaged in two Corporate Social Responsibility projects, the first in Burundi and the second in its own territory, the district of Lakes Maggiore and Orta. Daniela Fantini, the company’s CEO, talks to us about them.
With the first in Africa and the other on your home ground, what have the two CSR projects the company is working on got in common?
What they have in common is water, the basic element of our manufacturing work: such a precious resource that we all too often take for granted, but that is scarce in many parts of the world, a resource we have to safeguard everywhere because it isn’t infinite as a lot of people seem to think.
Tell us about the project in Africa...
The project we’ve been working on since 2012 is called “100 Fontane: Fantini for Africa”. It involves the construction of an aqueduct in Burundi, in the Masango district, an isolated hilly area with very little access to water.
Getting water, which isn’t always drinkable, is the daily task above all of around 90% of Masanga’s children, who have to walk miles and miles over difficult paths to reach it, taking away all the time they should be dedicating to play and education instead. Giving these people easy access to water, after two years of works, means that their children can finally go to school, with all the positive consequences this has on their future.
Between late 2012 and the end of 2014 we have managed to filter 12 springs in the rock, build 27 kilometres of aqueduct and install more than 100 water outlets that supply clean water to around 25,000 people, at a maximum of a 10 minute walk from their homes. The project, which we started with the Orta San Giulio Rotary Club, is still going on to install water outlets in even more remote places. The final total should be around 130.
How did you and your company come to be involved in this project?
I’ve been personally involved in a humanitarian initiative in Burundi for a few years now: voluntary work as part of a broad-reaching project that the Orta San Giulio Rotary Club has been conducting for several years in that region.
It just seemed natural that the company should be involved in this personal, and intensely emotional experience of mine: we talked a lot about it in the company and that’s how the 100 FONTANE: FANTINI FOR AFRICA project came about.
During my second visit to Burundi in January 2012 with Riccardo Conti, the manager of Fantini USA, Walter Zerla who took the photos, Franco Piola who was Chairman of the Rotary Club at the time and the director Justin Tipping, we made a video about what we planned to do, which was the starting point for officially presenting the project to the world that gravitates around the company, involving our agents, customers, designers and everyone else. Then came the idea to link this project with a commercial initiative directly involving our customers, which was more than just a simple request for donations: between 2013 and 2014, sales of the I Balocchi series, the company’s iconic collection that we decided to restyle, contributed to increasing the budget the company had originally allocated to the project. For every 10 I Balocchi sets installed, a new water outlet was added to the 100 originally planned by the company.
The result was extraordinary. Everyone contributed and we managed to reach 130 fountains!
What did you do to achieve this extraordinary result?
We organised a lot of events to present the project at the showrooms of our Italian and foreign customers, especially in the United States. The impact was amazing and managed to start a sort of chain reaction of donations to realise the original project.
So much so that now, after two years, and with the installation of the original 100 water outlets through and the 30 under construction using the funds from the sales of the Balocchi taps, we’re already thinking about new projects for the same area in the near future, maybe in partnership with other associations with similar goals to our own, like Soroptimist in Novara, to realise works linked with agriculture and health, in particular for women who are always the ones really responsible for supporting entire families in these situations of extreme poverty.
What is the other environmental project underway in your district?
“SAILING” (the acronym for Sensor-based Assessment on In-Lake processes and water quality – Scientific INvestigation and Growing environmental awareness) is a project conducted by the CNR in Verbania, funded by our company, to monitor the waters of Lakes Maggiore and Orta in real time. The project is scheduled to run for two years ending in late 2015. With specially designed sensors, the yacht Caipirinha Fantini belonging to skipper and photographer Walter Zerla is sailing the lakes and transmitting data in real time to the CNR for analysis: it’s the most significant project of its kind currently underway in Europe. We decided to support this project for many reasons. My family and the company have always been closely tied with the life of the Lake, Lake Orta that is. I personally experienced the transformation of the lake from a bacteriologically dead condition, with swimming prohibited, to its new life thanks to the liming operations that have returned the lake to the territory in all its beauty.
Through this project, that runs parallel with the Burundi operation, we’re working on our own territory that is so dear to us, it’s a gesture of love for our land and our roots! Monitoring the quality of the water and publishing the data helps make people more aware of how important water really is and understand the need to safeguard it as a precious resource..”
What do you think about the social responsibility of industry?
It’s a simple fact that individual and collective awareness of social matters is growing at an increasing rate: "corporate social responsibility" is certainly an extremely contemporary issue! I believe not only as an individual, but as head of a company that now we have to invest in this direction. I consider it, both for myself and for Fantini, as a sort of ethical and moral obligation.
Is that an invitation for all companies to follow Fantini’s example?