This year the International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated on July 6. Cooperatives aim to build sustainable and resilient communities. The theme chosen this year is…
COOPS 4 DECENT WORK
This theme was chosen to give the opportunity to show how cooperatives all over the world are successful businesses, that operate respecting the environment and its resources. Through #CoopsDay, local, national and global policymakers, civil-society organizations and the public, in general, can learn how cooperatives contribute to a decent working environment.
This is why we share with you a double interview to Susanna Martucci, CEO and founder of the Perpetua® and Alisea brands and Giorgio Cera, manager of the packaging sector for the Cooperative La Fraglia, where they tell us about their collaboration, aimed at sustainability and respect for our planet and its people, without exceptions.
How did the collaboration between Perpetua and the cooperative La Fraglia start?
Giorgio: Our collaboration started thanks to a mutual acquaintance. At that time Perpetua was about to start and the fact that we do work for third parties was the perfect opportunity to start working together. Our cooperative, born in 1993, is a diurnal occupational education center for people with disabilities. We perform various types of activities, including assembly. The assembly sector works for different businesses to improve and develop independence. The processes are usually pretty simple so that also the people that come to La Fragile can do them, feeling an active part in the labour market.
Susanna: This collaboration started thanks to Luigi; his son attends the coop, so he decided to contact me to find out if I could be interested in collaborating with La Fraglia for my company. I’ve known Luigi for some time, he worked at my husband’s company for 40 years; I told him I would have gladly considered this collaboration. He told me how at that particular time some of the businesses that have been collaborating with them for a long time had decided to go with other solutions, so, as a parent, he felt the need to help and look for new businesses, so that these guys could always feel useful and part of the productive process, while staying busy.
What pushed you to start this activity?
Giorgio: We are always open to new work and new collaborations. Often, when we finish an activity, a new one comes in, allowing our volunteers to always be in contact with new and stimulating realities. New things are good and exciting for the people that attend La Fraglia and so it was when we started with Perpetua. Depending on the type of work, we try to find something to do for the majority of the attendants, we strive to create new solutions, new tools, so that almost everyone can do even just a little part of the process. Work for these people is so important. For them, to be able to do even just 1% of what a normal person does during the day helps them to feel part of a normal work routine.
Susanna: When we visited La Fraglia for the first time we found ourselves in front of a world we couldn’t imagine, a place where some could do some of the work while others couldn’t approach the assignments alone and needed assistance from able-bodied people. We realized that these able-bodied people were also parents of the attendants of La Fraglia, together with volunteers, that wanted these guys to feel included in the so-called “normal world”. These inclusive rather than exclusive environment touched me, I liked it and I felt the love an the energy of this place. We started working with these guys and in their world, and this was our fortune: Perpetua couldn’t exist as it is today if it wasn’t for their daily contribution, together with the one from parents and volunteers.
What are the values you share?
Giorgio: We are both open to work with everyone and our coop, just as Perpetua, chose an ethic workplace with sustainable goals. Even if our activities are different, they share the same personality, also because collaborating with Perpetua allows us to be introduced to new realities; when Susanna talks about Perpetua she speaks also about us and this is so important.
Susanna: Attention to people. La Fraglia is the only coop in Italy that accept people with any kind of disability, without making differences. This was the first thing that really impressed me. The DNA of La Fraglia is exactly the same as the one of my business: we both have solid fundaments based on the values we want to represent through our daily work. We want to create products that focus on attention and respect to others. To care for the environment without wasting our planet’s resource puts consequently a lot of attention towards respecting the people that leave in it, the guests of our world; La Fraglia uses this same principle, focusing on people no matter what, including everyone, no matter what kind of disability they have.
Tell us a fun fact about this collaboration:
Giorgio: I can’t think of one in particular, but I remember with pleasure when Perpetua decided to start with the e-commerce and asked us to assist them and start together this new experience; it has been a year and a half since we started working on this project and it is really interesting for the people here to see the behind the scene phases that most people experience just as a client. To follow this process is that something extra that enriches the work experience here for the attendants of La Fraglia. Susanna: We had to package the Perpetua for the G7 Italy, the client was the presidency of the G7 Italy and Taormina, we didn’t have much time and a lot of Perpetua to package. We knew that La Fraglia could have had some difficulties, given the very tight deadline we had. During a class I was teaching at the Sustainable Development School Tommaseo of Milan, the only European school that teaches its students about the sustainability of things, I told the students about this incredible opportunity for Perpetua and about these guys that had to work on this project, with a very tight deadline. These students immediately offered as volunteers to help their contemporaries. That famous delivery was completed on time thanks to the help of three classes from this school of Milan. The moment when, taking advantage of a field trip to Venice, the students from Milan wanted to meet the guys from La Fraglia was wonderful.
What are your initiatives for the future?
Giorgio: Besides keeping on with collaborations with different businesses, we also collaborate with middle schools; there is a sort of mutual exchange beccasse we go to these schools and live this experience and schools come to us to meet our reality. This way the students start understanding that there are different kind of people (and there a lot here at La Fraglia, considering there are about fifty attendants). Through this experience the students learn how to relate with people with disabilities. There is always a little bit of tension when experiencing something like this, but if we start when we are little to get used to diversity, when we become adults we have a considerable baggage of experience and a new way to treat each other, besides a different sensitivity that often is missing these days. In general, when meeting people with disabilities, most tend to look with curiosity and then turn the other way. Our goal is to show the community how to live together with these people. We also have several people that come to see our reality, our way of living and thinking here at the coop, and our wish is that these guests share their experience with as many as possible, what they have lived and learned.
Susanna: The world of Perpetua cannot be separated from La Fraglia and from what these guys can do. Everything that Perpetua will do in the future, where possible, will involve them too, for both manual and intellectual work.
Tell us 3 small actions that each one of us can do to cooperate towards a more sustainable future:
Giorgio: First of all, we should want to know, to take up on the opportunities that surround us. We have to be more open, pay attention to changes around us, learn to be at ease even in front of unfamiliar situations. We have to be very curious because without curiosity we can’t go anywhere, we are stuck and nowadays, where things continually evolve and change so fast, we need to be able to seize what is good. We have to be able to look at things with a critical eye, but at the same time to have a little bit of recklessness to try something new, if it can benefit the community and therefore our planet.
Susanna: More than 3 specific actions, I prefer to have a more general talk about the attitude towards our planet, starting from our territory and consequently from the people that live in it. To pay attention towards others is, put simply, to not throw something on the ground, assuming that someone else will pick it up, for example. If we express ourselves with this mindset, paying attention to who and what surrounds us, we limit the selfish part that lives in each one of us. If we pay attention to others first, we choose to not take the parking spot assigned to people with disabilities, we make sure we recycle correctly, so that waste can become new production materials and so on.