Antonio Grginović, where does your interest in the circular economy come from?
To be honest, I have been living this idea since I was a child – when I was about twelve years old, I started restoring motorbikes together with my father, which were already 50 or 60 years old at that time, I also had a passion for traditional Mediterranean stone-masonry which I was collecting form demolished homes. So, I am an advocate of the first hour! Today, however, I ride a bicycle rather than a motorbike, which is how I get to work here to the Warsaw Office.
You have studied in Croatia, China, and Poland. How does that enrich your daily work?
Studying in different cultures can help you develop an understanding of regional specifics. This is useful for an internationally operating company like Xella: after all, there is no such thing as "the" market, it is quite fragmented in the European Union alone. And circular economy always has to do with cooperation and interdisciplinarity. Not even within a company can you talk about circular economy without combining the competences from the most diverse departments. Being able to work with cultures of all kinds and mediate between them is a key competence here – I also trained this skill at my previous employer, a leading manufacturer of roofing membranes, and gained a good understanding of ESG values, project control and budget management.
What do you want to achieve for the circular economy at Xella?
Our goal is to stop sending production residues to landfills by 2025 for AAC, increase availability and share of circular content for all of our products, and development of circular or call it green capex and other operatable solutions. Being “circular-ish” on every step we take is my prime mission.
What does your work on this look like?
Much of my work takes place in Warsaw office and on site at all individual locations of Xella plants, where our production takes place, and there are not exactly a few of them. Of course, we share our experiences and learn from best practice examples. Nevertheless, it is difficult to copy a project 1:1, every production plant has it own technological and raw materials specifics, even EU legislation is interpreted differently in each country. So, we must approach the topic of circular economy very individually, keep an eye on local regulations and local markets specificities and of course plant specifics. Furthermore, developing circular economy business cases demands engagement in broader stakeholder platform and calls for closer cooperation and motivation.
Where does the shift to a circular economy work best?
It depends not only on the factories themselves, but also on the circular economy market maturity – some countries put more emphasis on it than others and make it easier for companies to operate in circular model and have easier access to e.g. AAC leftovers, also landfill practices play important role for development of market. New applications of our granules can be for a good example of circularity, such as filtration or roof applications. It’s too early to say which plant is “circular champion” but stay tuned.
Working in an international environment seems to suit you. What else makes working at Xella interesting for you?
On the one hand, I like the mix of international presence and traditional roots. But one thing was particularly important to me: I noticed right from the start that Xella pursues its sustainability goals out of conviction. Other companies commit themselves on paper, but not much happens in practice. Here it's different: it's not just talk, but serious work to develop further. This also means an educational mission for us in the ESG department.
What do you mean by that?
Personally, I believe that everyone does their small part to make our sustainability strategy a reality – because circular economy concerns us all and is not just a matter for a particular department or employer. Our work is greatly enriched when colleagues understand this and commit themselves to a corporate culture of sustainability. This as an overarching goal can also break down silo thinking.
How do you do that?
When new employees join the company here in Poland, I give them a one-hour training on sustainability and the circular economy. This training will soon take place at all Group locations – but training is far from enough: a culture change is only possible if everyone believes in it and lives the culture themselves. This means, for example, that managers later put into practice the training that their new employees receive at the beginning. Just as health and safety standards have been driven to a very high level through the efforts of each one, we can also achieve a culture change of sustainability.
What role does safety play in your workplace and in your daily life?
I was born in Croatia and spent my childhood and youth there. This also means that I experienced pretty unsafe war environment. That's why safety has remained an important issue for me, in every area of life: when I visit the factories, I use every protective equipment available. When I go to a distant appointment by car, I prefer to get there earlier and sleep somewhere, so I don't have to drive for long hours during a night. On the bike, I wear a helmet. Our everyday life is full of sources of risk, and a lot can go wrong if you underestimate them. So, I try to pay attention to the details and especially to my fellow human beings.