The goal of INSIEME is to give a second chance to people and things that apparently don't have it and to show that all assets can be valued and revalued.
The cooperative was established in 1979 with the aim to integrate people with disadvantaged through work. In 2011, through the European project Life+ PRISCA, the Cooperative realizes the first Reuse Centre in Italy. The cooperative regularly participate in public procurement competitions to offer the municipalities of the region services in waste management. They manage 13 collection centres where citizens can bring the items they want to get rid of. This way the cooperative can feed the shops with the items that can still be reused. A new activity recently launched is the “Front Office for Sustainability”. Beside the brick-and-mortar shops Insieme sells items through an online platform. The items sold online are mainly for traders of second-hand wholesale. A WEEE recycling lab has been developed where workers are trained to the selection of electric/electronic products and to their dismantling. Upcycling and repair are increasingly part of the activities developed by Insieme as part of an educational labs.
Insieme regularly organizes events both in its premises or in spaces in the city. Conference, seminars, concerts, repair cafés, education sessions.
All these is aimed at increasing the visibility of the cooperative and to attract additional clients. In 2018 80.000 EUR were spent by Insieme in communications and 150 events were organized. Insieme organizes as well an internal “Sale workforce” for a coordination among the existing second hand shops.
The investment to re-design the main reuse centre where Insieme has concentrated most of its activites was of 6 Milion EUR, covered with owned resources and with a loan from an Ethical bank In Italy. Some 60% of the costs are staff related. Subsidies are limited to the social charges avoidance.
Evidence of success
The success of Insieme could be measured using a double set of indicators: job creation and volumes of waste collected and processed Insieme is not only a social success but an environmental one as well.
With 87 workers currently employed, 700 tons of material processed, the management of 13 collection points, the running of three shops in Vicenza and a turnover of 3 Million Insieme is a success story in the region of Veneto and one of the best example of reuse centre not only in Italy.
Typical of an enterprise which had to undergo towards a professionalization of its operation because of the legislation ruling waste became more and more stringent, because efficiency has to be a priority to maximize profit to be reinvested in the business so to create additional jobs.
Potential for learning or transfer
The replicability of the Insieme experience is possible in different contexts since the model relies strongly on its own resources. The major source of income comes from sales of items from the shops and from the services rendered to the municipalities through the management of the collection points. Direct subsidies to staff costs are limited to the social charges avoided for the people in insertion which represents a relatively small amount of the overall payroll costs. It is true that the investment of the new reuse centre in Vicenza required a big effort which could have been possible mainly due to the reputation that Insieme has built in its 40 years of existence. The support from the local authorities is also key in the development of the various initiatives that Insieme carries out in parallel to the core business of reuse. A constant and increased attention is paid at the quality of the items on display, the layout of the shops, the safety of its workers, etc.
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