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Having been part of Riopele for almost two years after over a decade of work experience abroad, how does your international work experience contribute to your current role?
It was a long and enriching period of expatriation—17 years in total, with 13 consecutive years before returning to Portugal to join Riopele. Exposure to different cultures, diverse worldviews, and the constant challenges presented by various cultures and situations during this time are, in my analysis, the most valuable aspects of my 25-year professional journey. The "baggage" acquired during those years accelerates preparation for professional and personal challenges when stepping out of the comfort and security of one's country, language, family, and friends. It is not without nostalgia or heartache, and it can only be done with a solid family support system and friendships.
From a professional standpoint, what did you learn during this period?
Experiencing different cultures and industries, some more advanced in certain aspects and less in others, living through crises, opportunities, and challenges ahead of similar occurrences in our country or the textile sector, gives me a broad range of solutions that bring speed and assertiveness to decisions. It allows me to view and present situations to my Riopele colleagues with optimism, without drama, and revealing the opportunities that each challenge brings. As they say in one of the countries where I worked, "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Thanks to this journey, combined with the daily care, patience, and teachings of my Riopele colleagues, not individually but as a team, we are prepared for all the challenges that come our way.
Riopele is currently undergoing a significant investment program. What is the major ambition?
Simply put, it is to realize our motto and strategic pillars, "prepare the company for another hundred years," promoting and achieving the objectives of the three strategic pillars: profitability, sustainability, and people. Based on these commitments, the major ongoing investments focus on modernizing Riopele's facilities, improving energy efficiency in our buildings and working conditions, maintaining a modern and efficient machinery park, investing in renewable energy sources for thermal and electrical needs, and promoting circularity in textile-fashion products or recycling. We are committed to reducing consumption and increasing water recovery for our processes, continually investing in the training of our Human Resources, and consistently improving working conditions in all aspects.
What is the expected investment?
On the path to 2027, the year of Riopele's centenary, we will be executing an investment plan close to €20 million.
One of the announced goals is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2027. How do you plan to reach this target?
As the poet said, "the path is made by walking." We started by assessing our starting point. In 2022, we calculated our footprint for 2021 in the three defined scopes. Subsequently, we set the target for 2027 and the path, meaning the actions that will lead us there. To achieve this, particularly in scopes 1 and 2, we must ensure the realization of multiple aspects, including reaching 100% non-fossil energy sources, recycling our waste, and circularity of our products, to name a few commitments. In scope 3, the value chain external to Riopele, the path will be longer. It is our responsibility to raise awareness among our partners, optimize our flows so that scope 3 also converges towards neutrality. A significant portion of the aforementioned investment is directly or indirectly aimed at carbon neutrality. And no other investment should jeopardize this goal.
What is the importance of the investment in the biomass plant for Riopele's future?
It is fundamental for the future, I would even say it is already crucial. Using nationally sourced renewable biomass material for fuel brings stability to the cost of steam used in our processes, no longer exposing us to geopolitical or speculative factors. All this is achieved with carbon neutrality. This project contributes simultaneously to our three strategic pillars—ensuring profitability, promoting sustainability through carbon neutrality, and contributing to the pride of our employees for being part of Riopele.
Despite the international economic slowdown, Riopele has been growing and consolidating its presence in the international market. What are the main distinctive factors of the company?
Certainly, the excellence of our products and the verticality of our process are, in themselves, distinctive factors. However, in my opinion, our great advantage lies in what is less visible. Riopele defines its strategy, growth, and future well aware of its values and the expectations of its customers. We don't base our decisions on news, circumstantial comments, euphoria, or tragedies to determine what we will do. If you prefer, we know where we want to go, state what we will do, and surely do what we say. We pursue, in the positive sense of the word, the complete satisfaction of our customers, constantly providing them with innovative, distinctive, sustainable, quality products—products of evident value. We relentlessly seek to surpass ourselves, with new clients and new geographies, in the good Lusitanian style, offering new worlds to our products and ensuring that a customer who comes to Riopele will never leave, becoming a partner.
Riopele has been recognized, in two consecutive years, as the "most attractive textile company to work for in Portugal." How important are such accolades for Riopele's affirmation?
This distinction is important for Riopele because it highlights that, and this does not always happen, the conditions we provide to our employees are what matters. We genuinely contribute to well-being at work, the social evolution of each of us, and continuous training and knowledge updating. At Riopele, we place people as one of the three pillars that ensure our vision and fulfill our values, representing the present and future of a nearly 100-year-old story. In all our human resources indicators, we are improving day by day. We know that motivated and empowered individuals surpass results, both in the company and in their personal lives.
You have extensive experience in other sectors, particularly in the automotive industry. Currently, you are the CEO of one of the leading textile companies in Europe. Based on your experience, how should the textile and apparel industry in Portugal evolve to ensure new competitive gains in the future?
Given that the question is broader, not limited to Riopele, in the textile and apparel industry, I see the following points as fundamental: strategy is built by understanding the product and the company's capabilities, customer desires, and the goals to be achieved. The strategy does not change to achieve something other than the defined medium or long-term objectives and never changes for opportunistic and sporadic reasons (note that I said opportunistic, not opportunities). Also, in the textile and apparel industry, I advocate for a greater emphasis on the value of our products and services, abandoning the discourse that will inevitably lead us to lose business, the competitiveness based solely on price. I repeat several times, and I emphasize again, customers who make decisions based solely on price are not the ones who will stay. Those who come for the price will leave for the price; those who come for the value will remain as our partners. It is no less important to invest in digitization and monitoring through indicators that bring speed and assertiveness to decisions and share objectives and their fulfillment with all levels of the organization, providing a team dynamic focused on results. Leveraging developments in artificial intelligence and predictive models that anticipate problems and provide solutions. The automation of stages in processes where the human brain is not adding value. And finally, in these and all processes of the company, promoting continuous improvement.