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Striving to combine biodiversity and industry in Rosignano

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Water, wildlife, agriculture… Solvay is taking several positive actions in favor of biodiversity

Located on the beautiful coast of Tuscany, Rosignano is a quaint Italian seaside town, but also a century-old major industrial center. Solvay’s soda ash-producing plant was founded here in 1912, and this historical presence comes with its challenges in terms of integration in the territory.

Working to preserve biodiversity

Due to its activities (running a large industrial complex) and its long-standing presence in the region, Solvay owns “a lot of real estate around here,” says Nicolas Dugenetay, the Rosignano site’s manager. “These properties near the site itself and near our rock salt mine are used to promote sustainable agricultural practices by working with local farmers. We have an agriculture team that handles that.” Managing all that land in addition to its industrial facilities means Solvay has a big responsibility towards the local territory and environment.

How does Solvay take on this responsibility? The company does this in many ways, with one priority: to manage its industrial activities while minimizing environmental impact and protecting the local biodiversity. “We’ve done a lot for biodiversity at Rosignano over the past 20 years,” says Tatiana Arlotti, Environmental Engineer and responsible for the Solvay One Planet program. “For example, Solvay participated in the creation of a natural reserve around the Santa Luce lake. It’s located on the migratory route of many birds, and over 3,000 different species are present there.”

Our activity is built on natural resources: as humans, we must respect that and return to nature as much as we take if we want to care for our kids’ future.

Lydie Camus, Sustainability Champion, Soda Ash & Derivatives, Solvay

Water preservation, a crucial matter in Mediterranean climates, is the focus of several other initiatives. Cooperating with the neighboring towns of Cecina and Rosignano through the Aretusa project since 2006, Solvay treats and re-uses municipal wastewater for industrial purposes, reducing freshwater withdrawals by 30%. “Preserving water resources is a key element in biodiversity protection,” points out Lorenzo Bagnoni, Solvay’s coordinator for the Aretusa project.

Similarly, the Rosignano facility is also committed to reducing its pressure on biodiversity by diminishing its CO2 emissions. “This was achieved by implementing a cogeneration plant with a high-efficiency gas turbine on the site and by capturing part of Soda Ash plant emissions and re-using the captured residue in our manufacturing process,” explains Massimo Iacoponi, Rosignano site’s Technical Coordinator.


Industry integrated in local communities

All these actions are part of a broader ambition: to reconcile industrial production with the environment that surrounds it. “Our activity is built on natural resources: as humans, we must respect that and return to nature as much as we take if we want to care for our kids’ future,” sums up Lydie Camus, Sustainability Champion at Solvay’s Soda Ash & Derivatives business unit. “We do that through our rehabilitation program for our limestone quarries, for example. We want to go beyond mandatory restoration, with a broader scope than just planting trees. Protecting biodiversity is just as important as climate action to preserve our planet.”

One hundred and ten years ago, when the Rosignano plant was founded, people counted on industrial groups chiefly to provide jobs and bring wealth to local communities. Today, expectations have shifted: companies like Solvay are expected to have a positive social and environmental impact. “It’s what the community wants today, and what we want as well, and that’s a good thing,” says Antonello De Lorenzo, the site’s communication manager. “All our initiatives are co-constructed with representatives from the community, local authorities and industrial partners. It’s how we integrate our activity in the community.” 

“It’s important to have coherence in our actions,” adds Lydie. “That’s how we show the direction we want to go, and in Rosignano, we are doing just that.”

*Pictured in the header image: The Santa Luce Lake, an artificial basin a few kilometers from the Rosignano plant, created by Solvay as a water basin for the site subsequently became a nature reserve, managed in collaboration with LIPU (the Italian Bird Protection League). Before its construction, around 300 animal and plant species coexisted in the area; today there are over 3000. A telling example of how biodiversity can coexist with industrial activities.