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Best Practice: Environment


Manufacturing · Viviez, France

“Phoenix”, the innovative and sustainable French initiative recognized in the local edition of the SME EnterPRIZE project, in the Environment category

A renowned company in the European metallurgical industrial market, SNAM was founded in 1981, collecting and recycling batteries in the circular economy chain. Their business helps mitigate the environmental impact of mining ores and the use of minerals, as well as the carbon footprint left by their transportation into different countries.

Today, the company has expanded its environmental reach with its incredibly innovative project “Phoenix”. In a direct bid for the health of the planet and wellbeing of future generations, SNAM has launched the production of new batteries that are made 80% from recycled materials, with EC conformity since 2020.

This is quite the achievement in a mature, closed market where metals and chemicals are cordoned off from competition and controlled by strict market regulations. To launch Phoenix, SNAM has effectively diversified its activities by choosing to create its own recycling production facility and relying on in-house research and innovation – a true cornerstone of the company that led to its earning the ISO 14001 Environmental Management certification in 2005.

The company is made up of 150 people that recycle 8000 tons of heavy metal every year. As such, says CEO and founder Eric Nottez, SNAM “reinjects nine metals back into the economy”.

Combining performance with the triple bottom line of sustainable development, the Phoenix project has opted for the greenest kind of processing by recycling the whole battery, as opposed to just parts of it and getting rid of the rest. This choice means a distinctly lower financial result for SNAM, but Eric Nottez seems blessed with an insight rarely seen amongst heavy industry actors – “How could we face future generations if we chose the second option?” he asks.

This kind of forward thinking is also reflected in the company he keeps. Internal audits show that the staff is 100% involved in environmental sustainability – an achievement Eric Nottez is very proud of. He is just as committed to raising environmental awareness and offers his technicians the possibility to participate in research and development, also encouraging them to take ownership of the processes by enacting the changes necessary to modify tools and machines.

The result? Passionate employees and solidarity among the teams – following the logic that those who do, also learn and understand. As a place to work, the company aims to provide a challenging yet stable environment: the rate of internal promotion at SNAM is higher than its recruitment, which is already high for the region.

During the COVID pandemic, SNAM chose to battle against isolation among staff by relying on in-house knowledge to be able to continue using communal spaces. Staff came up with a super-fast renewal of the air and temperature management systems, and a special bungalow was given to the drivers to use during the crisis.

The company even created its own hydro-alcoholic gel (produced to WHO standards) for internal use and for the local community, in particular the council offices, hospitals and organizations in the area who needed it. Surprisingly – or perhaps not – SNAM emerged from the COVID period as a major local and European actor with an increase in orders and a truly positive impact on the environment.