Industry Leaders Forum: Andrea Grassini, General Manager Professional AU/NZ, Freudenberg Home and Cleaning Solutions

To survive and be successful in the future we need to become a networked ecosystem. This means working closer, building healthy partnerships, sharing relevant objectives, and creating an atmosphere of trust and transparency.

How was 2023 for Freudenberg?

The Australian market is high potential for the company. We have a strong leadership position in our categories with our brands Oates, Vileda Professional, Research Products, and we foresee significant growth in the next years.

During 2023 we revised the organisation and the strategy to be “Future Shaping” and disrupt our category.  Our new purpose is to lead and empower a high performing team to increase the strategic partnership with our key stakeholders by offering the best innovative and sustainable cleaning solution for the end-users. 

What are the company’s main priorities for 2024?

Our main priority for next year is our people. The first step to be successful is to enable the team to execute the new 2024 strategy. We want to increase our consultative approach towards end-users focusing on offering the best cost-in-use solutions via a new sustainable range and some important innovations in the different customer groups/categories. The acquisition of Vermop in 2023 has given us the opportunity to boost our innovation plans for the years to come. 

How does Freudenberg plan to adapt and innovate this year to meet the evolving needs and expectations of customers?

The next year innovation plan will be end-user centric: solve problems and meet needs in a simple and intuitive way with a strong focus on sustainability.

The long-term vision and preparation in the past years have been well managed and this has been essential to maintain our winning USP for the future.

Additionally, we should always be proactive to understand emerging end-users’ needs that will pop up during the year and react quickly to create new ad-hoc solutions to continue riding the crest of the wave.

What are the most significant opportunities and challenges in the industry? How can the industry leverage or address these?

We see a continuous growing interest from end-users to find the best cost-in-use solution to maximise results with less effort/less time. If we focus on healthcare the key words to succeed will be the following: smarter, more specialised, greener.

The main challenges for 2024 will be how to manage big data and new digital technologies to offer better solutions: this requires having the right expertise on board.

What do you expect to be the big trends of 2024?

We have detected internally many clear trends that will change the cleaning market in the next five years. On one hand, we can see how the acceleration of AI will force all industries to disrupt themselves or die; on the other hand, sustainability will play an even more crucial role in decision-making processes.

Are there any key sustainability targets Freudenberg has made for 2024?

Sustainability is in our DNA. We want to make our world cleaner and our new ‘Love it clean’ logo embodies our core belief that we have a responsibility for the environment. 

At a global level, around 90 per cent of our products are durable, more that 60 per cent of plastic or paper and carton packaging can be recycled and we have developed products made of 100 recycled plastic and with GECA certification.

We have a strong commitment to reach our targets: reduce 25 per cent of CO² emissions by 2025 and be CO² neutral by 2045, move from 40 per cent to 60 per cent the Green Energy used in our production sites and eliminate 50 per cent of landfill waste by 2025 on track to net zero.

And in 2024 we will present a complete sustainable range with the logo ‘Love it clean’ with more than 20 products that will suit the top end users’ needs. We have also developed a calculator that tells customers how much CO² they can save with our proposal.

What is your leadership philosophy?

The fast-changing scenario of the last three years indicate that leadership styles need to adapt quickly and continuously. My approach is to become a catalyst leader able to lead by example, vision oriented, and people focused. I would like to enhance the culture of open feedback and collaboration. This will be achieved with our committed and passionate team. We’re enjoying the journey as one big team and are taking care of each other as we step-up into our Future Shaping mission.

Do you have a message for the industry?

From my point of view, our industry has a strong potential to grow, although we’re still working as separate ecosystems not able to connect properly each other.

To survive and be successful in the future we need to become a networked ecosystem. This means working closer, building healthy partnerships, sharing relevant objectives, and creating an atmosphere of trust and transparency, we can therefore succeed.

As we commit and execute relentlessly to our Future Shaping mission, my message for the industry is the following: let us not accept standards as they are and let us have the courage to constructively challenge existing cleaning paradigms, by showing the way forward to our end-users, so to advance the industry to new frontiers. Together we can be better than today, let’s talk!

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