Circular Economy

The transition to a circular economic model - that reduces the use of raw materials and the environmental impact - is part of Leonardo’s Sustainability Plan , and requires a transformational approach across the entire value chain. Technology and innovation are the key drivers of this model.

The group’s circularity strategy focuses on four main interconnected lines of approach:

  • optimisation of the selection and use of materials, starting from the design stage (e.g. through eco-design)
  • use of digital platforms to dematerialise and virtualise activities and solutions offered to clients
  • extention of product lifetimes by the use of predictive modelling enabling optimisation of  the maintenance cycle
  • promotion of the recycling and reuse of materials with a target to reduce waste by 10% by 2025.

By creating a circular ecosystem Leonardo promotes initiatives that help strengthening its long-term competitiveness and its links with the supply chain with an impact on economic, social and environmental performance.

 

Digital Twins and additive manufacturing

Leonardo sees digitisation as a fundamental enabler of the transition to a circular model. For example, the deployment of Digital Twins makes it possible to rethink production cycles and reduce the resources used in the prototyping, testing and training of developed products. Through additive manufacturing we can cut production waste, while predictive maintenance allows us to extend product life.

The study of materials

The commitment to a circular model also ties in with the company’s constant research and study of new materials to promote their reuse and limiting their disposal. Leonardo, in partnership with Solvay, a Belgian chemical company, has set up a Joint Lab dedicated to the development of new composite materials and production processes, essential for the future of the aerospace industry. In this perspective, Leonardo has launched activities to implement circularity in the field of aeronautical composite materials. The lab is also working on easily recyclable engineered materials and thermoplastic matrix composites that improve product characteristics, extend the product life cycle and increase the efficiency of the production line, reducing environmental impact. 
 

A new framework for carbon fibre recycling

Thanks to this strong relationship with the supply chain, and collaborations with technological partners and international associations, Leonardo is working on the development of a new process for recycling carbon fiber, a material that is difficult to source due to its chemical and physical characteristics, but widely used in aeronautics.

This is also the background to the New Materials and Circular Economy Accelerator – a think tank launched by Leonardo with CSR Europe and other leading international companies, associations and universities – which has been established to develop a new framework on the circularity of composite materials. The think tank reflects the collaborative approach underlying the circular economy model that the Group intends to implement.
 

Strategic partnerships

A structured approach to circularity needs to consider the entire supply chain: partnerships with other companies, customers and suppliers are key elements in creating virtuous circles, with the ultimate goal of safeguarding the planet’s resources. With this in mind, Leonardo has entered into a strategic partnership with Enel X. The agreement, which is the result of a broader cooperation programme between the two companies to increase energy efficiency on a natonal scale. According to a 'demand-response' logic, the energy not absorbed by the production activities of Leonardo’s plants will be fed into the national electricity grid on-demand.


‘Social’ circularity

The donation of food waste from the group’s main Italian plants to non-profit organisations is another example of the company’s commitment to developing circular models for the benefit of the local areas in which operates. In 2021, through the Responsible Canteens Programme, in partnership with the Banco Alimentare Onlus Foundation and canteen service providers, approximately 114,000 food portions, bakery products, fruit and vegetables, worth a total of approx. € 230,000 (about € mil. 3 since the programme’s launch in 2013), were donated by Leonardo’s canteens. In 2021, we extended the agreement with the Banco Alimentare Onlus Foundation to all 37 of the group’s canteens in Italy. Finally, Leonardo sustained its commitment to the Banco Alimentare Foundation by promoting the ‘National Food Drive’, which, in the last years, was dematerialised, allowing purchases to be made online or at participating supermarkets.