Cosentino is undoubtedly one of Spain's most respected companies, and one that flies the flag for the country around the world. It manufactures beautiful surface materials, with Silestone, Dekton and Sensa granite being its leading brands; and it has expanded from the residential worktop market into the architectural cladding sector, offering innovative materials that guarantee longevity and weather resistance.
Cosentino is a company that ploughs a lot of its profits into R&D (13 million+ euros last year) and is prepared for the long haul when developing new materials: the initial development of Dekton, for example, a compact sintered particle stone-based material, took some 22,000 man hours of research.
Cosentino's numbers are impressive: turnover last year was 730 million euros; it sells to more than 80 countries; it has 95 Cosentino Centres around the world, and five Cosentino City venues; 90 per cent of its production is for export; its head office and manufacturing complex in Almeria covers one million m2 and the daily production of Dekton stands at 1500 slabs a day.
The group, which employs more than 3,600 people worldwide, owns seven factories, six in Spain and one in Brazil. It has its own R&D company which employs 34 researchers whose backgrounds lie in chemistry, physics, and engineering. And among its many awards is the coveted National Award for Innovation from the Spanish Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness.
Core materials for Cosentino products are natural quartz and stone, which are abundant in the earth's crust and found all over the world. But these materials do have to be quarried, and quarrying causes environmental degradation. So how does a company that says environmental protection is at the heart of its business reconcile with the inherent risks to the environment posed by large scale and sustained quarrying?
Santiago Alfonso from Cosentino's marketing and communications department, says that the company is one of Spain's most eco-friendly businesses, preparing each year a clear Environmental Strategic Plan for the group to follow: 'Our growth has always been based on meeting our guidelines for environmental respect and risk management. Natural quartz comes from different countries – including Brazil and Turkey – and the Cosentino Group works only with quarries that provide firm guarantees relating to responsible quarrying.'
That means, for example, that the landscape will be restored once the quarry has been depleted; that waste materials will be recycled; that the most advanced technology is deployed to ensure soil, air and water don't become polluted.
As to actions taken once raw materials arrive at the company's factories, Alfonso says environmental responsibility is built-in to the entire manufacturing process, and for that reason there is continuous investment in the best available technology to recycle waste, minimise water consumption, ensure no water supplies can become contaminated, and to ensure local communities are not adversely impacted by the factories.
The company undertakes life cycle analysis of its products; for example in 2010 it carried out an LCA of its Silestone Eco Line, its recycled quartz surface material. 'This assessment sought to reduce the environmental impact associated with the product, improving efficiency in the consumption of raw materials and energy and the reduction of waste,' says Alfonso.
Environmental risk minimisation is always ongoing in the company, and Alfonso highlights that Cosentino is accredited with ISO:14001:2004, the international certification for environmental management. Key features of Cosentino's environmental management system include its policies that maintain air quality and minimise dust and VOCs; water management that sees continuous reuse and zero discharge; waste management and the re-use of waste as raw material for recycling into new products.
And of course, the case for producing products from the earth's resources is longevity: stone and quartz don't decay, rot. or off-gas, so a quartz worktop can easily have a working life of 100 years or more.
Alfonso says the company's largest export markets currently are the US and the UK and the domestic market is also very healthy. Interestingly, he says Cosentino's own research shows that when consumers are choosing a worktop, their first priority is the look of it. 'Customers look to design/colour first then the second most important factor is its durability/quality.'
Looking ahead to 2017/18, Alfonso says the company has been growing by around 17 per cent this year, and turnover should be up to one billion euros by the end of next year. Between 2016 and 2019, it will have invested 380 million euros in what its calls Productive Investments, which should create 1,300 new jobs in Spain and around the world.
Cosentino’s range of products include Silestone, the best-selling quartz surface material ideal for worktops in the home. It is a premium product that contains 90 per cent natural quartz and it comes in more than 60 colours. Its advantages include very low porosity, impact and scratch resistance and it is inherently antibacterial. The Silestone Eco line contains at least 50 per cent recycled materials which include post industrial and post consumer porcelain, glass, mirror and vitrified ash. These materials are blended with quartz, natural stone, pigments and a resin that's partially derived from vegetable matter. Silestone can be found in many commercial buildings such as Wembley Stadium, the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai and the Agbar Tower in Barcelona.
Sensa is Cosentino's brand of granite that has undergone a special treatment that protects it from stains. The Sensa treament is applied via a chemical bonding process and Sensa granite is available in a wide range of colours.
Dekton is the ultracompact surface material launched in 2013 after many years' of research and development. It has produced via what's called sintered particle technology, a process that uses an accelerated high pressure treatment to compact the stone and other ingredients into a slim, highly resistant material that can be used indoors for worktops or for cladding building exteriors. Large format slabs are available and presently Dekton comes in more than 30 shades in the beige to brown spectrum. A recent addition is Red Dot award-winning Dekton Xgloss which has a brilliant crystalline shine.