From Berlin to Florence

Caroline Howard reflects on this week’s PET conference in Florence ….


The warm October sunshine is the first thing to hit me on landing at Florence airport. I am at the Global Service International (GSI) PET customer day which is being held in a stately home in the town of Artimino.


Set in the Tuscan hills, this Medici stronghold exudes Renaissance elegance. It is worlds away from the bustling modernity of the Intercontinental in Berlin, where I have just spent three days for EPCA .


Admittedly, I was let out until the small hours of the mornings for some serious networking! I soon realise, however, that this training may prove useful as the 160 delegates and I are led to the wine cellars of the Paggeria Medicea. An evening of Italian culinary delights ensues.


A nightcap in the hills overlooking Florence puts us all in a contemplative mood, ready for the conference to begin in earnest the next morning.


With so many uncertainties surrounding the future of European PET production, the attendees are assured of continued growth in demand and ample supply from sources outside of Europe. The room rumbles with relief.


The highlight, however, is yet to come. Professor Muhammed Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, is beamed by live satellite into the conference room! We are live with the guy who has shaken hands with President Obama and is known as the banker for the poor. I scanned the room for hints of poverty, but I can report that the professor’s presence was not to help fund the turbulent PET market!


This eloquent, clearly kind man, established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1983, fuelled by the belief that credit is a fundamental human right. His objective was to help poor people escape from poverty by providing loans on terms suitable to them and by teaching them a few sound financial principles so they could help themselves.


He presented his ideas on social business, how companies can help the poor. An unexpected joy to listen to, after a week of chemical chitchat. 


I was snapped out of this surreal experience as my cab arrived to take me to the airport before I had a chance to hear the professor take questions. Nevertheless, I came away feeling positive about the world, chemical or otherwise!

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