THANOS magazine

September 27, 2023

This is an opportunity for us 

Funermostra interviewed Marek Cichewicz, president of FIAT-IFTA, who told us about the importance of sharing knowledge with the sector and cooperating between professionals. FIAT - IFTA has members and organizations in more than 80 countries.

Funermostra: What is the reason for FIAT-IFTA's participation in Funermostra 2023?

Marek Cichewicz: FIAT-IFTA is an international federation of funeral organizations and entrepreneurs, so it is natural that we want to be close to our members – the current ones and potential newcomers who would like to join our family. Participation in the Funermostra fair, undoubtedly a very important, I would even say the leading funeral sector fair in Spain, is an opportunity for us to take part in interesting meetings, exchange knowledge and experience, talk about cooperation, but also an excellent opportunity to look at the directions of development of the industry, new products and services. We can later share this knowledge with all our members, among others on the pages of the THANOS magazine or on our website.

F: What can FIAT-IFTA bring to the funeral sector with its presence at Funermostra?

M.C.: This an opportunity to open up to international cooperation, to appear on the global market. FIAT-IFTA is made up of organizations and entrepreneurs from over 80 countries. Establishing cooperation with us and active involvement in the activities of the organization can result in broadening the business horizons. Our presence at Funermostra gives the opportunity to get to know us better and take on new challenges.

F: Given its international nature, do you consider that the funeral sector in different countries is embracing sustainability as one of its strategic pillars?

M.C.: Sustainable development is one of the topics that appears in more and more often industry conversations. There is probably no country in Europe where this topic would not be strongly raised in connection with the enforcement of European Union directives. During the annual FIAT-IFTA meeting in Varna, we had the opportunity to listen to an excellent presentation given by Nuria Capdevila, the Founder & CEO of Circle Corporation. She indicated in a very comprehensible way the areas in which we as an industry can implement the 17 Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations to create a sustainable and equitable world by 2030. Nuria also presented very interesting and simple examples of how to make our industry more environmentally friendly and even apply the principles of circular economy. This presentation inspired us to create a new section in the THANOS magazine, dedicated to the topic of sustainable development. Through this series of articles, we want to show our members that the implementation of environmentally friendly solutions is possible and does not require huge financial outlays. Sustainability in every area of our lives is becoming more and more important, after all, we have only one planet on which we live and I think that each of us has noticed and experienced the signs that the planet lets us know that our global actions are harming it – see the violent weather phenomena completely beyond our control: fires, floods, droughts, cyclones, even in places which seemed to be calm and safe until now.

F: What lessons has the funeral sector been able to learn from the pandemic that unfolded in 2020?

M.C.: I think we have learned that none of us are indestructible. The pandemic has claimed the lives of many workers in the industry. We have also learned to be resourceful and to act in precarious conditions – in many countries, the governments were slow to introduce legal regulations to protect the workers in our industry and did not recognize them as those who were on the front lines of danger. We have learned as well that we should take care of our mental and physical health – we experienced a lot of human tragedies, we lived under stress and worked 24 hours a day.

F: What do you believe is the short-to-medium-term outlook for the funeral sector worldwide?

M.C.:Let us look at the world we currently live in: global, mirrored (intensive and constant transfer of life at all possible levels – social, political, economic and even biological – to the digital world), progressive digitization and growing interest in AI and the metaverse. Above all, we live in a complex and uncertain world where resilience and agility are the essential skills. However, they would be nothing without the ability to build relationships between us, entrepreneurs and between the entrepreneurs and the Families to whom we serve. Relationships are of crucial importance.

Many contemporary phenomena are seemingly mutually exclusive, for instance: reindustrialization and deindustrialization of Europe, i.e. the disappearance and development of heavy industry, mainly in connection with the raw materials crisis. An example from our industry – on the one hand, consolidation, globalization and takeovers, i.e. a certain standardization, and on the other hand, the development of niches related to special wishes, personalization, non-religious and non-standard funeral ceremonies. We live in a complex world, and it is an "and-and" world, not an „either-or” world.

Our world is losing social cohesion, it is subject to deglobalization, it is defined by the increasing number of conflicts / crises. We are struggling, among others, with economic, health, climate, raw material crisis, the crisis of relationships and geopolitical crises. In addition, the progressive technologization of our lives, algorithmization, excessive use of social media, which cause a sense of loneliness, and finally the struggle for resources in the world of polycrises make modern societies lose social cohesion necessary for proper functioning. The polarization is clearly visible in virtually every area of our lives. As a consequence, de-globalization and anti-democratic activities are intensifying; it becomes impossible to establish a common vision of the problems that we as a society and the world have to face, maybe not directly as an industry, but we and our customers as people.

Our funeral industry may not feel these phenomena acutely. We operate in a certain bubble of constant demand, but it is worth having in the back of one’s head that the world around us is changing. However, we are also partly affected by some of these phenomena – for example, gas prices in the context of crematoria.

We should certainly pay attention to the global phenomenon of demographic change. Along with technological progress and broadly understood development – social and economic – on the one hand, the length of human life is extended, and on the other, the number of children born in the world is decreasing significantly. This has huge multidimensional consequences – both short-term (e.g. three or four generations or more work together in one company, which gives rise to natural conflicts) and long-term (the need to determine how to build an economy in such a society, since the aging society gets sick more often and longer; social issues such as building a hybrid society composed of people and social robots).

We cannot turn our backs on the issue of climate transformation and thinking about how to join it to make burials more environmentally friendly. The specific solutions in this trend include: transition to a circular economy, low- or zero-emission economy (responsible management of resources, investments in low-emission technologies, RES, electric cars, filters in crematoria, changes in the funeral culture – promotion of natural/biodegradable materials).

F: Why is it important for the funeral industry and organizations like FIAT-IFTA to attend fairs like Funermostra?

M.C.: Meetings, meetings, meetings :) And thus, establishing relationships. From which it all begins.

F: In 2017, you held the annual meeting of FIAT-IFTA's International Board of Directors within the framework of Funermostra. Were you satisfied with that experience?

M.C.: Although 6 years have passed since our meeting at Funermostra fair, I still have very nice memories of it. It was undoubtedly one of the best, most professionally organized annual FIAT-IFTA meetings, which was very popular among FIAT-IFTA members.

F: Is there anything else you would like to add?

M.C.: We wish Funermostra further successful editions, at which I hope to meet you again. I believe that these meetings result in many benefits for each of the parties. FIAT-IFTA is happy to recommend Funermostra to its members, and Funermostra always hosts us warmly, supporting us in building relationships with Spanish funeral companies.

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FIAT-IFTA is the only internationally governed funeral Federation with National, Active And Associate Members in more than 80 countries.

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