The green gauge - sustainability

26th of March 2018
The green gauge - sustainability
The green gauge - sustainability

Most organisations today claim to be sustainable. So how do the sustainability trailblazers set themselves apart from the rest? ECJ finds out what aspects of companies’ sustainability policies make them particularly proud.

A sustainable outlook on the part of any organisation used to be the exception rather than the rule. Those companies keen to demonstrate a real concern for the environment would set themselves apart from their rivals by coming up with bold targets for recycling, saving energy and tackling climate change.

But these days nearly every company claims to be sustainable. And the number of different topics that the term “sustainability” encompasses has been growing fast - at the same rate, in fact, as those weighty reports that are increasingly used to highlight an organisation’s “green” credentials.
But buried amongst all this literature, which sustainability achievements make companies particularly proud?

The introduction of a carbon-neutral cleaning system was Facilicom Cleaning Services’ proudest moment. “C2Zero is the first system of its kind in the European cleaning industry,” claims managing director Jan Hein Hemke. “It enables us to identify those elements of our service that are producing carbon and offset them to ensure that our activities at clients’ sites are carbon neutral.

Work closely together

“We then work closely with our supply partners to identify and implement improvements to reduce carbon output. We introduced this ‘added value’ system across our clients’ sites during 2017 to help them meet their CSR goals.”

Facilicom is also proud of its Employee Assistance Programme, says Hemke. “All our colleagues can tap into this service which provides them with confidential 24/7 access to a qualified counsellor,” he said. “This allows staff to seek financial, legal, family and medical advice plus support on any other issue.”

The company’s sustainability policy incorporates the “people, planet, profit” ethos – elements that Hemke claims are all intrinsically linked. “Our people are our prime asset and we are dedicated to ensuring they are trained effectively and that they fully understand our policies and protocols,” he said. “This enables them to work safely and to respect the environment in which they operate.”

He believes that today’s focus on sustainability will only become stronger in future. “It’s not something you can pick up and put down and if anything, its significance will grow as our impact on the planet become more obvious,” said Hemke. “A few years ago no-one was aware of the issue of microbeads, for example. It is unlikely that this will be the last sustainability issue we need to address - even if we were able to manage all those problems of which we are already aware.”

Essity is particularly proud of its long-term sustainability vision says communications director Renee Remijnse. “We were among the first global hygiene companies to put together a separate report for our work on sustainability issues,” she said. “We were also an active player in the foundation of the Forest Stewardship Council which is the most well-respected forest certification scheme on the planet today.

“And we are proud of our results regarding climate change, energy, water and fibre-sourcing as well as our strong focus on breaking taboos on topics such as incontinence and menstrual hygiene. We are also delighted to have been recognised for our strategies by key institutions such as CDP and WWF.”

Education in hygiene and health is also important to Essity. “We educate approximately two million women, children, parents and nursing staff every year in subjects such as menstruation, puberty, skincare, incontinence and hand hygiene,” said Remijnse.

“From our perspective, working sustainably is not an optional activity: it is necessary in order to develop our business and safeguard the wellbeing of coming generations. Customers, consumers and employees – both future and existing – expect big companies to take responsibility for the environment. And we expect every employee to pursue the most sustainable solution for each specific task.”

Key focus

Like Hemke she believes sustainability will continue to remain a key focus for companies. “For Essity sustainable business has always been about the future and we see no reason not to maintain that focus,” she said. “Sustainable business leadership will come to be defined by how well companies approach topics such as climate resilience, inclusive growth, innovation, human rights and ethics.”

Kärcher believes its own focus on innovative and sustainable products sets it apart from its rivals. “Each new product is assessed according to its environmental impact and how it contributes to our sustainability targets for 2020,” said head of sustainability management Andreas Mayer.

“Sustainability is not just a buzzword for Kärcher - it has been a part of our company culture right from the start.”

For the past five years the company has had a clear strategic approach to sustainable management via a range of business processes. “We have set up a Sustainability Excellence programme and we’ve defined 14 sustainability targets for our group,” said Mayer. “I think this differentiates us from other companies but to be honest, sustainability is becoming increasingly standard for most organisations.”

He says Kärcher’s customers have come to expect a sustainable approach. “It is not a question of whether we want to be sustainable, it is more a matter of how we can continuously improve our sustainability performance worldwide,” said Mayer. “From my point of view, sustainability is a clear distinguishing feature and a competitive advantage. There is also a business case for sustainability: when systematically implemented it can be the driver for innovation such as in our eco!efficiency products or for new business models such as the sharing economy.”

Like other commentators he believes the focus on sustainability will only increase in future. “This may either be through legal requirements or due to customer or public interest,” he said.

Nilfisk is particularly proud of its new CSR strategy according to head of corporate social responsibility Ann-Katrine S Friis. “This was established in 2017 and includes specific focus areas and action plans going forward,” she said. “We are also proud of our Code of Conduct which has been followed up by a global training system translated into 13 languages.”

She believes the company’s close links between innovation and CSR sets Nilfisk apart from other companies. “For example, we believe that up to 10 per cent of the company’s revenue will come from autonomous solutions within five to seven years,” she said. “Furthermore we estimate that 40 per cent of the total market for professional cleaning can be addressed by the use of robotics.”

Deliver on goals

Autonomous cleaning solutions will enable the company to deliver on its CSR goals, according to Friis. “They will help us to come up with sustainable cleaning solutions that have a high focus on health and safety,” she said.

The company’s four key sustainability goals concern society, environment and climate, customer relationships and employers.

“Today’s companies are held accountable for their impact on social and environmental issues such as climate change, human rights, child labour, the environment and labour standards,” said Friis. “This adds new risks and complexities – but also new opportunities. At Nilfisk we believe these new business opportunities are a major driver of the CSR agenda going forward.”

Metsä Tissue refers to sustainability as “in its genes”. “As a result we are proud to be at the leading edge of innovation in enhancing the sustainable nature of our industry,” says managing director
Mark Dewick.

Metsä Fibre’s new bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland, is said to be the first in its class to operate entirely without the use of fossil fuels and produce no carbon emissions. “To enhance the circular economy, all side streams from the mill’s production are used as materials or for renewable energy,” said Dewick.

This is an achievement of which Metsä is particularly proud, he said. “The mill is leading the industry towards a new era of resource-efficiency through operating with zero fossil fuels,” he said.  “It has received wide interest, both nationally and in the EU.”

The facility is a significant producer of renewable energy according to Dewick. “It generates 2.4 times the amount it consumes and increases the renewable energy production in Finland by at least two percentage points,” he said.

Dewick agrees with other manufacturers that sustainability is increasingly becoming the norm for reputable companies. “Certainly for medium to larger companies it would be difficult to operate in today’s business climate without a sustainability policy of some kind,” he said.

Purchasers more aware

Jangro’s operations director Joanne Gilliard agrees with this viewpoint. “End-users are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the products and services they choose,” she said.
“Purchasers now expect reputable cleaning and janitorial companies to make sustainable choices where possible. Manufacturers are therefore under growing pressure to balance this preference for eco-friendly products with an ability to meet the needs of consumers.”

She says the Jangro Enviro Concentrates range is a particular source of pride for the company. “These are economical, low-dosage products that are designed to cut down on packaging as well as on chemical impact,” she said. “The idea is to reduce waste throughout the product’s lifecycle by using smaller bottles and combining this with concentrated formulas that last longer.

“We recognise that every cleaning product – from chemical agents to pure water - has some impact on the environment so we look at the whole lifecycle of our products to gauge their sustainability.”

Like other commentators she believes the focus on sustainability will continue to grow. “Recycling and ‘smart packaging’ will become increasingly important since these are among the simplest and most effective ways of minimising our impact on the environment while also making sense from a business perspective,” she said. “As awareness grows, so too will the demands on reputable companies to make more sustainable choices.”

Diversey’s sustainability executive director Daniel Daggett believes that new sustainability challenges will emerge and grow over the next few years.

“For example, supply chain disruptions due to natural disasters and climate-related events will require resilient and efficient systems,” he said.  “There will also be growing societal needs for the cleaning industry to help provide safe food, clean water, hygiene, improved working conditions and equality. But these challenges also represent an opportunity for those organisations that can provide solutions.”

Diversey’s approach to sustainability is holistic and covers environmental and social initiatives, says Daggett. “We have aggressive internal goals for water conservation, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reductions and waste prevention,” he said.  “Our sustainability platform includes many other activities such as responsible chemistry, ethical supply chain and corporate social responsibility.

“Our R&D department also integrates sustainability into the innovation process with a keen focus on customers.  We’ve studied our direct and indirect environmental footprint and know that our biggest opportunity for improvement lies in developing solutions that help our customers to conserve water, save energy, prevent GHG emissions and eliminate waste.”

According to Daggett clear trends suggest sustainability is becoming increasingly integrated into business strategy. “Smaller companies that once focused only on selling greener products are increasingly adopting sustainable practices within their offices and manufacturing plants,” he said. “Meanwhile larger companies continue to raise the bar with new and transformational initiatives.”

Here to stay

Diversey’s new vision -  A healthy and safe world where people are free to live their lives - combines the triple bottom line of sustainability with a focus on environment, social, and economic aspects.

Daggett claims to be proud of everything the company has accomplished during the past 12 years in his current role. “We’ve developed new products that have substantially reduced waste and improved efficiency while our internal sustainability programmes have improved operations and lowered our environmental footprints,” he said. “In 2003 Diversey partnered with WWF and joined the Climate Savers programme, committing to an eight per cent reduction in GHG emissions.  Our employees were so successful that the final accomplishment was a 48 per cent reduction in emissions by 2013.”

He agrees with other industry leaders sustainability is here to stay. “Sustainability, by definition, will continue to be important,” he said.  “Those organisations that are unable to balance environmental, social, and economic demands will become obsolete.

“But the companies that view sustainability as an opportunity by providing solutions in a constrained world will be rewarded. The buzzwords will continue to evolve, but what is good for the planet and the people will ultimately be good for business.”


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