The topic of sustainability along the supply chain and corporate responsibility is becoming increasingly important in the market. Not only do we have our own climate targets that we want to achieve, but we are also increasingly confronted with clear customer requests that need to be met. Miriam Bartsch, Senior Manager Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, and Melanie Engler, Senior Expert Sustainability Management, explain in an interview how we respond to such requests and how we support our customers in improving their climate footprint.
How important is the topic of sustainability to our customers in the meantime?
Melanie Engler: The topic is becoming increasingly relevant for all of us, in both our private and professional lives. The political framework and demands are also changing, so our customers' increased interest in this topic is also logical and not unexpected.
Questions come in on a wide variety of topics, such as energy use and energy efficiency, customer-specific energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Many customers also want to know what options there are for reducing packaging and filling materials or what alternative materials could be used. In addition, many customers now also require us to participate in standardized reporting that requests and publishes environmental data from companies.
I am convinced that this trend will increase in the coming years.
How important is sustainability to potential customers? Can we score points with them?
Miriam Bartsch: : In fact, questions about sustainability have increasingly been appearing in tenders in recent months.
But here, too, there are major differences. Some potential customers are already very well positioned themselves, have climate targets and a climate strategy, and then make correspondingly high demands on their service providers. Other companies are still in the discovery phase and ask more general questions.
That's why it's enormously important for us to communicate to companies that we've recognized the issue, set ourselves goals and want to improve, and also that we can support the customers on the way to achieving their sustainability goals.
What do customers ask for in the area of sustainability?
Melanie Engler: Questions always come about the anchoring of the topic in our organization, i.e. how we are set up organizationally.
Are there responsibilities, designated persons and positions, and to what degree of detail do we consider sustainability? Have we defined concrete goals and published our developments through reporting? Some customers have very explicit ideas and ask us, for example, for reporting in accordance with international standards and certifications.
How do we deal with these requests?
Melanie Engler: We now have good answers to most of the questions.
At its core, however, sustainability is always a customer-specific issue, so we always have to develop a sustainability strategy together with the customer.
Of course, we recognize that there are companies that are already a bit further ahead than we are and whose inquiries we can therefore see as an opportunity to further deepen and improve certain subject areas.
What are the levers we can turn for the customer?
Melanie Engler: For the customer, it is crucial that his value chain causes as few emissions as possible. That's why we then look together at exactly the part of the value chain that is managed by us. In concrete terms, this means, for example, that we work together with customers to reduce packaging and filling materials or develop more sustainable packaging solutions. A large proportion of emissions also occur during transport from our distribution centers to the end customer. It therefore makes sense for customers to also rethink their transport strategy and, for example, plan less air freight or handle the last mile with climate-neutral transport providers.
What are we working towards for the future, what do we want to enable?
Miriam Bartsch: We have taken a very big first step by establishing the topic of corporate responsibility in our organization. Our climate goal itself is geared toward the year 2030, which means we are tackling the individual issues one by one. The local implementation itself is taking place primarily with the help of our new Global Green Community, in which colleagues from all countries and units are represented. We exchange news and support each other.
We always look at our emissions from three perspectives: site-related, employee-related and service-related. Site-related emissions are the most tangible because we have already established a reporting tool with green.screen and are able to provide information at site level. So the task here is to derive and implement site-specific measures. However, it is also enormously important for new properties to take account of climate targets and achieve largely climate-neutral growth of space. To this end, for example, we are currently working with our Bertelsmann colleagues on a policy for greener buildings.
Employee-related emissions include commuting and business travel. The aim here is to bring mobility in line with climate targets.
Service-related emissions include the transport and packaging already mentioned, which we can only transform and improve in collaboration with our customers.
In summary, the topic of sustainability affects many areas and is therefore more or less everywhere at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions. We are therefore very happy about the lively exchange with colleagues from all departments and countries.