Sustainability & ESG are here to stay


Sustainability & ESG at KAEFER

Sustainability is worth fighting for. KAEFER is as much a citizen of this earth as the people who work for the company. That means it has the same responsibility to make sure that the world as we know it remains our world. The benefit a company like KAEFER has is that our core business is already helping to reduce the energy waste and improving the carbon footprint of our clients. But we also need to do our own homework and constantly work on our own sustainability. That is where our effort to comply with ESG criteria (Environment, Social and Governance) comes into the scene.

Sustainability is a democratic endeavour in which all stakeholders need to be involved. Consequently, to truly achieve sustainability goals, a wide range of voices need to be heard and properly taken into account.

That is exactly what the newly created Sustainability Working Group (SWG) at KAEFER aims to achieve. It was designed as a sparring team with members from various business units from around the KAEFER world tasked to consider sustainability and the implementation of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) criteria from a corporate as well as an operations point of view. In the SWG, everyone has an equal say and is encouraged to call out others and foster debate. Claudia Lucas, HSE Advisor in Norway sums it up “sharing ideas and best practices between individual countries and that we can learn from each other – that’s what will drive us forward”.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Why should it be necessary to have a working group for sustainability and ESG when we already have a dedicated department for this area (CRS)? The answer is simple. Sustainability has been on KAEFER’s agenda for a long time, but nowadays, ESG is becoming ever more important. ESG is an evaluation of a company’s collective conscientiousness for environmental, social and governance factors. Sustainability goes hand in hand with ESG and clients and investors alike apply these non-financial measurements as part of their analysis when awarding contracts and identifying growth opportunities, for example. “ESG and sustainability belong together,” explains Francisca Gorgodian, Head of Corporate Sustainability & Communication at KAEFER. “We can speak of following a sustainable strategy when we comply with the set ESG directives, when we can demonstrate that we are focusing on environmental, social and governance issues. Sustainability is becoming our license to operate. ESG criteria are helping us to follow up on our sustainability goals.”

It is the task of the SWG to find answers to the current challenges and to embed even more ESG criteria into the day-to-day business. To get there, the group pursuits a collaborative approach, exchanging ideas on how things can be done better at KAEFER and how metrics, policies and focus areas can be implemented.

The group was created as a smaller, more agile entity that could employ a more dynamic approach to decision making. The idea is to develop possible solutions that are very targeted in addressing sustainability goals and make a real impact, in the truest sense of the term.

Fighting the good fight

When it comes to sustainability, most people immediately think of climate change and environmental issues. Erhard Dubs, Corporate Strategy Manager, says, “although sustainability is definitively not only about becoming greener, however there is also an increasing awareness of ambitious carbon footprint targets for instance due to the European Green Deal. We need to understand how this will impact our business and consider the strategic action we need to take now to fulfil our clients’ and the societies’ future requirements.”

That is high up on the agenda for the SWG, with work being done in the areas of how LEAN can be used to reduce waste. For Axel Schulz, Global LEAN Manager, the link to sustainability is obvious: “while supporting LEAN Projects, I have not just seen safety and efficiency improvements, but also waste reduction in CO2 emissions. Definitively LEAN plus green equals less waste and our LEAN approach is further pushing sustainability on our jobsites.”

For Julia Kasparek, Project Manager Sustainability & Communication at KAEFER Headquarters, “it’s clear for all to see that our business will not only be affected by climate change, but also the social and governance challenges need to be considered. We work out in the open oceans, at the coast, far inland where it’s hot and dry. In all of these places and many more, weather and climate as well as working conditions and for instance the health & safety of our employees are fundamental and affects every aspect of what we do. It’s our duty to minimise the effects not just on the environments we work in, but on the environment as a whole.”

Niels Gogler, Executive Assistant to Co-CEO Roland Gärber, adds: “It may well be a struggle to achieve our goals, but we simply cannot go on without challenging ourselves. We have to adopt an attitude of action and tackle sustainability head on.”

Other areas being discussed include sustainability in the supply chain and increasing transparency about human rights and gender equality in suppliers’ management, for example.

Consequently, a wide range of voices need to be heard and properly taken into account.

For Laura Gonzalez, HSEQ Technician in Spain, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also of fundamental interest: “It’s great to have a group of people with whom we can discuss our local approach towards achieving the SDGs and find ways to tackle the global challenges behind those topics.” This is just one of the many ‘hot topics’ that regularly finds its way on to the SWG’s agenda, which meets every two months.

For Francisca Gorgodian, it all boils down to taking action. “We know that our behaviour has an impact on our environment and our society. There’s simply no question about that. So, we need to adopt a strategy that takes all of the lessons we’ve learned about being sustainable, including all of the technology we’ve developed, and put it into use. We need to become better every day, but instead of just talking about it, we need to act consistently all over the KAEFER world and ensure that our actions and reports tackle all relevant ESG criteria in our organisation. With the SWG, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

Members of the SWG (from top to bottom): Claudia Lucas, Francisca Gorgodian, Erhard Dubs, Axel Schulz, Julia Kasparek, Niels Gogler, Laura Gonzales

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