By Georg Graf
As a values-based, family-owned technology Group, the corporate goal of Freudenberg is not merely financial success but always involves responsibility for society. Sustainability is closely linked to the Group’s values and principles. One of the values of our company founded in 1849 is responsibility. We demonstrate responsibility through our commitment to health, safety and environmental protection, corporate citizenship, compliance, human rights and labour standards – as well as sustainability. Freudenberg has introduced a Group-wide definition of sustainability: We strive to minimise our footprint and maximise the handprint for our customers and end-users. That means we are minimising the environmental impact from the company’s manufacturing processes (footprint) and maximising our impact as a sustainability enabler for our customers (handprint) by providing sustainable products and services.
Sustainability is an important part of responsibility. We define total success as being successful in the market while at the same time fulfilling our responsibility to the society. These two inseparable goals have been a central part of our corporate values for over 170 years. Our values and principles have always embraced the Group’s responsibility for society. Sustainability is one way by which we demonstrate this responsibility. Our values and principles date back to 1887, the year in which Carl Johann Freudenberg first made his sons partners in the family business. In 2014, we signed the Global Compact of the United Nations. This initiative seeks to encourage companies across the globe to conduct their business responsibly with regard to Compliance, Human Rights and Labour, Sustainability, Health and Safety, Environmental Protection and Corporate Citizenship. Each year we publish a report about our progress in these areas.
The world’s population is growing – from 7.5 billion people today, it is expected to reach around 10 billion in 2100. At the same time, global economic growth is enabling increased standards of living worldwide, which leads to better and longer lives. The demand for natural resources to feed, clothe, house and make people mobile is rapidly rising. At the rate we are using the world’s natural resources, the current estimates suggest, we will need three entire earths to supply all our needs by 2050. Energy use continues to rise. Global demand for energy could easily double within the next 100 years. The main source of energy is still oil, which results in 36 billion tonne of CO2 that are emitted into the atmosphere every year. By 2035, it is expected to reach 45 billion tonne, which will increase global warming dramatically. We at Freudenberg are striving to build a more sustainable future – so that our planet has sufficient resources available for the coming generations as well.
Our understanding of success runs along the same lines. Not only is financial success in the market important for us, but success also means fulfilling our responsibility to society by committing to sustainability which is more than just checking a box. It must be founded on the ability to develop new technologies, innovations and knowledge. It is a distillation of the capabilities needed to survive in an evolving business arena. At Freudenberg, our sustainability is founded upon our guiding principles. They drive us to challenge the status quo and challenge our decisions and create new solutions. We take a holistic approach. The mixed model of footprint and handprint offers many opportunities for success, at every stage of the value chain: starting with the materials used, through production and transport, to the application of our products and their disposal (footprint). Innovative products and solutions allow Freudenberg and our customers to reduce costs or generate additional benefits (handprint). Hence, they also help meet the more restrictive requirements for environmental and consumer protection.
Sustainability In Data Protection
Information security activity is recognised as an essential factor for Freudenberg’s sustainable growth and we are implementing diverse activities for customer privacy protection. Based on close communication and collaboration between our information security and legal teams, Freudenberg carefully monitors privacy protection legislations around the world and responds to them as immediately as possible. National governments across the world are strengthening laws and regulations on personal data and privacy protection, as attested by the European Union’s plan to implement stronger and more extensive data protection regulations which extend the law’s coverage to the protection of personal information and privacy. Freudenberg has established a personal information impact assessment system to prevent compliance risks associated with related laws and regulations and to systematically and automatically manage personal information data and associated risks at a corporate level. With the system in place, we have the infrastructure to prevent non-compliances and information breaches, and to manage personal information systematically at a corporate level, thereby minimising risks as well as potential damages.
We are constantly innovating together with our customers and our research partners to develop the leading-edge technologies, products, solutions and services that we all need to ensure a sustainable future. High-tech lubricants from Klüber Lubrication, a brand of Freudenberg, reduce friction between components and save energy compared with conventional oils. Energy costs can be cut– a bonus for the environment and the company. The Freudenberg Performance Materials facility processes several million PET bottles daily, turning them into plastic flakes. They are the base material for various Freudenberg products, particularly household products and nonwovens. Waste is recycled, natural resources are conserved and CO2 emissions are reduced.
Many Freudenberg sites have launched initiatives to improve the eco-balance, for example by recycling waste and thus reducing waste volumes. One such project is called ‘Zero Landfill.’ By implementing new efficient power units into existing production machinery, our Business Group Vibracoustic could significantly reduce the energy consumption. This not only helps saving energy costs but also reduces CO2 emissions from machineries by almost 700 tonne every year – a reduction of more than 35 percent compared to the previous year.
The Freudenberg Group is broadly diversified. Depending on their respective product portfolios and the production technologies they employ; our Business Groups necessarily have different areas with regard to sustainability. In the six issue areas of materials, waste, energy, emissions, water and health, there are many excellent examples within the Freudenberg Group of minimising the footprint and maximising the handprint. In an internal process, we have evaluated where we currently see the highest potential for improvement and where the impact of our footprint and handprint is greatest. Certain issues have been identified that are of major importance to the Group as a whole: material efficiency, energy efficiency and CO2 emissions. For greater transparency, we are measuring the performance of our suppliers in these three top areas across the Group to ensure that we continuously improve.
Georg Graf is the Regional Representative of Freudenberg Regional Corporate Centre India, and Vice President of the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce.