Sustainability at all levels

nutrineo discusses in an interview with Uwe Radke, Managing Director Marketing and Sales, Uelzena eG, corporate responsibility and sustainability and how the aspect of sustainability is embedded in people’s minds, actions and the corporate strategy.

Mr. Radke, since when has the Uelzena Group focused on sustainability and what are the reasons for implementing this subject in all business divisions of the Group?

Triggered by the Sustainability Development Goals of the United Nations, the ecological movement and other groups, different subjects have been discussed more and more in public. The management decided to include ecological and social aspects into the Uelzena management system in order to secure the acceptance of Uelzena eG as a commercial enterprise in the long term. Furthermore, Uelzena has decided to transparently report on progress made following the GRI Reporting Standard. Both decisions reflect the commitment of the equity providers and the management towards the successful development of the Uelzena Group, in harmony with the expectations of several groups of stakeholders.

In the summer, Uelzena will publish its latest sustainability report for 2017 and highlight a summary of economical, social and ecological aspects. Considering the former sustainability report, it becomes clear that Uelzena has a proud tradition of sustainable milk and non-dairy products while still being a high performance company, even in difficult economic times. How did the Uelzena Group manage to close with such positive results despite the price pressure and an excess supply of milk on the EU market, which is the result of the end of the milk quota introduced in 2015?

Supplying multinational customers from the food industry has always been a challenging task. The customers of the Uelzena Group rely on our professional solutions, which meet every aspect of their individual requirements irrespective of whether the requirements are concerned with quality or sustainability.

The business principles of Uelzena have always focused on customers and consumers. We believe that the provision of a perceived value for the customer results in better and longer lasting business relationships with customers. We also believe that companies that ignore taking the huge step towards responsible and sustainable food production are putting their business fundamentals and public acceptance at risk.

Sustain supply chain of the Uelzena Group
Sustain supply chain of the Uelzena Group

From 2014 to 2016, Uelzena focused on improving the ecological footprint at its production sites while securing growth in production volume at the same time. What measures did you apply?

Some examples for sustainable practice are the reduction of CO2 emissions, the introduction of an energy management certification according to ISO 50001 for all Uelzena factories, and the sourcing of raw materials based on Fair Trade, Organic and other international sustainability standards. Suppliers in critical countries have to comply with the Code of Conduct of the Ethical Trading Initiative or with SEDEX, BSCI or any other equivalent standard. And last but not least, our annual reporting on sustainability based on the international GRI Standard is certainly worth mentioning.

Since 2013, Uelzena eG has invested into two co-generation plants at the Uelzen and Bismark sites. The change from buying electricity to using your own energy from the co-generation plants allows you to reduce CO2 emissions significantly. What are your plans for further developments in 2017?

The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the range of almost 42 percent or the reduction in water consumption in the product process both reflect the new focus of the management and its results. Starting in 2017, the Uelzena Group will also focus on the upstream supply chain and in particular pay attention to sustainable procurement and purchasing.

Moreover, for many years now, our customers have been offered the use of raw materials from Fair Trade, organic cultivation or other important international sustainability schemes. From 2014, we have also requested that our suppliers operating in critical countries join the Ethical Trading Initiative and its Code of Conduct. In 2016, this request had been met by 100 percent of the suppliers in these countries.

The Uelzena Group is involved in a pilot project that collects data from dairies, which is to be used as a basis to strengthen sustainable milk product and animal welfare. How can Uelzena accomplish this demanding task?

The discussion and implementation of a standardized online data collection system involving thousands of farmers, several dairies and industrial associations is, in fact, a rather challenging task. Uelzena was one of its first supporters; we are convinced that an industrial initiative is the only way to bring about a satisfactory solution and produce lasting results for our customers and the consumers.

Sustainability reporting of Uelzena Group.

Uwe Radke
Uwe Radke
For the Uelzena Group, the Manager Marketing and Sales transferred the issue of sustainability from internal development to active reporting. In his role as Head of Sustainability, he has been responsible for the preparation of the integrated annual and sustainability reports of the Uelzena Group since 2014.