METRO AG – Sustainable Value Creation
METRO is an internationally leading specialist in wholesale, operating more than 750 wholesale stores in 25 countries. As such, METRO has a significant global presence. However, this presence extends far beyond store doors; the activities that METRO induces along its value chain can have significant impacts. There activities have implications for environmental and social sustainability, but they also contribute to economic benefits for hundreds of suppliers and thousands of customers.
Understanding the breadth of METRO’s global influence required a holistic approach – how can we compare the economic value generated by suppliers and customers with the impacts on human and ecosystem health and well-being from harmful emissions, resource use and potentially exploitative labour? And how can we do so for all impacts from farm to plate? From the rearing and planting of agricultural resources, through the entire process of converting them to products that METRO sells, the activities of operating METRO’s stores, down to the impacts of the businesses that METRO supplies – those in the HoReCa (hotels, restaurants and catering) and Traders (reseller) sectors?
This challenge was met with a Sustainability Accounting assessment of the value chain of METRO’s product assortment – a measurement of economic, social and environmental impacts conducted in the language business best understands – that of monetary value. This enabled METRO to compare many different types of impacts on common footing.
The results of the study indicated that for every €3 of economic value created by METRO, these is an associated €1 of negative impacts on society and the environment from the use of natural and social capital. Viewed as a net result, METRO’s activities across the value chain bring slightly less that €1 of net positive impacts for each €1 of turnover. Stated simply – METRO’s global contribution is net positive.
This study was prepared using the guidance of the Natural Capital Protocol and the draft version of the Social & Human Capital Protocol. The results of such an assessment are not intended to be interpreted in the same way as financial results; they do not represent a cost or liability to METRO in conventional sense. Rather, they are a novel and more holistic way of estimating a business’ influence on the economy, environment and ultimately society.
The impact of the project:
Our project was recognised as a “Leading Practice Example” in the food sector by RobecoSAM and contributed to METRO winning the title of Industry Leader in the “Food and Staples Retailing” category of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, for the 4th year in a row. This project built on our previous work with METRO, which again contributed to METRO being crowned Industry Leader by the DJSI.
When we identified our needs, our primary vision was to obtain stable, functional and transparent software which simplifies the company’s environmental tasks and processes. Record keeping should be practical, and preparation of the analyses should be carried out only with “a few clicks”.
Due to the diversity of environmental data, we needed a package covering almost all branches of our environmental issues (waste management, water protection, air protection and groundwater). In addition, it supports our Environmental Management System. After a selection among market participants, we chose the E-Toolbox which was developed and operated by denkstatt Hungary.
E.ON Hungária and its subsidiary is active in most parts of the country. In its operational area 19 big units operate as well as a large number of smaller sites. Before having been introduced to the software it was a huge challenge to record environmental data and to perform a variety of data services. In most cases our processes are multi-stakeholder processes, so there was a need for a system that could handle a variety of situations in order to simplify the duties of the environmental staff.
The introduction of the E-Toolbox software was carried out in several stages in our company. First, the application data from previous years was implemented in order to create a database which we were already able to build up in the year of introduction. The data were provided by the Environmental Department to the staff of Denkstatt Hungary, who filled in our database. After the development of the databases, we started by making the Waste Management module compulsory for the relevant staff. Subsequently, this has been followed by the introduction of other modules of the software.
Industry: IT Solutions
One world leader said:
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.” (John F. Kennedy).
The general objective of the project was to transfer and integrate sustainability leadership skills at the level of European industry and institutions.
The main project aim of LeadSUS was to support organizational leaders and employees in understanding the strategic implications of sustainability by using innovative and creative approaches. The training drove leadership understanding, strategic business approaches, enthusiasm, innovation and the consideration of environment and social aspects as key issues toward sustainable development.
The project target group were managers and employees, representatives of private organizations (industry-related) and public organizations with environmental, social or business development-related responsibilities, and employed Master’s degree students.
During the project lifetime, the new Sustainability Managers developed new competences and skills on the following topics:
All participating trainees had the opportunity to certify their newly acquired skills and competences within the ECQA (European Certification and Qualification Association) framework, on two performance levels: foundation and/or advanced. The training platform is linked to the ECQA organization, and can be reached via http://leadsus.bicero.com/trainings/online-training.
LeadSUS was funded by the EU as part of the Leonardo da Vinci program and was deployed in 2013-2015. The project has generated new perspectives on sustainability issues and created a new qualification, namely the EU Sustainability Manager, an EU-certified qualification within the ECQA body. More than 200 participants (online and in class) from across Europe were trained with the help of 20 trainers in Romania, France and Slovenia.
denkstatt advised MAM, a manufacturer of baby products, during the construction phase of their sustainability report. In the course of the definition of the most important topics within the range of sustainability relevant for MAM, the carbon footprint of their most significant products was calculated at the customer’s request. In this process, the whole emergence of CO2 during the product’s lifetime cycle is examined, and it is also determined during which stages (primary production, production, transport, utilisation or disposal) the largest amount incurs.
In the course of this analysis and through detailed observation of a single product during its lifetime, it was discovered that the biggest energy expenditure and thereby onset of CO2 in connection with typical MAM products like comforters and baby bottles does not lie in the production or transport, as originally believed, but in the utilisation stage.
So it is not about how laboriously the products are manufactured (it is about this as well of course, but not primarily), but more about how they are used. Therefore, the biggest wastage lies with the consumer and not the manufacturer. Of course this does not apply to every product, but in this case it did. Especially while heating, cleaning and sterilising MAM baby bottles, 98 percent of CO2 emissions incur. (Find more details here.)
The basis of calculations (database) and their accompanying realisations made it possible for our customer MAM to work determinedly on the optimisation of energy consumption in the utilisation stage. With the achievement of an incremental product innovation. Due to the relevant data the different processes along the life cycle were evaluated and an interesting item of information was discovered: the box used for transport and sterilization of the comforter not only provides a good way to transport the comforter; it also leads to huge energy and CO2 savings (up to 77% ). If you fill the box with water, put the comforter in and heat it in the microwave you have a perfect and sustainable sterilization method.
MAM was not only able to use this knowledge and the necessary data and facts for the development of a new add-on which makes a considerable difference to the efficiency of the existing product, but also for communication with its consumers. A CO2 data processor that can calculate their energy and CO2 efficiency is available for parents. (www.mambaby.com/at/co2-rechner) With the aid of concrete data it could be shown that not the production itself, but the utilisation stage is energy intensive. With this, MAM not only demonstrated where the biggest impact lies, but also made use of the chance to develop and provide a solution.
Because MAM’s main target group are young parents, this action as well as the increased transparency led to a great increase in trust and thus benefits for the image of the brand.
Industry: Manufacturing Industry
Using lignified biomass as raw material for the production of new materials.
The three projects Lignorefinery I and II and ITACON were intended to develop strategies for the complete use of lignified biomass as a raw material. This work was conducted by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) Vienna, denkstatt GmbH, Österreichische Bundesforste, the TDZ Ennstal and the technology partner Fermtech.
The focus is on utilizing lignocellulose biomass in a modular way and on making various products that, in the past, could only be manufactured from petroleum. For instance, it is possible to make dimensionally stable aerogels based entirely on lignin. Aerogels are ultra-light, highly porous materials with a growing number of technical applications, such as high-performance thermal and acoustic insulation, substrate for catalysts and filter systems, and electrode material for electrochemical applications.
The second major stream was the production of lactic acid and itaconic acid from biomass sources. Itaconic acid, another precursor for polymers, could until now only be produced under very specialized conditions. Itaconic acid and its derivatives can be employed as building blocks in chemical synthesis. For instance, it can be decarboxylated and then esterified to make methyl methacrylate, which is then turned into plexiglass.
denkstatt’s task in this 5-year long series of projects was overall project management and the development of the business plan as well as the ecological assessment of a theoretical lignorefinery.
The final goal was to attract investors for the idea and find a production site for actually producing these new materials.
Our worked showed that the production is economically competitive on an industrial level and has better ecological performance than the compared product based on petroleum.
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