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Interview: ISO 14001-certified environmental management

Environmental management professionalized in line with international standard

In this interview, the people behind CHG-MERIDIAN’s ISO 14001-certified environmental management tell us more about its ambitious goals.

The ISO 14001 certification of all sites in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland is a clear sign that CHG-MERIDIAN is serious about environmental protection and about systematically aligning its activities accordingly. Csaba Kallai, Head of Logistics & Production, and Alfred Korbmacher, a consultant at the technology center in Gross-Gerau, tell us more.

CHG-MERIDIAN HAS BEEN ISO 14001 CERTIFIED SINCE THE END OF 2021. HAS THE COMPANY’S ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT BEEN REBUILT FROM SCRATCH?

Csaba Kallai: No, we are building on existing processes and certifications. But the certification has allowed us to establish a professional environmental management system at CHG-MERIDIAN across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It goes hand in hand with our sustainability strategy and gives us a framework for using targets and KPIs to improve our performance in this area. 

WHAT BENEFITS DOES ISO CERTIFICATION OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT OFFER?

CK: ISO 14001 is now the established standard in the market for comparing companies’ commitment to the environment. It has become important to our stakeholders and is increasingly a criterion in calls for tenders. And it has a positive impact on our sustainability ratings. In the past, we had to go to great lengths to show customers which measures we have taken to conserve resources, for example. Now everything is documented and transparent. 

Alfred Korbmacher: ISO certification is a useful tool for us. We are integrating it into all processes across the company, from production to sales. 

“The ISO 14001 certification and our sustainability strategy go hand in hand,” says Csaba Kallai (right). For his colleague Alfred Korbmacher (left) the task now is to embed the new guidelines.

 

WHY DO YOU NEED TO DO THIS NOW?

AK: Fundamentally, it is about our corporate responsibility and about embedding sustainability even more firmly at CHG-MERIDIAN. What’s more, sustainability is moving ever closer to the top of policymakers’ agendas, and the legal requirements that oblige companies to act more sustainably are becoming stricter. Unfortunately, many businesses are still too passive in this regard, citing costs as the reason, so policymakers are likely to increase the pressure as a consequence. Companies that fail to act risk being overtaken by legal requirements for greater sustainability, and may find themselves unprepared. That is why it will benefit CHG-MERIDIAN to be proactive.  

WHAT TARGETS HAVE YOU SET IN THE COURSE OF THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS?

CK: We have defined several targets: To reduce our corporate emissions, i.e. our greenhouse gas emissions, per employee by 25 percent by 2025 compared to 2020, and to maintain the proportion of returned assets that we refurbish at the current high level of 96 percent. We also aim to further reduce the waste generated in our production processes and in administration, and to make greater use of recycled materials. And finally, we aim to use 20 percent less plastic packaging and replace this proportion with natural, biodegradable materials by 2024.

AK: Becoming carbon-neutral is at the top of our agenda, so where can we avoid CO2 emissions altogether, or at least reduce them as much as possible? We want to make a real contribution in this area, and our goal is to keep on reducing our corporate emissions and thus the need to offset them. 

HOW ARE YOU GOING ABOUT THIS?

AK: The task now is to embed the new guidelines. This will be achieved through training, by getting the employees involved, and by carrying out checks at regular intervals. We will evaluate across our operations how we can contribute to achieving our goals and what is economically feasible. For example, you have to consider on a case-by-case basis whether refurbishment makes sense or will consume too much electricity. That too is a matter of impact.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WHEN IMPLEMENTING ISO 14001?

CK: Time was a significant factor, of course. But we started from a position of strength and were able to benefit from the fact that we have undergone a number of certification processes already. We started with ISO 9001 [quality management system] almost three years ago, which gave us a basic understanding. All certifications follow the basic structure of the ISO management system standards, known as ‘high-level structure’. So it was not a matter of rebuilding a management system, but of adapting it.  

AK: We underwent ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety) certification at the same time in our technology center in Gross-Gerau, as they complement each other in many areas. On top of that, three renewals were due in 2021 for ISO 27001, ISO 9001, and BSI Basic Protection.

CK: Of all these, ISO 14001 last year was the biggest challenge. Nonetheless, we implemented it in a very short period of time. Achieving that in one country is quite a feat, but we actually managed to complete it in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

AK: We have set our sights high. Even the auditors said that our targets are ambitious and that we have put in place a very respectable management system in just a short space of time.  

“Of the five certifications, ISO 14001 in 2021 was the biggest challenge. Nonetheless, we implemented it in a very short period of time – and not only for all our locations in Germany, but also in Austria and Switzerland.”
Csaba Kallai, Head of Logistics & Production

IS GLOBAL CERTIFICATION THE NEXT STEP?

CK: That will depend on our stakeholders and what is important to them. ISO 14001 is very important in the German-speaking countries, but less so in the USA. But the next step is definitely to further strengthen our environmental management at the global level and to drive it forward it throughout the company. 

Thank you for talking to us today. 

 

Kurzinfo: ISO 14001

ISO 14001 is a standard for corporate environmental management systems that is accepted and used around the world. As part of a respected set of standards, ISO 14001 defines the requirements for environmental management systems. In order to be certified, a company has to establish a corporate environmental policy, set environmental targets, and have an environmental program. A central task is to establish a management system that works toward achieving the goals and ensures continuous improvement. This enables a company to reduce its impact on the environment and continuously improve its environmental performance.

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