A development report by Clemens Küpper, managing director of Eisengiesserei Baumgarte GmbH in Bielefeld:
In 2019, our company started into the topic of "sustainability". Until then, there were hardly any enquiries from customers with self-created questionnaires. Usually, these questionnaires asked about topics like "child labour etc.".
As a German/European company, it was always easy to refer to the general laws, which were usually much higher than the requirements mentioned in these questionnaires. Increasingly, however, it was no longer possible to answer these with "yes" and "no", but documents were also requested. Although these requests were sometimes labour-intensive, they remained manageable on the whole.
This changed for our company with a request from a major client for a so-called "Ecovadis Rating". Completely unaware of the actual requirements, we started to approach and fill out the extensive questionnaire of the Ecovadis company. There were one or two surprises and ambiguities, but we endeavoured to give as many correct or even descriptive answers as possible with the existing documents. The management had planned to do this on their own, as they still considered themselves quite competent in this field at that time. Conclusion: We approached this topic rather naively.
On the way to the Ecovadis Silver Medal
After several weeks of intensive work, many scans and written formulations, the assessment process was initiated and we waited anxiously for the result. Ecovadis had sent us a questionnaire tailored to our company and our sector. In this respect, we were able to find ourselves in most of the questions. However, we do not want to imagine what the scope of these questions would be if we were active in a different form of company, e.g. a public limited company.
Nevertheless, after a few weeks we had the result of the rating: silver medal we had achieved. Close. After all the effort, we were a little disappointed. But we could see that with this result we were indeed one of the few German foundries - and possibly also among the European foundries - that were rated at all and that then also achieved such a result.
In the end, we were proud of what we had achieved. The seed had been sown and the ambition was also awakened. We revisited the issue in 2021 and independently sought a reassessment. We took the matter very seriously and sought intensive support from a sustainability consultancy. The management then also realised that we cannot do everything ourselves, and we set ourselves up as a team in the company to properly fulfil these now more extensive requirements. Our senior employee in controlling, who is also responsible for all questions concerning energy management, etc., has thankfully dealt with this topic in a very committed way. Based on the advice we received, we knew what was in store for us.
New sustainability management
In just a few weeks, we developed the basic framework of a sustainability management system and provided all necessary areas with guidelines and action plans.
We created sustainability guidelines for the following areas and evaluated them intensively based on the data for the year 2020:
2. labour and human rights
4. sustainable procurement
This resulted in an internal management system that is only slightly smaller in scope than the quality management system. Especially the many new topics (e.g. impact on our environment, water consumption, carbon footprint, ethics in human resources management as well as in procurement) had not been formulated precisely enough before. We took this as an opportunity to describe, work through and evaluate fundamental issues in-house.
Thus equipped, we submitted the reassessment to the company Ecovadis at the beginning of 2022. We knew that with the same commitment and the same number of points as two years ago, we would not have achieved silver again. The requirements for the assessment system are constantly being adapted and in order to become better, a higher score must also be achieved. The result came in March 2022 with the silver medal result. Even though this was again not what we had hoped for in the first moment compared to all the work, we had to see again that we are again pioneers in the industry and belong to the best 6% of the foundry industry of all foundries evaluated by Ecovadis. This makes us proud. We have also realised that the rating can be improved if we increasingly have external audits carried out by certified social responsibility companies. We have so far avoided this relatively costly process in the area of human resources management of ethics and also environmental and waste management. However, we plan to have another assessment carried out in two years' time. Perhaps we will then go the way of a more extensive external audit and aim for the next higher level - a gold status.
Congratulations to Eisengiesserei Baumgarte GmbH in Bielefeld and special thanks to Managing Director Clemens Küpper for the interesting insight into setting the course for new rules in favour of a more sustainable world.