The operating divisions belonging to our Group are active in a variety of environments which are each shaped by particular ecological, socio-economic, and political characteristics:
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COFFEE AND COFFEE CULTIVATION
In our value creation area Coffee and Coffee Cultivation, the cultivation, harvesting, and processing of coffee beans in particular is associated with sustainability-related challenges. This applies to working standards, payment systems, human rights, competition and corruption activities, social security systems, gender equality, the use of pesticides and fertilizers, or the cultivation of land. Many of the countries in which coffee is grown, harvested, and processed are also severely affected by climate change and its consequences. In addition, sustainability-relevant challenges also arise in the following stages of the value creation chain, for example in transport, roasting, and packaging.
In 2020, we procured around 200,568 tonnes of raw coffee in total, of which 24.7 percent had corresponding sustainability certificates and labels. Our market position enables us to exert influence – in certain areas – on some of the above-mentioned challenges. We can achieve an even greater impact by joining forces with other coffee-producing companies and other organizations in the coffee sector, such as the Global Coffee Platform.
We regard climate change – and the related ecological developments, such as the decrease in biodiversity – as a threat to both our own business model and those of our business partners. The consequences of a significant rise in global temperatures include weather conditions and extreme events which might make it much harder to procure raw materials, such as green beans and pulp. Similar negative effects would result from deficits in labor standards, remuneration systems, respect for human rights, restrictions of free competition, social security systems, gender equality, and the use of pesticides and fertilizers in those countries in which we source raw coffee.
Opportunities, risks and conclusions
In order to address climate change and the other sustainability-related challenges in our supply chain, our aim is that by 2030 at the latest all of the raw coffee we source and all of the roasted coffee we sell is what we call the “Coffee of the Future”. This coffee is grown in a way which enables all people involved locally to live comfortably in the long term and which preserves or regenerates the local ecological systems. It is processed, transported, and roasted in a climate-friendly way which also uses water sustainably. Its packaging is recyclable and – whenever possible – reusable or made from recycled materials. It is prepared in an energy-saving fashion and – insofar as the corresponding structures exist – the coffee grounds are recovered in the most environmentally compatible way (materials recovery, composting) in line with the principle of a circular economy.
PLASTICS AND PLASTIC PRODUCTS
In our value creation area Plastics and Plastic Products, the ecological impact of plastics in our environment that do not decompose, or only slowly, presents the main sustainability-relevant challenges. If plastics do not enter the materials or energy recovery system, they can pollute soils and bodies of water for decades. Studies show that no effective collection, sorting, and recycling systems are used in many countries, meaning that the lion’s share of plastics produced worldwide are not adequately recycled or recovered.
In our Household Products business field, we produce a large number of different household and food packaging films for domestic and commercial use. We are also one of Europe’s largest suppliers of garbage bags and vacuum cleaner bags. Our operating division ACW-Film develops, produces, and supplies various composite films for the storage and transportation of food for the consumer goods industry. In 2020, we purchased a total of 53,539 tonnes of plastics and used them in our products. Of this total, 7,528 tonnes came from post-consumer or post-industrial recyclates (=14% of the total volume). Our products therefore contribute to a potential environmental impact, also via the greenhouse gas emissions associated with production.
Given its detrimental effect on the environment, people are becoming increasingly critical of the use of plastic. At the same time, however, there are growing demands with regard to hygiene, durability, ease of handling and efficient transport, especially in the food sector. Companies that produce plastics are called upon to research and use alternative materials and to help establish a globally functioning recycling system for plastics.
Opportunities, risks and conclusions
We firmly believe that consistently and comprehensively implementing the circular economy principle can reduce the environmental impact of plastics. After all, from a holistic viewpoint, plastics have a better eco-balance in many applications than many other materials. We therefore advocate a reorganization of plastics production and recycling in line with the approach “ReCycle – ReUse – ReDuce – ReDesign”. Our approach is based on the “Plastic of the Future”: this is made from recycled and/or sustainable, renewable raw materials in a climate- and resource-friendly manner and can be used multiple times. In addition, it undergoes materials recycling at the end of its useful life or, if no disposal structures are available, it biodegrades fully in the natural world. We aim to achieve this “Plastic of the Future” by continuously developing our products and their value creation chains; in some cases, we require partnerships to achieve this, for example the establishment of nationwide collection and recycling systems.
PAPER AND PULP
Environment In our value creation area Paper and Pulp, the production process in particular is associated with sustainability-relevant challenges. As pulp is usually made from wood fibers, virgin wood is needed for the production of primary material. Large quantities of water and chemicals and a great deal of energy are used to produce new paper from these wood fibers. This in turn results in various types of pollution and high CO2 emissions. In addition, many countries lack structures to implement sustainable forestry. The consequences are uncontrolled logging, a reduction in the stock of trees, and a monoculture of fast-growing tree species that influences the ecosystem. In addition to these environmental impacts, pulp production can give rise to humanitarian and social challenges.
We are involved in paper production in particular with our coffee filter paper business. In addition, our operating division Neu Kaliss/Neukölln Spezialpapier offers special papers and nonwovens for commercial applications. The operating division Wolf PVG uses pulp – for example for the production of vacuum cleaner bags. In 2020, we procured a total of 51,037 tonnes of pulp. Of this total, 99.3 percent were certified according to FSC® or PEFC™, the standards for responsible forestry management.
The prices of resources required for the production of paper (above all pulp, water and energy) have risen steadily in recent years due to increasing sustainability requirements. Not least because of this, companies in the paper manufacturing industry have made great efforts to ensure that their production processes are as efficient as possible. In addition, growing customer demands for paper from sustainable sources have led to a significant increase in the proportion of wood from sustainable forestry since 2000. At the same time, the global pressure on forests has increased significantly due to the expansion of the bioeconomy, climate change-related developments such as extreme weather events, and deforestation for agriculture.
Opportunities, risks and conclusions
As well as procuring raw materials cultivated in a fashion which respects human rights and complies with widely accepted environmental and social standards, we pay close attention to efficiency and the conservation of resources when manufacturing our paper products. We have made great strides in this regard over the last few years, e.g. the installation of a circular waste management system for scrap paper in the paper conversion plant in Minden. We will continue on our path toward increasingly resource-efficient paper production using sustainably sourced pulps. At the same time, we will intensify our collaboration with initiatives and organizations which ensure and monitor compliance with the agreed sustainability standards, and which promote their increased consideration. Our aim is to switch to using recycled paper and pulp wherever possible by 2025. In cases where this is not possible for legal or other reasons, we will only use forestry resources from certified, sustainably managed forests.
Our work here is guided by the concept of the “Pulp of the Future”: this comes from recycled or sustainably managed sources, is processed in a climate-friendly way which uses water sustainably, undergoes material recycling at the end of its useful life, and biodegrades fully in the natural world.
As well as using energy, electrical appliances contribute toward the emission of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, the useful life of the appliance and the recyclability of the materials utilized have an effect on environmental pollution. Often, electrical appliances also contain harmful substances which can be detrimental to health and the environment if they are not disposed of correctly.
We offer various electrical appliances in our Coffee Preparation business field. These include filter coffeemakers, fully automatic coffee machines, electric kettles and milk frothers, as well as single-serve systems. In addition to this, our operating divisions Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions and Fresh at Work produce high-performance, fully automatic coffee machines for companies, hotels, and the food service industry, or rent them out as part of a comprehensive service offering.
As a result of rising expectations regarding the sustainability of our electrical appliances and our own commitment to integrating sustainability requirements into our product ranges, we have been one of the market leaders in measuring the sustainability of our electrical appliances using the MISSION eco & care grading system since 2013. The catalog of criteria used for this system covers the manufacturing process (e.g. proportion of environmentally compatible materials, energy consumption, packaging, working conditions) as well as usage (e.g. energy efficiency, product safety, service life), and the recyclability or disposal of the appliance. We publish the summarized result of this evaluation in the form of stars so that consumers can quickly and easily inform themselves about the appliance’s sustainability.
Opportunities, risks and conclusions
Our positive experience of MISSION eco & care has led us to expand this grading system and apply it to other products offered by our Group. Our expectation in doing so is not merely to fulfill legal requirements around the world – some of which are already demanding – but also to play a pioneering role in the development of sustainable electrical appliances. Our target is that by 2030 all electrical appliances distributed by Melitta will be best-in-class in their respective markets in terms of energy consumption, durability, their use of sustainable materials, and repair and service offerings. Our work here is guided by the concept of the “Electrical Appliance of the Future”, by which we mean a product which consists of recovered and/or responsibly sourced raw materials and components, is produced in compliance with globally recognized human rights and labor standards, meets the highest standards in terms of quality, including useful life and product transparency, can be used in a way which conserves energy and resources, can be repaired, also using spare parts, and is reused or recovered at the end of its useful life (provided the corresponding structures are in place). One challenge for us is the diversity of our product range. On the one hand, this diversity makes further development more difficult from a sustainability perspective, but on the other hand it also offers opportunities for synergies.