Interview with Dr. Andreas Bruns, Member of the Sustainability Council for Infrastructure Services and Safety, Health and Environment (Corporate SHE)

Industrial companies are not exactly viewed by the public as decided proponents of sustainability. Why is this so, do you think?

Dr. Andreas Bruns: Industry has an image problem here, in my opinion. Many ordinary citizens don’t know very much about the way industrial companies operate, and so are quick to criticize them purely on emotional grounds, especially when it comes to companies that produce or process chemicals, like Henkel. However, people often forget that it is industry, in particular, which creates the basis for society’s prosperity today – by creating jobs, paying salaries and taxes, and developing products that offer an increase in social value added. Seen from this angle, Henkel is important for sustainable development. We are the ones who drive forward the efficiency of resource management, processes, and products worldwide. And this is why we engage in a dialogue with our stakeholders, so that we can improve our industry’s image.

How can manufacturing operations be made both sustainable and efficient?

Dr. Andreas Bruns: At Henkel, sustainability means achieving a balance between social, ecological and economic goals. Sustainability therefore includes efficiency. And far from being a contradiction or restriction, economic efficiency is very much inherent to any strategy for sustainability. That, too, is often forgotten in the public debate.

How do you put this into practice?

Dr. Andreas Bruns: We look for intelligent solutions that are capable of meeting requirements in all three dimensions. For example, environmentally sound, resource-conserving ways of making the company more efficient. Paying our employees fair wages and salaries and treating them with respect increases productivity and makes the company more successful. Technological advances and knowledge transfer are vitally important, too. To give you an example, the Infrastructure Services department has launched a project called “Excellence in Site Service.” All factories around the world are systematically examined, looking at energy and water consumption, environmental performance and safety, maintenance and site logistics – up to and including the quality of the canteens or cafeterias.

Where do you see the biggest challenges in implementing new and different improvement measures?

Dr. Andreas Bruns: Difficulties arise when one of our improvements causes a new problem to appear elsewhere. As an example, the switch to concentrated liquid laundry detergents enabled us to achieve considerable savings in water and materials in our production facilities. On the other hand, relative energy consumption – i.e. per metric ton of output – increased, as the energy consumed is distributed over a smaller weight of output. The more seriously and intensively a company seeks to achieve sustainable development, the more often it will be confronted with conflicts like this.

My Report
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