Emmi Partner Portrait – Sustainability in Vocational Training

With the Sustainability in Vocational Training programme, Emmi Switzerland launched a company-wide initiative in the spring of 2017 that combines employee development and sustainability. Within this framework and together with myclimate, Emmi initiated a project competition for all trainees, the Emmi Company Challenge. Gerold Schatt, Head of Sustainability at Emmi, describes his impressions of the first-ever Company Challenge and how it aligns with the company's overall sustainability strategy.

Gerold Schatt, Sustainability Manager at Emmi Switzerland

Mr Schatt, now that we are halfway through the Emmi Company Challenge, could you please share your impressions with us?

Quite honestly, I have been pleasantly surprised by our trainees. Their commitment is impressive. As expected, many groups had some initial difficulties. This is the first time they were required to advance a project themselves in a professional environment. But this simply enhances the learning process.

Why has Emmi specifically chosen to make its trainees a part of the company sustainability strategy?

We at Emmi don't want to run a sustainability programme from our head office, we want to instil a sustainable attitude in as many employees as possible. This is entirely achievable. We are seeing this in the areas of costs and efficiency. Our employees have clearly taken the relevant considerations to heart.

In the future, decisions should also be intuitively examined with regards to sustainability. For this to be effective, however, habits must be changed. This is easier in the case of our trainees. We can convey a sustainable attitude to them right from the beginning. This will pay off in a few years, when these trainees are the managers and skilled professionals at our company.

Without trying to anticipate the votes of the jury and your employees, which project, which idea impressed you the most?

We have been impressed by the content of the projects, and we have been pleasantly surprised by the commitment and approach of the groups. As we are only half way through the challenge, I don't want to highlight any individual groups at this point. But I didn't expect that 21 out of 25 teams to take their projects beyond the obligatory criteria.

In the past, Emmi has had to deal with criticism for its stringent sustainability standards, above all, because it extends these to its suppliers. As a company in a competitive market, why has Emmi entered into such difficult terrain?

Precisely because we are in a highly competitive market. We are convinced that handling all resources responsibly is important for long-term success. In order to make a difference, you have to take an ambitious approach. As our first step, we set four concrete sustainability goals. Three of these we can achieve on our own. We need the assistance of the dairy farmers with the fourth. We had expected that not all of them would be enthusiastic upon hearing our plans. Ultimately, it is about selling as much Swiss milk as possible through sound argumentation for sustainability and by making a credible contribution to change. Everyone benefits from this.

In which areas relating to sustainability within the company do you see the biggest potential for Emmi in the coming years?

We have undertaken a proper materiality analysis and thereby identified topics that are important to our stakeholders and for which we can really make a difference. Within the company, these are primarily greenhouse gas emissions and waste. We see some potential in both of these areas. This is of course partly because we have made enormous progress in our Swiss operations in the last few years. We will now incorporate the experience we have gained into our operations abroad. We can really make a difference in this way.

Beyond this, there are also important sustainability issues that are posed outside of our business, but for which we nonetheless carry responsibility: our suppliers. Without sustainably sourced raw materials, we cannot produce any truly sustainable dairy products. Particularly when we look at environmental protection, a large proportion of the environmental impact comes from agriculture.

Emmi has also submitted itself for CDP evaluation in 2017 and worked together with myclimate in the process. What have you taken from this process that can be used by the company?

The CDP climate rating process is extremely demanding and comprehensive. As a company, you run the risk of losing yourself in the questions. For this reason, the support of myclimate was very valuable for us. They helped us prepare our submission with an excellent, lean and efficient process. As always in the case of ratings like this, the learning curve which the company goes through is a welcome additional benefit. The areas of activity become visible.

The 'B' rating that we have achieved shows us that this collaboration has been worthwhile. It is a welcome reward for the effort gone into the submission, but also for our efforts on the path towards decarbonisation.

Within the scope of the Emmi Company Challenge, all trainees have developed projects, which promote energy efficiency, sensitise employees to this issue, or otherwise help to reduce greenhouse gases. The most creative and effective projects will be chosen by Emmi employees and awarded prizes in February.

All participating trainees are also taking part in the national competition of the myclimate Energy and Climate Laboratory. This offers trainees and Emmi a further platform on which to present their ideas on energy and climate.

More information on the format of the "Company Challenge"

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