Schneider-CEO Christian Schneider: “Many consumers ask for and prefer sustainable products. Specialist dealers can use the Slider series to expand their product line and reach new target groups.” Since September of this year, Schneider Schreibgeräte has been offering its Slider series of writing instruments as a climate-neutral option, becoming the sector’s first brand to do so. OPI spoke to Schneider to find out more about its latest sustainability efforts …*
OPI: What prompted Schneider to offer the Slider series of pens as a climateneutral product range?
Christian Schneider: Schneider Schreibgeräte has taken the concept of sustainability very seriously for many years now, with environmental responsibilities firmly anchored in the Company’s CSR policy. Since 1998, we have been following professional environmental policies in line with the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), a management instrument developed by the European Commission for companies and other organisations to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance.
EMAS is the strictest environmental management system in the world. We’ve had this certification renewed on a regular basis since that time, with the environmental declarations demonstrating continual improvements in environmental performance. Offering a climate-neutral range was the natural next step for us, so we began working with ClimatePartner to become even more active in climate protection. We wanted to integrate our sustainability focus directly with the product itself, thereby making our policies and beliefs that much more tangible for our customers.
OPI: Can you tell me a bit more about ClimatePartner?
CS: Of course. ClimatePartner is a leading business solutions provider in the area of climate protection, supporting companies from all fields. The company is a pioneer in integrative climate protection software and enables its clients to carry out efficient carbon management. In conjunction with ClimatePartner, Schneider has been calculating and logging the carbon footprint for our entire company.
OPI: What have you learned from that process so far and what’s been the outcome?
CS: The corporate carbon footprint discloses how much CO2 is generated by all of our activities. That footprint is then used as the foundation for developing concepts to reduce carbon emissions. Calculating the carbon footprint provides an array of other advantages, too. Analysing the data gives an overview of all business divisions and enables us to identify where there is the potential for reduction in terms of energy consumption, resource use and carbon emissions. For example, we learned that 75% of our carbon footprint, ie the vast majority of emissions, comes from the raw materials Schneider purchases. Our objective is to reduce that percentage and the level of emissions. That means the next step will be to intensively expand our environmental management to also include suppliers, ensuring complete consistency throughout the entire value chain.
OPI: How can you realistically bring that percentage number – and the amount of emissions – down substantially?
CS: Well, we cannot really reduce the amount of raw material we use per se, but we can analyse which type of raw materials produce the most emissions. Knowing that, we can then see if we can substitute that specific material with another, for example. We also aim to reduce supply sources and avoid long transportation journeys. Schneider has always chosen and preferred suppliers with their own environmental management policies, but the next step will be to specifically ask our suppliers to offer climate-neutral products to us. The intent is to motivate them to become an active participant of our environmental efforts. As such, we would become the driving force behind expanding our philosophy to protect the environment to others all along the supply chain.
OPI: Where is the connection between the entire company’s carbon footprint and your decision to make the Slider series climate neutral?
CS: Just like the corporate carbon footprint is used to reveal avoidable emissions throughout the company, the product carbon footprint quantifies the degree to which carbon emissions are generated by individual products. Thus the product carbon footprint that was identified for the Slider series provides Schneider with the opportunity to reduce these emissions. There will always be emissions that cannot be avoided, of course, so in collaboration with ClimatePartner Schneider has offset the exact volume of emissions generated by the Slider series by supporting an internationally recognised and certified carbon offset project. The process makes it possible to make a product completely climate neutral. And since greenhouse gases disperse evenly throughout the atmosphere, it is irrelevant whether CO2 is saved at the site where it is emitted or elsewhere.
OPI: Does that mean you are supporting a carbon offset project outside of your own company and away from your site?
CS: That’s correct. We are supporting an internationally recognised and certified project in North Rhine-Westphalia whereby emissions can be reduced with a transition to energy-efficient and/or regenerative boilers and furnaces.
OPI: What other added value does the climate-neutral Slider series offer your customers?
CS: Many consumers ask for and prefer sustainable products. Specialist dealers can use the Slider series to expand
their product line and reach new target groups. Since the pricing of the Slider series will not change, it will also be
easy for consumers to make the decision to go with sustainable products – there is no excuse for not using them.
Today, there are many companies directly involved in environmental protection that are looking to implement
a climate protection and ‘green office’ strategy. With the climate-neutral Slider series, Schneider is offering a building block, thereby contributing to improvement in environmental performance. Moreover, our commercial customers can use the Slider series to establish a competitive advantage using the low environmental impact of these products.
OPI: Why did you choose the Slider series as your first climate-neutral range?
CS: The Slider is our most popular product series internationally and has experienced the biggest growth in sales over the past two years. We have run many promotions, roadshows, etc, and wanted to give this range another USP.
OPI: Do you foresee other ranges to follow in the climate-neutral footsteps?
CS: The fact that we offer the Slider series as climate neutral should be seen as an initiative to highlight the emissions
caused by consumer goods. The calculation of a product’s carbon footprint and the offsetting of emissions is possible for all products we produce. However, offsetting these emissions comes at a price and everybody should contribute to paying that price. As I mentioned before, we know that 75% of our carbon emissions come from our suppliers. We cannot offset the emissions of all the raw materials we use, but we expect our suppliers to offer solutions to reduce those emissions caused by their products. They have to contribute and take responsibility. If they do, that will already have a big knock-on effect. So back to your question, it would be great and I’m sure there will come a time when our customers want to buy all of our products climate neutral. In theory, we could offer any product as a climate neutral option now, but it is of course somewhat dependent on customer demand and the ultimate cost associated with making that happen.
OPI: On the sustainability front and to conclude, in our last edition of Green Thinking a year ago, we reported on the free e-bike
scheme that your employees can use. How is that project progressing now?
CS: The e-bike scheme and our whole transportation policy – a key component of the environmental footprint discussion – are progressing well. We now have around 54 active cyclists using our free e-bikes to get to work instead of driving a car. There is also a free company bus, meaning emissions are being further reduced during the commute to work. Since May, we’ve also had an electric car available in our fleet for shorter business trips. Whenever feasible, however, rail has always been the mandatory form of transportation for business trips at Schneider.
OPI: That about wraps it up – thank you.
* The interview was first published in OPI Magazine, November 2014 issue: Office Products International (OPI) is a monthly magazine that reports on global issues affecting the office supplies sector. For more information visit www.opi.net.