Climate protection increases competitiveness

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'How can I get my management to do something or more for climate protection?' This leading question was discussed at a meeting of the energy efficiency and climate protection network Südwestfalen-Rheinland.

The network is run by the VDMA in cooperation with ProduktionNRW and meets four times a year to focus on various topics. At the meeting on August 25, 2021, the focus was on climate protection. Dr. Andreas Gahl addressed the topic of "climate-neutral production" from the perspective of the management.

With passion, the road to climate neutrality works out
Gahl has been managing the business of Mendener Präzisionsrohr GmbH MPG since 2004. MPG is a medium-sized company in the Sauerland region of North Rhine-Westphalia, a region where the effects of climate change are particularly visible: Storms like Kyrill have severely decimated the tree population. Added to this are drought and bark beetles. This summer, heavy rainfall also flooded cellars and houses around the Hönne River in Menden, causing extensive damage. The natural disasters are piling up, spurring him and his 150 employees to do more for climate protection - and to do so with passion: "We have committed ourselves to climate-neutral production by 2030 at the latest, even though our production is very energy-intensive with an annual electricity consumption of around 11.5 GWh," said Gahl. MPG produces copper alloy heat exchanger tubes with sales of around 36 million euros. In the last two years alone, MPG has saved 15 to 20 percent energy, and a total of around 35 percent since 2005! Furthermore, the company's own generation share in terms of electricity is around 15 percent from photovoltaics and combined heat and power. In addition, the medium-sized company purchases an above-average proportion of green electricity compared with the national average. All these measures together have led to a halving of CO2 emissions since 2005.

A clear message to all entrepreneurs in NRW
The example shows: Not only corporations, - also medium-sized companies can achieve climate neutrality, because: "All measures are economical and amortize over time! In this respect, I can only advise to take the right steps now", Gahl added. He considers climate protection to be fundamentally more important than profit targets: "Without climate protection, no company will be competitive in the future: For one thing, the follow-up costs of climate change are enormous. For another, in the future our customers will place their orders according to sustainable aspects." With this message, the Managing Director is addressing above all the entrepreneurs who have so far been putting on the brakes when it comes to climate protection: "Entrepreneurs from the mechanical and plant engineering sector must secure long-term prospects and think far-sightedly. The industry is also an important creator of climate-protecting technologies and innovations. With this dual role, there is no way around climate protection and energy efficiency!"

For small and medium-sized companies, the path to climate neutrality initially involves a high financial burden. One of the participants in the energy efficiency network reported that even the conversion to LEDs - despite short payback periods - "fell on deaf ears of the management". This does not seem to be an isolated case: Also two further participants of the network meeting reported to similar difficulties, while financially strong medium-size enterprises and companies can announce already soon like the enterprise from the sour country the climatic neutrality: We come meanwhile more easily to financial means, if we improve our energy efficiency - it could be however still better!", meant one of the participants of a larger company from the Rhineland.

Tips in the exchange of experience
In the exchange of experiences, solutions were discussed on how to make one's voice heard by the management on this important topic. It is important that employees submit suggestions. But the 'green' jolt must always be announced by top management. An important tip from Gahl was to appoint key people: "I have persuaded our technical manager and electrician to get involved with the issues! This happens in parallel with the actual work. The key people know that I support the goals. That provides additional motivation!" In addition, one of the first steps is to anchor climate and energy efficiency in the corporate strategy. After all, lenders will also pay more attention in the future to whether companies are gearing up for the green economy and thus remain competitive.  

Conclusion: Better not to wait, but to start now
All participants agreed that every company must make an above-average contribution to the climate. The earth is already at one degree Celsius of warming and within the next 20 years the 1.5 degree threshold will already be exceeded, according to a status report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The pressure on climate protection measures is therefore likely to increase further: "It is important to provide financial support to those companies that really want to do so and have firmly anchored the issue in their corporate strategy," says Gahl with conviction, adding: "The longer companies wait to address the issues now - the more expensive it will be in the end! After all, achieving a high level of energy and climate efficiency requires many small steps and these take time: we started 14 years ago to get to where we are now!"

Use NRW industrial initiative for decarbonization!
Further networking opportunities arise through the NRW industry initiative for decarbonization with ProduktionNRW, kunstofflandNRW and Siemens-Energy! The industry initiative aims to promote exchange as well as knowledge transfer and proactive action around environmentally friendly technologies and green innovations. The event is listed here.

Further information

Organizer
The event is offered by VDMA in cooperation with ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the competence network of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is implemented by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform for networking, informing and marketing companies, institutions and networks among themselves and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).