Sustainable Innovation has quite a few overlaps with Environment and Resources, seeing as many projects and programs to achieve our climate and energy goals, waste reduction, resource efficiency or material recycling require innovative approaches in addition to efficiency and effectiveness – especially in our industry. Nevertheless, it is important to us that there is a specific focus on the topic of innovation as a separate field of action. Why? Because innovation and embedding sustainability in the innovation strategy and all research and development processes is highly relevant for us as well as our stakeholders. We’re thinking long-term, and that requires a strategic field of action for Sustainable Innovation.
There are six SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) by the UN, which we are contributing to in this strategic field:
SDG 17 is of particular importance to us, as we know how essential it is to work together to reach our goals. Strong partnerships and joint development projects with customers, research institutions and suppliers are the way to go to realize innovative ideas and projects, which is why our Research and Development (R&D) team is of utmost importance.
Our R&D Department has had sustainability on its radar for a while now, and this is reflected in the various programs and iniatives that are already firmly established within the company. Let us take our Innovation Award, for example. We strive to continously drive effectiveness and efficiency by generating innovative ideas, products and technologies with minimal development times and a rapid market launch. For this, we call on the tremendous resources we have of bright-minded, motivated employees spread around the world and ask them to submit projects. These projects are then evaluated, voted for and developed over the course of a year until the Innovation Award winners are chosen. The evaluation criteria for this process are based on innovation and include economic, social and ecological aspects.
Ever since 2015, when we first introduced this iniative, wonderfully innovative ideas have become reality. In the fiscal year 2019/2020, for example, we had 23 submissions – 19 technical and 8 administrative projects. Each of the eight finalist projects scored above average in the clustered assessment criteria quality, environment, health, safety, values and people. Four of those even scored particularly high in the sustainability categories, which we see as an indicator for the growing awareness and importance of environmental and social responsibility that is permeating the entire company.
We also give projects a Sustainability Award, which a team in our plant in Fehring won in 2019/2020. They developed an inexpensive and efficient solution to prevent the waste of resources caused by the carryover of chemicals and valuable materials such as gold in wet processes. In addition, the process was realized maintaining maximum energy efficiency.
Another of our initiatives, which is gaining more and more traction is the Digital Transformation Program (DTP). Together with the Fraunhofer Institute Austria, we are presently working on six strategic fields of action: management and organization development, employee development, Industry 4.0 technology, data use and automation of production and administrative processes. Some of our internal experts have been defined as “Digital Leaders” for these fields of action and will drive the respective fields to further push digitalization within the company.
There are many more initiatives, partnerships and programs we are working on, such as our Digital Energy Twin – and there are many more to come. This blog post was only a brief overview, as seems to always be the case when attempting to unravel the gigantic topic of sustainability in a corporation of our size. Overall, however, it is clear that sustainability, as well as social and ecological responsibility, feed into all parts of our company.
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