The coronavirus pandemic is the reason why many things are currently having to take a back seat. Still, sustainability is playing an ever-growing role in today's society. This is reflected primarily in people's consumer habits, because demand for environmentally friendly products is on the rise – even in the stationery sector. One company is attaching particularly great importance to sustainability. In 2019, it received yet again the Sustainable Company of the Year award: Schneider Schreibgeräte GmbH.
Today, Schneider Schreibgeräte is a leading international brand for writing implements and offers a full line of quality products, all bearing the Made in Germany quality seal. Yet it is not only the love of writing and script, but also environmental responsibility that are deeply enshrined in its corporate policy. In an interview with Christian Schneider, managing director and owner of Schneider Schreibgeräte GmbH, he tells us more about how he espouses sustainability within the company.
Sustainability as a topic is playing an ever more important role in our society. How relevant is this trend for Schneider Schreibgeräte?
That's right, the matter has finally found its way into our society! We increasingly feel that our customers have become more open and accessible for these topics compared to a few years ago. We began at an early point in time and started looking into resource-preserving and environmentally caring procedures when it was still frowned upon by many. Schneider considered the implementation of an environmental management system as far back as 1995, and in 1998 it was the first company in our industry to be EMAS-certified. We have been revalidating the certificate ever since. ISO 14001 started in 1996 only and then merged with EMAS. You see, sustainability is of great importance to the company. We are pleased that in combination with environmental protection, it is becoming a more prominent topic even in politics and business, too!
Which low-resource materials does Schneider Schreibgeräte use to produce its writing implements?
Schneider has been using bio-based plastics for many years and performing pioneering work in this segment. Bio-based plastics offer the same great qualities for writing implements compared to conventional plastics. Thus they are an equal and long-term alternative. It is our goal for the future to optimise bio-based raw materials, also in terms of how they are sourced and disposed of.
Next to bio-based plastics we are increasingly counting on recycled plastics. The preparation of the recyclate requires much less energy than, for example, the extraction of crude oil which is the crude feedstock for new plastics. Using recycled plastics also helps to preserve increasingly scarce raw materials and energy sources. The recycled plastics that we use are tested by an independent testing body and are DIN EN ISO 14021-certified.
When developing products like these, it is extremely important to us that we don't feature special product lines and instead continue to appeal to a broad target group and highlight this with an economically and ecologically sensible production process.
There is naturally more to the term sustainability than the simple use of eco-friendly materials for products and packaging. Which measures has Schneider Schreibgeräte taken when it comes to production?
The very same year we became EMAS-certified we took a major step towards switching our complete electricity requirements to regenerative energy sources. Beyond this, our proprietary CHP and the photovoltaic system installed at the factory generate our electricity. Also lowering the general consumption of electricity, such as by using energy-efficient machinery, computers and printers, significantly improved our energy and carbon footprint. Emissions at our Tennenbronn site fell by almost 80 % over the past ten years in relation to the product volume. Thanks to renovations and energy efficiency measures we were also able to save 50 % of our heating power, despite having added buildings.
Our company also places special attention on mobility. The vehicles in our fleet have been replaced by more energy-efficient, low-emission models, electrical vehicles and hybrids. Our employees can use a complimentary company bus to commute to work or lease an electric bicycle. This cuts out emissions on the way to work already. Business trips – with a few exceptions only – must mandatorily be undertaken by train. These are only a few of the measures that we have taken.
Congratulations on your Sustainable Company of the Year 2019 award – and for your first Blue Angel for the Reco ballpoint pen. Do you already have plans and ideas on how Schneider Schreibgeräte can become even more sustainable?
Thank you! The prizes and awards as well as the nomination for the German Sustainability Award very much emphasise and reward our environmental commitment. To be awarded the first Blue Angel for a ballpoint pen makes us particularly proud because Blue Angel standards are highly demanding, especially for a ballpoint pen. The Blue Angel is the oldest and best-known eco-label worldwide, and consumers are widely familiar with it. At this point in time, there are only eight certified writing implements, seven of which are made by Schneider.
When it comes to production and established products, we question time and again which possible improvements in relation to sustainability can be achieved. To protect the environment and nature’s finite resources, the search for new solutions is indispensable. The use of bio-based plastics and recycled materials preserves finite resources. This is why we decided to increasingly use these materials for our writing implements.
Product quality and durability stand above all, because avoiding waste to begin with is still the best way to protect the environment. We therefore attach great importance to the fact that our products are refillable. Easy and clean refill options guarantee the unlimited use of our writing implements for many years.
In the meantime, numerous certificates are available. Do you have any advice for retailers which certificates to look out for in order to offer their customers a sustainable product range?
Of course, certificates provide great orientation. However, at times they can actually overwhelm consumers. Unfortunately, we see quite often that different topics, like products that are bio-based or recycled, are incorrectly communicated in advertising, or are intentionally ambiguous, to mislead consumers. We therefore advocate certificates because they help to introduce general guidelines and make it more difficult to greenwash a product. Since the EMAS certification stipulates that we publish our sustainability report, we create the maximum possible degree of transparency because it is important to us that we communicate our environmental management system in an honest and accurate manner. Even at product level we advocate transparency and have our raw materials tested for harmful substances by independent certification institutes. It is there, for instance, that they acknowledge the proportion of our recycling materials or the provenance of our raw materials for bio-based and recycled plastics.
For the retail trade, DinCertco and EuCertplast are most likely trustworthy certification bodies.
Thank you for this interview, Mr Schneider.
Ultimately there is no patent remedy for how companies should act during the crisis. Nevertheless, we do not want to deprive you of some useful measures. Have you ever thought of appointing a team of employees and management to coordinate measures during the crisis? Schneider Schreibgeräte, for example, has set up a "crisis management team". This team analyses and organises all protective measures for the company and evaluates them anew every day in order to optimise the measures and adapt them to the situation. It is also important to maintain a good communication flow. Schneider Schreibgeräte uses an internal employee app to ensure that every member of staff is always up to date.