In this interview Minka St. James, head of Business Development with Schmidbauer GmbH & Co. KG, explores the sustainability strategy of their company.
REH: What particular challenges does sustainability pose for a medium-sized company such as Schmidbauer?
Minka St. James: “As a family company dating back 90 years, one of our main aims is, of course, to pass the business and our planet onto the next generation in the best possible condition. We’re facing these changes openly and courageously. This means that valued processes and familiar interests are being scrutinised, improved and sometimes redefined. In addition to building and resource-saving measures, we’ve also implemented the EU Directive on the Protection of Whistleblowers this year. A public whistleblower system has been established for this purpose, which can be used to report legal violations (with the option to also do this anonymously). We’re also getting to grips with the Supply Chain Act, as well as the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which are also European Union guidelines. According to these guidelines, capital market-focused companies of our size must make detailed sustainability information clearly measurable from 2025 onwards. The existing reporting obligations are therefore being extended to include new European sustainability reporting standards that provide clear guidelines for disclosing information on environmental, social and governance issues."
We introduced the EcoVadis sustainability management assessment system in 2022. Our operations are subject to the statutory regulations and ethical standards which our company is committed to. Our efforts are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, as well as respect for all internationally recognised human rights. For us, implementing this responsibility for people, society and the environment is an active process involving the continuous improvement of all areas of our business.
The SDGs are political, internationally recognised targets focussing on global challenges. More than 150 countries unanimously agreed these goals at the United Nations in 2015. They are intended to fundamentally change the world for the better by 2030, end global poverty and hunger, combat inequalities in and between countries, build peaceful, fair and inclusive societies, protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, protect our planet and its natural resources and thereby create permanently sustainable economic growth for all.
For a medium-sized firm, in our case with around 600 employees, these numerous new laws and guidelines also involve a great deal of administrative effort, which results in capacity bottlenecks due to the daily shortage of skilled workers. We don’t have a separate department where staff explicitly manage these issues on a full-time basis. Our day-to-day business goes on. Nevertheless, we aim to actively help shape the future and know there is more to do. We expect our partners and suppliers to comply with and support our values, which are described in our Code of Conduct. We regard ourselves as a role model in our industry, thanks to our reliability and stability, and hope that others aspire to responsible business practices that exceed the regulations.”
REH: That sounds very interesting. What is included in this Code of Conduct? What have you based it on?
Minka St. James: “At Schmidbauer, we primarily focus on five of the SDGs that are particularly relevant to our everyday business. When transporting heavy loads, excellent performance must be ensured on many levels. We’re always mindful of the need to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in a project. In order to meet employees’ needs, we place greater emphasis on values such as diversity and family orientation and purposefully strive for excellent teamwork and a culture of trust within the company. Innovation is an essential topic. By promoting technological developments, one of our aims is to develop ideas within our company that are viable for the future. Synergies from ecosystems and partnerships like those in the EEHH Cluster Agency are vital for this.
The issues are complex and the SDGs not only help us to combat the symptoms, but also identify the actual problems and change the way we think. Structure and perseverance are required, because nothing happens overnight. What really matters is that we’re aware of our responsibility and are moving in the right direction together.“
REH: Why are energy transition and sustainability particularly important topics for you?
Minka St. James: “For me, the future isn’t just an extension of the present. I’m convinced that we’re all witnessing and contributing to history. But we also have to believe that change and reorganisation are possible. This comes with a certain responsibility, which everyone can accept to an appropriate extent. Personally, I’ve made a commitment to leave the next generation a worthwhile future with at least a few potential solutions. That’s why I’m committed to the energy transition, among other things. But energy transformation alone isn’t enough. We’re in a period of global upheaval across society that we must overcome together. We should use social and entrepreneurial issues as a catalyst for contemporary transformation. We must face the future with confidence.”
Thank you very much for the interview!