What happens when you bring 120 sustainability experts with a completely different background together in one room? The second DQS Sustainability Conference has shown that no matter which business sector companies are in, they largely face the same challenges and opportunities when it comes to social responsibility.
This years’ DQS Sustainability Conference, held on September 23, 2015 in Cologne, focused on standards and strategies for doing business in a socially responsible way. Key topics included sustainability reporting, standardization of sustainability management as well as responsible sourcing.
Main Insights & Discussion Topics
- Sustainability is a journey
Sustainability challenges evolve – and so should our sustainability targets. Axel Bachmann, responsible for social responsibility at Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetränke AG, focused on sustainability management as a continuous process – with a learning curve.
- Social responsibility is more effective when you communicate about it openly
To avoid the accusation of greenwashing, many companies are reluctant to communicate about their commitment to social responsibility. As Dr. Sied Sadek, Managing Director (CEO) of DQS CFS GmbH demonstrated in his lecture, organizations who communicate about their commitment inspire others and function as a catalyst to drive change.
- Strategies for responsible sourcing are shifting away from surveillance towards mutually beneficial cooperation
Supplier audits are an important tool to identify social risks along the supply chain. However, they only realize their full potential when they are complemented with accompanying measures. Melanie Kubin, Vice President Procurement Excellence at Deutsche Telekom AG, used case studies to illustrate how corporations can guide suppliers towards more sustainability. Katrin Recke from the European brands association AIM focused on the AIM-PROGRESS Initiative, which is intended to harmonize audit processes and to create added value for suppliers and buyers alike.
- Standardization is not a standard solution
One of the underlying themes of the conference was the tension between standardization initiatives and the conception of company-specific sustainability practices. During his lecture, Reiner Hager, who leads the standardization work at DIN, stressed the fact that ISO 26000 is a guideline rather than a catalogue of criteria. Other voices, however, were quick to point out that a catalogue of criteria might have created more value for organizations who have decided to use ISO 26000 as the foundation of their sustainability management.
- Sustainability Reporting is not about the final report, but about the internal processes leading up to it
The number of times a sustainability report has been read does not necessarily have to be the key indicator to evaluate reporting. Rather than focus on the output only, it is equally important to consider the process as such: did reporting help you identify the main social aspects of your organization, to derive measures and to establish a culture of transparency within your organization? Whether one uses the Global Reporting Infinitive (GRI) Guideline, the German Sustainability Codex or another reporting framework to achieve this is only of secondary importance. This conclusion became apparent during the lectures of Dr. Thomas Melde (akzente GmbH) and of Yvonne Zwick (German Council for Sustainable Development).
Highlight of the Day: The German Awards for Excellence
The conference ended with the awarding ceremony of the German Awards for Excellence. The awards were issued to eleven organizations for their commitment to social responsibility in a particular category. The jury, which consisted of qualified DQS auditors, selected the following winners:
- Compliance – GESOBAU AG
- Responsible Sourcing – Deutsche Telekom AG
- Society Engagement (national) – VfL Wolfsburg
- Society Engagement (international) – Bank im Bistum Essen
- Fair Business – GLS Gemeinschaftsbank eG
- Women Empowerment – Ernst & Young GmbH
- Employer Accountability – HOCHTIEF Aktiengesellschaft
- Environment – Bischof + Klein GmbH & Co. KG
- Energy Efficiency – Freudenberg Sealing Technologies & Co. KG
- Carbon Footprint – Commerzbank AG
- Sustainable Leadership – Symrise AG
The full report with the findings of the jury (in German) can be found here.