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Actively shaping our future

Gira’s sustainability strategy is also rooted in this pronounced culture of responsibility that has been cultivated over more than eleven decades. Items on the agenda include: recycling materials in plastics production, the use of natural materials such as in the award-winning Esprit Linoleum-Plywood switch product range, the use of renewable energy and resource-saving solutions, the use of electric vehicles for internal logistics, the company’s own health management, or the company childcare centre which helps employees achieve a better work-life-balance.

“We take responsibility for the future”

Gira’s sustainability strategy is also rooted in this pronounced culture of responsibility that has been cultivated over more than eleven decades. Items on the agenda include: recycling materials in plastics production, the use of natural materials such as in the award-winning Esprit Linoleum-Plywood switch product range, the use of renewable energy and resource-saving solutions, the use of electric vehicles for internal logistics, the company’s own health management, or the company childcare centre which helps employees achieve a better work-life-balance.

Gira consciously involves their employees in these sustainability efforts. For that very reason, the medium-sized company from the Bergisches Land, regularly gives its employees and trainees the opportunity to actively participate in projects with an environmental or societal impact – this can range from mentoring asylum seekers on an introductory internship, to creating biotopes in the city of Radevormwald.

We wanted to know more, and asked Jan Böttcher, Head of Corporate Communications and Sustainability Management at Gira, to elaborate on the company’s focus on sustainability.

G-Pulse Editorial Team: Mr Böttcher, what role does sustainability play in your company?

Mr Böttcher: A very central one. Since 2013, it has been part of our corporate strategy to make sure that all our organisational processes and operations accommodate economic, environmental and social requirements. This is reflected in our value-based company culture, which developed over the course of more than 111 years. It puts a central focus on the responsibility Gira and its employees share in shaping the future.

Clear design language, natural materials: Gira Esprit Linoleum-Plywood. Source: Gira

As a result of this focus, Gira invests in the continuous improvement of its environmental footprint, responsible resource management, and the development of products and solutions that are more environmentally friendly throughout their entire life cycle. And we are already making quite some progress: we recycle materials in plastics production, we have a switch product range made of natural, eco-friendly yet durable materials, we optimise the energy efficiency of our production processes and buildings, we offer proactive health management for our employees, and we run a company childcare centre which enables employees to achieve a better work-life-balance. Our goal is to continuously get better and to learn from our mistakes. In this way, we want to contribute to responsible societal development as well as ensure Gira’s sustainability for the future.

G-Pulse Editorial Team: How do you make sure that sustainability is prioritized and brought to life at Gira?

Mr Böttcher: Through the right processes, which for example specify that ecological and social aspects must be taken into account when making investment decisions, through internal transparency, and through various opportunities for our employees to participate and take action.

Especially the last two points are important, because Gira has always put great emphasis on employee responsibility. This creates a shared understanding of the fact that our company will only attain the envisioned goals if all employees work to the best of their knowledge and ability to achieve these. So, we involved our staff before we even started developing our sustainability strategy. Through open communication around the progress of our initiative and individual projects, everyone knows what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.

It is equally important to us that our employees get hands-on experience. They are constantly given the opportunity to get actively involved and develop a feeling for the ecological and social impact of their actions. Our employees and trainees can regularly participate in social or environmental projects – and are given time off to do so. Recently, for instance, our employees planted various types of native but rare fruit trees in the city of Radevormwald and mentored asylum seekers on an introductory internship at Gira.

Team work: Over 60 technical crews work on the completion of the new Gira production and logistics centre. Source: Gira

Our internal ideation contest proved very popular last year too. As a result, we received some great inputs, which are now gradually tested for feasibility and implemented where relevant. Among other things, we are currently in the process of replacing all the disposable cups in Gira’s employee bistro with thermos cups, which every employee will receive as a gift. This is a measure which makes ecological and economic sense.

G-Pulse Editorial Team: One of the key characteristics of Gira products is the high-end design – how is this compatible with sustainability targets?

Mr Böttcher: "Good form" most definitely performs a social function as it ensures simple, intuitive usability and a high level of functionality. In this way, it also contributes to the sustainability of our products. But of course, it is always a challenge to manufacture products that are as environmentally friendly as possible. On the one hand, we focus on outstanding quality as far as materials, design language, functionality and reliability are concerned, because these all contribute to the durability of our products. On the other hand, we experiment with new materials and use recycled raw materials to constantly optimise the ecological footprint of our solutions.

Green architecture: functionality, sustainability and aesthetics

The company’s efforts to act sustainably and implement smart solutions to significantly enhance the energy efficiency of production processes and buildings is also reflected in the planning of the new Gira production and logistics centre. From the outset, Gira has made sure that both planning and construction of the new site adhere to “green building” standards. “We are building for the future and must factor in any potential requirements for tomorrow and beyond, right now,” explain Gira’s project managers Dietmar Daszkiewicz and Andreas Dürwald, describing the challenging task. The building is supposed to meet the German Sustainable Building Council’s (DGNB) guidelines as much as possible. The internationally renowned architectural firm Sauerbruch Hutton, widely known for its functional, ecological architecture, was chosen to run the project. To guarantee responsible and resource-friendly operations, the architects and planners particularly concentrated on optimising energy production and use in the new industrial building, explains Matthias Sauerbruch in the interview with G-Pulse. As a result, the entire site will get by on 55% less energy than today’s standard industrial building, reducing the CO2 emission along the way.

111 trees to benefit sustainability. Source: Gira

111 years of Gira, 111 trees for Radevormwald

It’s typical Gira, you might say: to celebrate its 111-year anniversary and as a tribute to Radevormwald, the company gifted the city an initiative to show that Gira’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop at the company gates. Gira employees planted 111 trees in various locations across the city. In consultation with the North Rhine-Westphalian forestry agency Landesbetrieb Wald und Holz NRW, the city of Radevormwald, and the conservation association Rheinisch Bergischer Naturschutzverein, a deliberate choice was made to plant rare native fruit trees. “We hope that our efforts help create orchards for the future, which will benefit both the people and the environment in our immediate surroundings,” said Jan Böttcher, describing the goal of the project.

Although orchards are agriculturally and ecologically very valuable biotopes, there are hardly any left in Central Europe./p>

Alliance for sustainability

With regards to sustainability, Gira is also involved as a partner in the Allianz pro Nachhaltigkeit (Alliance for Sustainability), a cooperation between companies and research institutes to promote “green building”. The Allianz pro Nachhaltigkeit portal, provides information on sustainable living and building. On the portal, you can find information on current developments and innovative projects, and get inspired to implement sustainable design solutions in your own home. Gira explains how intelligent building technology can contribute to efficient energy and resource consumption. By just adopting simple measures in their everyday lives, everyone can do their bit to live more sustainably.

What do you do in your daily life to be more sustainable? We look forward to hearing your experiences.

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