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Can we be even greener?

Sustainable initiatives

Since its founding, Dräger has pursued the goal of dealing with both people and resources responsibly. To this end, Dräger is developing a variety of new ideas and initiatives – from product design and packaging to e-mobility and CO₂-neutral real estate. But what does it mean to use scarce resources responsibly? And how can employees, suppliers, customers and business partners be integrated into a new network that emphasises transparency and economy?      

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"Lever Schaden as Schimp! (Better a loss than a disgrace) This thinking of pursuing a business model without ruthless exploitation of the planet has never been so in line with the times," says Stefan Dräger. 

"Sustainability in all its facets has always played a key role for us," says CEO Stefan Dräger, referring to the family crest featuring the words, "Lever Schaden as Schimp!" This motto, which means "Better a loss than a disgrace" was coined by the family even before the company was founded and has been emblazoned on the entrance to the company exhibition at the Lübeck headquarters since 1974. "It is our commitment and obligation to accept financial losses rather than risk our good reputation and the trust of our customers. This thinking of pursuing a business model without ruthless exploitation of the planet has never been so in line with the times," Dräger emphasises. Sustainability is deeply rooted in Dräger's DNA and is continuously promoted in a wide range of areas. This starts with initial measures to electrify the vehicle fleet and continues with comprehensive digitalisation of supply chains and purchasing, right through to the strategy to make buildings carbon-neutral by 2045. In addition, there are many new ideas on how thousands of products can do with less packaging and be trimmed back as early as the design phase to ensure even more environmental friendliness and longevity.

Transparent supply chains through cloud-based supplier platform

"The rethink starts with supply chains," says Daniela Janke from global purchasing, safety division. "We have more than a thousand suppliers who provide us with tens of thousands of materials for our products. As well as we know our business partners, it is difficult to get a complete insight into every supply chain." An important step in this direction was the introduction of a cloud-based supplier platform. Since then, more than 75 percent of all ordering and logistics processes have been handled via software. "This also gives us the opportunity to bundle transports from different suppliers and thus save CO₂," says Janke. Further platform functionalities are to follow. For example, the plan is to introduce a digitalised supplier management system that will provide insight into the risk and sustainability status. By implementing the German Supply Chain Act, the EU Commission also ensures that companies produce more in a sustainable way. At Dräger, every new supplier must sign a "Code of Conduct for Business Partners" and accept certain requirements. From 2023, all suppliers must be assessed for their potential risk in an annual analysis and – if necessary – invited to an assessment via EcoVadis. The CSR rating agency is one of the leading providers and also regularly evaluates Dräger, who in 2022 was awarded the Gold Standard.

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Recognition of our sustainability performance

We are able to maintain our "Prime" label in the ISS ESG Corporate Rating. Our rating secures us the top position in the "Health Care Equipment & Supplies" sector. The EcoVadis Institute also placed us in the top 1% of the sector with Gold status in its CSR assessment in 2022, which distinguishes us as a sustainable supplier. In 2022, Dräger retained its AA rating from the MSCI ESG Ratings.

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Daniela Janke, project manager in global purchasing, safety

"The key to making supply chains sustainable is transparency."

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Dirk Schultze, Real estate project manager

"The initial focus is on savings and how we can use renewable energy efficiently." 

Carbon-neutral locations for electricity and heat by 2045

The real estate division is also pushing us forward, where a team has been working since the beginning of 2022 on a global inventory and strategy to ensure that Dräger becomes carbon-neutral in electricity and heating at its sites by 2045. "The initial focus is on savings and how we can use renewable energies efficiently," says project manager Dirk Schultze, explaining his mission, which is to come up with a roadmap including concrete recommendations in the near future. Schultze cites the Dräger subsidiary in Vienna, which aims to save around 163 tonnes of CO₂ a year with geothermal energy and solar power on the roof, as a pioneering example. "When the building is up, it will be the first carbon-neutral Dräger property."

Our subsidiary in Vienna will be the first carbon-neutral Dräger property.

 

Sustainability right from the start

Sustainability starts with design. In order to ensure greater sustainability in the safety division, a team has been formed that brings together the areas of research & development as well as product management. By the end of 2023, the experts want to take a close look at the entire gas measurement technology range consisting of many hundreds of core products – and, after analysing the environment, anchor the most important sustainability requirements in the development process. "We need to pay attention to this with every new product in the future. Is it all about better performance? Do we want to use plastics made from oil, or can we work with recyclable or recycled materials? What does the balance look like over the entire product life cycle? Can we take back parts and recycle them?", Moritz Haass outlines the wide realm of possibilities. New approaches for one product can by no means be transferred to others without any modifications and these changes need to be well thought out. "Transmitters, for example, go through a development phase lasting several years and then remain on the market for around 15 years," the strategic portfolio manager points out. "A design that is developed today therefore quickly extends up to 2040." 

We have saved around 14.5 million sheets of paper by eliminating and reducing printed manuals and operating instructions in 2022. This corresponds to a reduction of 70 tonnes of CO₂.

 

Replacing glossy cardboard boxes

Compared to stationary gas measurement technology, mobile devices have a significantly shorter life span and other aspects need to be taken into account in this regard. "Sustainable products are not just about saving energy, but also about durability and a design that simplifies repairs or recycling." Haass can point to two projects. "For two years now, we have been reducing the number of printed manuals and operating instructions or doing without them altogether. This saved us around 14.5 million sheets of paper in 2022." This corresponds to a reduction of 70 tonnes of CO₂. The optimistic estimate for 2023 even assumes up to 25 million sheets of paper (121 tonnes of CO₂). Ideally, there should be a quick start page with a QR code that leads customers directly to the information. However, laws set limits to the idea of saving money. For some devices, for example, the European explosion protection directive ATEX applies, which stipulates that instructions for use need to accompany the products. The team is also pursuing a similar rethink in a second project, which concerns packaging. "You quickly realise that there is a lot of potential in cardboard boxes – the implementation, on the other, is often difficult. We have to take a close look at every product," Haass describes the tinkering. What is the best way to fit the device into a box, can the filling material be paper and does each part need to be packaged in cardboard and foil again? How is it secured against vibration and transport damage? Is it more likely to be purchased in larger quantities and do the devices then really have to be individually packaged – or is there another way? For some products, such as the new HPS SafeGuard fire helmet, a glossy cardboard box with multicolour printing has already been replaced by a brown one with single-colour lettering. And the switch to brown cardboard packaging is already underway in the entire safety product range.

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Moritz Haass, strategic portfolio manager

"The sustainability of products is also determined by their design. We are designing the sustainable product of tomorrow today."

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Tobias Stabenau, project manager for consumables and accessories

"The interest of customers in sustainable solutions is great, which is also reflected in the tenders. Sustainability aspects were not a major issue for hospitals until a year or two ago and now they are mandatory."

27 kilograms of waste per operation

Tobias Stabenau wants to take a similar approach in medical technology. The portfolio consists of around 2,500 products. Medical devices are even more heavily regulated for reasons of patient protection, so that, for example, tubes, filters or respiratory masks are considered contaminated after patient contact and must be disposed of. Researchers in the Netherlands found that a single operation generates an average of 27 kilograms of waste, much of which is hazardous waste that has to be incinerated. At the same time, recyclable packaging accounts for around half of all plastic waste in hospitals that can be sorted and recycled. "We have to take many small steps first and ensure more sustainability with simple means instead of addressing the big picture," says Stabenau. For example, it is currently very difficult to use recycled plastic for medical consumables. A pilot trial, which has been running since the end of 2022, is intended to explore the possibility of recycling disposed plastic tubes. "The interest of customers in sustainable solutions is great, which is also reflected in the tenders. Sustainability aspects were not a major issue for hospitals until one or two years ago and now they are mandatory," says Stabenau. There are still many outstanding issues, because each country has its own regulations. Moreover, disposable is not always worse than reusable when the environmental balance of cleaning processes is taken into account.

More sea routes instead of air freight

In contrast, Stabenau sees clear potential in the logistics and packaging of consumer goods and accessories. "We used to deliver a lot by air from our main warehouse in central Germany to all over the world – not one device every 15 years for a customer, but many boxes every one or two weeks." If deliveries of masks and tubes were instead sent to South America or Asia by sea freight, considerable emissions could be saved. Starting this year, filters that are inserted between patients and ventilation tubes, for example, have taken even shorter routes in production. Items that were previously manufactured by the millions in China are now made in Lübeck with materials from Germany and Europe. "This relocation has saved us around 90 per cent in terms of the CO₂ emissions generated – about 500 tonnes per year," Stabenau reports.

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"We have been offering our employees, from management to service, the option to switch to e-cars for four years," reports Managing Director Robert den Brave. 

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By 2027, the Dutch vehicle fleet is set to be completely converted.

Electromobility in the vehicle fleet

When it comes to electromobility, Dräger is furthest ahead in the Netherlands. "We have been offering our employees, from management to service, the option to switch to e-cars for four years," reports Managing Director Robert den Brave. One reason for this was initially massive tax concessions. In the meantime, a rethink has set in on a broad front, and because in the Netherlands you can get by very well on one battery charge. So far 101 company cars in the country have been traded in for electric models and 23 more e-vehicles are on order for delivery in 2023. "We are also starting a trial with two e-transporters for field technicians". By the end of 2023, den Brave aims to power around 50% of its 252-company vehicle fleet with electricity. By 2027, the Dutch vehicle fleet is set to be completely converted. "This is essential," stresses den Brave, "as cities are setting up zero-emission zones from 2025 and otherwise we won't be able to serve our customers." He continues, "We specifically look for economical models, regardless of the manufacturer, and therefore offer at least eight different brands. Our leasing coordinator orders e-cars in advance without knowing who will drive them." The electricity costs are part of the leasing contract and therefore covered. With 100 e-vehicles, den Brave estimates that the Dutch subsidiary should save around 125,000 euros in petrol costs and around 32 tonnes in CO₂ emissions. You can read about these efforts to become more sustainable in the Sustainability Report. "Our guiding principle, Technology for Life, expresses our concern wonderfully – it's just that we haven't talked about it enough so far," says Stefan Dräger, describing the way forward. "As everyday life becomes decarbonised, so will our everyday work."

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