Credible dialogue and continuous improvements by the company
The members of the stakeholder panel appreciate the exchanges made with Geberit. The dialogue – which has now taken place for the sixth time – allows progress made in the implementation of the sustainability strategy over the years to be monitored, and also to openly address challenges and make suggestions on possible improvements.
Since the initiation of the stakeholder panel in 2012, the sustainability performance of Geberit has continually improved, with the company perceived as being “doers” by the panel members. Geberit’s new CO2 strategy in particular is seen as exemplary: The company sets concrete short-term and medium-term goals, with implementation of these goals an integral and binding part of business planning. In order to reach net zero climate goals in the long term, the panel recommends a clear focus on product development and innovations.
As a company in the field of sanitary technology, Geberit makes an important contribution towards public health and hygiene. The panel believes that communication of the company’s contribution to the four UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – namely goals 6, 8, 9 and 11 – could be further intensified.
Orientation of key topics towards economic, environmental and social impact
The panel members welcome the new, compact presentation of the key topics and the close alignment with Geberit’s corporate strategy. The materiality analysis should help to identify relevant topics where Geberit’s business activities have significant economic, environmental and social impacts. In the opinion of the panel members, this relates above all to the added value achieved for the environment and society. In this regard, the panel members all agree that there has to be a focus on the development of innovative, durable sanitary products with exceptional quality and design, as well as resource efficiency in production and during use. The other environmental topics mentioned by Geberit are also of the highest priority. When examining the topics of water, energy and CO2, it is also important to clearly illustrate the connections between the different topics.
Some of the topics – for example, compliance and governance – are very important from a customer and investor perspective and should therefore be mentioned in the materiality analysis, even though they appear obvious. Topics that affect employees are important and must not be forgotten during prioritisation. The topic of economic performance triggered a controversial discussion among the panel members. While profit and growth are important fundamentals for business, these should be in line with the sustainability strategy and generate added value for the environment and society.
Geberit’s new CO2 strategy focuses on concrete measures with a medium-term time scale. In the opinion of the panel, the well-thought-out mechanisms connected to the internal CO2 price and the integration of binding CO2 emission criteria in operational business planning and in the incentives for management and part of the workforce (bonus relevance) are exemplary.
While the panel members consider relative CO2 emissions in relation to sales as being fine for control purposes, an absolute reduction of CO2 emissions must then also be apparent in order to reach net zero as set out in the Paris Agreement and the Science Based Targets Initiative. To reach this under the company’s own power, technological advancement and innovations are key. The panel points out that conventional CO2 compensation may no longer play a credible role in the foreseeable future. With this in mind, the focus should be on negative emissions when addressing unavoidable CO2 emissions.
In order to further reduce CO2 emissions in ceramic production, innovations such as the reuse of sanitary ceramic are suggested in addition to the reduction of energy consumption during the firing process. Moreover, “CO2 emissions per toilet unit” could be used as an indicator instead of “CO2 emissions per kg ceramic” and disclosed on the sales article.
Diversity and inclusion
In order to promote the employment of people with physical and mental disabilities both within the company and at suppliers, cooperation with experts and organisations specialising in the creation of inclusive workplaces is recommended.
During discussions, it became clear that – despite various efforts being made – increasing the numbers of female employees in technology-dominated branches remains a major challenge. The panel discussed that starting points for recruiting women had to be considered early on, whether during vocational training in MINT subjects or by addressing them directly in case of vacancies. Moreover, changes would be relevant on the highest management levels in particular (CEO-1) and these have to be initiated from the very top. Geberit’s overall vision and the focus on sustainability could help to appeal to women and recruit them as employees. Part-time positions are also important in order to avoid the structural exclusion of women.
ESG governance and final remarks
The panel members thank Geberit for its open, confidence-building and constructive dialogue. In order for Geberit to also overcome upcoming challenges in a future-oriented way, it is important to also establish the topic of sustainability explicitly within the Board of Directors. In the opinion of the panel, a sustainability committee on the Board of Directors is not required; the Board of Directors as a whole should take on responsibility for this. A positive aspect is that the sustainability strategy is lived and upheld as an integral part of business at Geberit. The six panel members wish the Geberit management team success in the implementation of its sustainability strategy, and would also be happy to act as a sparring partner in future and offer suggestions for Geberit’s transformation.