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Jürgen Spykman is Körber Technologies Chief Executive Officer

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Sustainability as a driving force behind growth and innovation

For us in the Körber Business Area Technologies, sustainability has been firmly anchored in our corporate strategy for years. Our goals are based on the three dimensions of environment, society and corporate governance. Chief Executive Officer Jürgen Spykman provides insights into the importance of this approach in this interview.

Viewed from a completely personal perspective, what do you understand by sustainable practices?

Jürgen Spykman: There is only one planet Earth and our resources are finite. For me, sustainable practices mean seeking and breaking new ground to reduce the use of resources on a continuous basis. We should use renewable resources and protect or restore natural living environments wherever possible. At the same time, it is crucial to assume responsibility for ensuring equitable, socially harmonious coexistence.

With its four business areas, the Körber Group sees itself as a home for entrepreneurs. How does sustainability fit into this context?

Jürgen Spykman: “Be the first to do the right thing at the right time” is one of our guiding principles at Körber. This applies in all dimensions: for our innovations and when working together with customers, business partners, suppliers and all other stakeholders. In doing so, we look to the future, as it lies at the core of sustainability thinking. Körber’s sustainability pledge is rooted in our commitment to provide a better life for both today’s and tomorrow’s generations with our activities. Firmly embedded in our corporate strategy, this pledge is comprehensive in its nature and includes the three criteria of sustainability defined in the ESG set of considerations, which comprises environmental issues, social issues and corporate governance.

Pledges may sound all very good but the real significance lies in what actually happens …

Jürgen Spykman: Absolutely. Specific action is practically ingrained in our DNA: our group founder Kurt A. Körber understood environmental protection as an ‘ethical duty of modern industrial enterprises’. When he established his foundation in 1959, Kurt A. Körber provided the cornerstone for all-embracing social responsibility. He believed that if the company was in good shape, the public at large should benefit from its success. To ensure our sustainability pledge produces concrete results, we use our group-wide sustainability strategy to create a common understanding of sustainability and exploit synergies.

We have consolidated the strategic priorities for sustainability at a group- and business-area level in our ‘House of Sustainability’, where we bring together all sustainability activities and mould them into primary driving forces behind growth and innovation. The Körber Group’s vision of ‘market leadership through technology leadership’ also contributes to sustainability, as technology also helps companies to protect the environment. For us, technology leadership thus means making a significant contribution to a sustainable future.

Sustainable thinking shapes our business activities in the Körber Business Area Technologies just as it does throughout the entire Körber Group. We’re looking back on years of commitment to waste management, the environment, electromobility, energy consumption reduction and social responsibility. From initial ideas through to finished products, solutions and services, we strive to think and act sustainably. We constantly ask ourselves and our partners how we can save electricity and materials and reduce carbon emissions.

lSustainability as a driving force behind growth and innovationr

Jürgen Spykman, CEO Körber Business Area Technologies

[Translate to English:] Der EcoVadis-Platinum-Status belegt unser nachhaltiges Engagement.

The EcoVadis rating agency asked the Körber Group questions before it gave a rating …

Jürgen Spykman: Indeed. We underwent an extensive audit, which produced an impressive result: we achieved EcoVadis Platinum status in July. The result from the assessment shows us what we have accomplished and how we can progress further. The certification not only demonstrates our commitment to the environment but also the alignment of our business activities with ethical and moral principles. They are key indicators for our customers, suppliers and, above all, also for us as a globally active organisation.

lThe EcoVadis Platinum status demonstrates our commitment to sustainability and is a key indicator for our customers, suppliers and employees.r

Let’s talk about developing further: what important goals do Körber and, in particular, the Business Area Technologies pursue with regard to sustainability?

Jürgen Spykman: The Group has set three main goals to achieve by 2025: first of all, we are reducing our energy consumption and will become carbon-neutral for Scope 1 and 2 by 2025. We are also seeking to achieve net zero emissions throughout our entire value chain by 2040. Secondly, we are a fair, attractive employer. And thirdly, we have ethically organised supplier chains. With these goals in mind, we have defined our sustainability ambitions, which our business area aims to achieve by 2025 and, to some extent, by 2040, supported by KPIs. Our key fields of action here are our greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable products and services, compliance with regulations, data and information security, supplier chain risks, employee health and safety, and our position as an employer.

Can you provide examples for specific goals?

Jürgen Spykman: The United Nations’ sustainability goals form a globally recognised roadmap. Körber had already committed to making its contribution back in 2021. One way in which we are doing this is by becoming carbon-equivalent-neutral in Scope 1 and 2 by 2025. Körber has set itself the ambitious goal of not producing any more carbon dioxide equivalent emissions throughout the entire value chain by 2040. The net-zero goal has been drawn up for the entire Group and was recognised by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) in September 2023. We intend to achieve complete transparency within our supply chain by 2025 so that we are able to identify all potential sustainability risks at an early stage. We will also closely examine suppliers that are a potential source of risk and work together with them on improvements with regard to sustainability. Our aim here is to continue to assume responsibility in the future for a supply chain where human and workers’ rights are not breached. We are also seeking to ensure there are no incidents that cause damage related to data protection and cyber security.

We also aspire to be recognised as a fair and attractive employer. Our employees are the key to our success. Their health and safety are a top priority for us. We consider it highly important to offer a work environment where everyone feels welcome. We are taking active steps across the Group in this respect to promote diversity, equality and inclusion, and assist colleagues in their professional development through personalised training initiatives. Furthermore, we cultivate a culture of mutual feedback and maintain ongoing communication with all employees through diverse dialogue formats.

And how will you reach such ambitious goals?

Jürgen Spykman: We have set out concrete courses of action for this purpose. For instance, we are changing over to green electricity and eco-gas wherever possible and attach great importance to generating our own energy from renewable sources. To achieve this, we put some 2,300 solar modules into operation at our Richmond location in March, where we have managed to cover up to 70 percent of our power requirements with green electricity. Other measures include a considerable reduction in business travel and an improvement in energy and gas efficiency in production and systems.

Besides these company-related approaches, to what extent is the sustainability strategy reflected in the range of products and services provided?

Jürgen Spykman: We develop customised solutions in the areas of machinery, equipment, software, measuring instruments, flavors, and services with a focus on the tobacco and the food and beverage industry. In doing so, we see ourselves as our customers’ strategic partner and exchange ideas and information with them on a regular basis. Sustainability is gaining in importance in the pursuit of these goals. We take them into account during all development activities. As most environmental effects caused by products are decided at the development and design stage, we introduced the Ecodesign guidelines at Körber in 2022. These help us to strike a balance between technical, financial and environmental requirements.

Buying Körber machines implies investing in sustainable equipment then?

Jürgen Spykman: There are numerous examples that support this: our Secondary portfolio consistently incorporates the latest technology. Innovations and the highest standards of quality and efficiency are fundamental to ensuring sustainability in our cigarette and filter machines. An example from the Primary sector is tobacco dust amalgamation, which we developed as a sustainable manufacturing process for recon. However, it’s far from being just about new machines. If you look at a machine with regard to sustainable goal dimensions, such as waste minimisation, efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, or consumption of energy and other resources, it is crucial to know how long a machine can be operated at a high standard. We offer a wide range of solutions and services throughout a machine’s lifespan that help to ensure a long, efficient machine life cycle. These include measures such as long-term improvements to the machine through our Technical Improvement Programme (TIP) and conversions that replace the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. Rebuild measures allow us to extend the life cycle of our machines with regard to sustainability. Our relocation programme also ensures long-term use, at a different site if required.


Are there any services that contribute to sustainable aspects during ongoing operations?

Jürgen Spykman: As a basic rule, we need to be aware that only an efficient system will be a sustainable one. The resources utilised in such systems produce a maximum output and are not squandered. We offer our customers numerous support services to achieve this goal. These include professional servicing and inspection programmes, as well as assistance with optimising customer processes and streamlining management of production lines and entire factories using suitable software tools and customised consultation. When it comes to sustainability, we also consistently pursue our strategy: With passion, precision and performance, we deliver and integrate outperforming technologies to help our customers realize their full potential.

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