Koehler Group submits first sustainability report

A transformation into an even more sustainable company

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Koehler Group
Koehler submits first sustainability report on its own initiative. Photo Koehler

At the end of February, the Koehler submitted its first sustainability report. In contrast to publicly traded companies, the company is not obligated to submit one but decided to do so anyway on its own initiative. In this first sustainability report, Koehler informs on the way in which it is aligning its services with a financially, environmentally, and socially responsible vision. In addition, this type of report covers the need for information on financial markets, customers, and other stakeholders while also ensuring both internal and external transparency.

Koehler makes a contribution to UN sustainable development goals

In 2015, the United Nations agreed on 17 global goals that are known as its Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short. Kai M Furler, chief executive officer of the Koehler, highlights, “At the Koehler Group, we firmly believe that it is also our responsibility as a company to help make the SDGs a reality. That’s why we’ve identified eleven of the seventeen UN goals as areas where we think we can make a contribution to sustainable development both today and in the future.”

The concept of sustainability has always been central to the decision-making process in the family-run enterprise. Accordingly, Koehler makes decisions based not on short-term shareholder value, but on sustainability and long-term prospects instead. Over the company’s 210-year history, acting sustainably has always been viewed as a responsibility towards future generations. And that is because the things that today’s generation does will always come with consequences for the generations that follow – both positive and negative.

Climate strategy derived from sustainability strategy

In order to ensure that it remains successful in the future, the Koehler Group tries to stay ahead of the times and take proactive measures. For example, the company started investing in renewable energy generation all the way back in 2002. Today, this business area is an essential pillar of the Koehler Group. On top of this, companies are experiencing an enormous challenge in the form of current carbon pricing and high gas and coal prices, and Koehler’s longstanding goal of producing more energy from renewable sources than is required for its paper production operations by 2030 is sure to help overcome that challenge.

Against this backdrop, the coal-fired power stations at the Koehler sites in Oberkirch and Greiz are set to be decarbonized with a view to moving away from coal and lignite, and towards renewable energy sources. This endeavor is costing the group around 70 million euros. However, the power plant conversions alone will cut around 174,000 metric tons of CO2 a year. And in addition to this, the company’s production facilities for paper are being switched over to the use of green energy as well. For example, the electricity provider for Production Line 8 in Kehl was changed at the end of 2021, cutting another 45,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.

A circular economy as the key to greater sustainability

Koehler’s product portfolio is also being continuously realigned towards greater sustainability. Accordingly, the company is strategically channeling its investments into sustainable products and business areas based on a long-term perspective.

With Koehler NexPlus, Koehler is already meeting the rapidly growing demand for sustainable packaging solutions. Customers such as Ritter Sport and Südzucker have been among the first to seize upon this shift in consumer behavior and switch to our Koehler NexPlus papers.

In addition, Koehler has revolutionized the receipt market with its pioneering Blue4est product. Most people across Europe have already encountered the blue receipt paper at Edeka, Lidl, or Kaufland. This paper is produced without using chemical color developers, and can be recycled with other waste paper.

Wood, which is ultimately the starting point for all our paper production, is a renewable raw material. Koehler Group Sustainability Manager Jens Kriete, says: “Koehler products are eminently reusable, as the waste paper is an important and highly sought-after secondary raw material. This is a truly circular economy in action and a key to sustainable development.”

Koehler sees its transformation as both a challenge and an opportunity

Given the importance of the company’s workforce in achieving the aforementioned transformation into an even more sustainable company, ‘people as the key to success’ is the central area of activity in the Koehler sustainability strategy. Furler adds, “Making the transformation to a sustainable company is an enormous challenge for me and my colleagues here in Baden, as well as those at all our sites in Germany and across the world. But at the same time, it represents an enormous opportunity, as we all want to leave a strong and successful Koehler Group to future generations.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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