ZNU goes Zero
This is why the ZNU - Center for Sustainable Leadership of the University of Witten / Herdecke (Faculty of Economics) wishes to assume responsibility together with its partners, proves its pioneering role and sends out a signal for other economic actors:
By 2022 at the latest, the ZNU is aiming to operate with its approx. 70 partner companies at their German sites in a climate-neutral manner. In addition to avoiding, reducing and compensating for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, partners will also be implementing additional projects under the motto "education, soil and / or trees" to make an additional contribution to Earth's sustainability. With this joint initiative communicated in spring 2018 for the first time, the ZNU wishes to make a clear statement for entrepreneurial climate protection and do even more justice to its responsibility for future generations.
More information: Commitment of the ZNU network partners
With ZNU goes Zero all network partners undertake to avoid and/or reduce all GHG emissions produced at their various corporate sites as far as technology permits and to subsequently compensate for any unavoidable GHG emissions via climate compensations. This Initiative focuses on the company level where potential can be tapped into pragmatically and immediately. Cooperative climate protection across the value chain remains a crucial issue that also needs to be addressed in the medium term.
Within the framework of these five steps the ZNU sees itself as a “Quality Guardian” giving the participating companies the assured basis also for credible communication.
Who is the ZNU – Center of sustainable leadership?
The applications-oriented research institute at the Business School of Witten/Herdecke University was established by Dr. Axel Kölle and Dr. Christian Geßner in 2008. The ZNU currently employs 15 members of staff.
The ZNU’s mission is to make sustainability a graspable concept and to inspire people about the opportunities that sustainable management holds. The ZNU is actively involved in research and teaching, continuous education and conferences as well as in the development of holistic solutions for more sustainable entrepreneurship (> ZNU Standard - driving sustainable change)
More information: ZNU Standard - driving sustainable change
The ZNU has established a sustainability standard for the FMCG industry (with a focus on the food sector) and presented it to the public in 2013. In 2018 the ZNU Standard - driving sustainable change has been revised and is now applicable internationally and across industries. The ZNU Standard - driving sustainable change calls for and promotes the development of an integrated management system for more sustainable management. It fuses sustainability requirements on the corporate and product levels and allows for systematic and continuous performance improvement in the environment, business and social affairs spheres.
The ZNU Network comprises over 70 predominantly small and medium-sized partner companies active as manufacturers, service providers, media firms or start-ups with a focus on the nutrition sector / FMCG (fast moving consumer goods). They represent total sales worth >EUR 25 billion and employ to tune of 80,000 staff.
More information: ZNU network partners
1. What does "ZNU goes Zero" mean?
To counteract ongoing climate change the ZNU – Center for Sustainable Leadership at faculty of Management and Economics of Witten/Herdecke University, has set the target for the ZNU Network of partners (approx. 70 companies as of June 2018) to do (net) climate-neutral business at all locations by 2022 and beyond.
With this joint initiative communicated in spring 2018 for the first time the ZNU wants to make a clear statement in terms of entrepreneurial climate protection so as to do even more justice to its responsibilities for coming generations.
2. What does climate-neutral "net zero” mean?
Complete climate neutrality is not achievable at this point in time. In order to reach “net zero” the ZNU focuses on a step-by-step procedure acting as a “Quality Assurer” and driving force. Once the status quo has been captured thoroughly using climate balances in accordance with recognised procedures such as the greenhouse gas protocol as a basis, the next steps are the avoidance and reduction of GHG emissions. This can be achieved by heat recovery systems, state-of-the-art light sources such as LEDs, prevention of coolant leakages, utilisation of geothermal energy or regulations for company car usage. The next step to be taken is the consumption of “good green power”. The choice should consider new expansion effects, the origin of the green power and the renewable energies projects supported. As a last step unavoidable GHG emissions are also compensated for at other locations by means of climate compensation.
3. How is this target achieved and verified?
ZNU views itself as a “Quality Assurer” for these five steps in order to afford the participating companies with the assurance and basis also for credible communication. (For proof see FAQ 5 and 6).
4. How is greenwashing avoided?
The gradual approach allows savings potentials to be established, and emissions to be reduced and avoided in each of the consecutive steps. Each of these steps must be evidenced to the ZNU (see FAQ 5 and 6). The focus here is on the first three steps before the use of green electricity and compensation comes into play.
Long-term cost savings are achieved through energy efficiency measures which the companies are working on purely out of self-motivation. Since compensation for climate change causes recurring, annual costs, it contradicts business sense.
5. What proof is required for the implementation of Steps 1-3?
Companies certified in accordance with the ZNU Standard - driving sustainable change are audited annually by independent certification bodies and thereby credibly prove the steps they have initiated and completed and the targets they have set themselves.
To avoid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions companies have to systematically capture, document and analyse these. To this end at least all of the emissions governed by Scope 1 and 2 in the GHG Protocol are captured on the basis of international standards (GHG Protocol, ISO 14064). The goal is to have as much primary data as possible.
Possible proof here includes corporate and/or location climate footprint for example (e. g. GHG Protocol or ISO 14064), Critical Review, data on location-related greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption (including transport fuel) and coolant losses (e.g. on the basis of ISO 50001, a product life cycle assessment, energy balance or product climate balance).
Furthermore, targets, measures and cooperations with climate protection stakeholders must exist, e.g. climate protection programme.
6. Does this mean their products are climate neutral?
No. ZNU goes Zero refers to the GHG emissions at the company’s location, where potential can be exploited in a pragmatic and immediate way, rather than to individual products. Cooperative climate protection across the value chain remains a crucial issue to also be addressed in the medium term.
7. Can everyone join in? Or is this just an exclusive club?
So far, the ZNU Partner Network comprises some 70 small and medium entrepreneurs and undertakings from Germany that represent 80,000 employees and a total turnover of approximately EUR 25 billion.
The cross-section of partners also reflects the approach of considering the complete value chain.
Alongside numerous companies from industry there are upstream suppliers, service providers as well as other networks and scientific institutions. This sustainable mind-set is rounded off by the corresponding media representatives.
The prerequisite for taking part in ZNU goes Zero is a partnership with ZNU.
In terms of perspective, however, we would like to make our know-how available to everyone in the sense of a transformational process and motivate "followers". First concrete results will be presented at the XI. ZNU-Future-Conference on 2/3 April 2019.
8. What distinguishes climate neutrality with ZNU goes Zero from climate neutrality e.g. with Gold Standard, Clean Development Mechanism or Voluntary Carbon Standard?
Whereas the compensation for other models of carbon neutrality ceases with the purchase of a certificate, such as Gold Standard, ZNU goes zero partners move one step further. In addition to the certification with recognized standards, companies invest in tree plantings, in soil conservation projects and train and educate young people to be bearer of climate justice (so-called Climate Justice Ambassadors).
The preferred partner here is Plant-for-the-Planet.
The trees are decisive in many ways: On the one hand they absorb CO2, on the other hand they provide employment for people in countries of the Global South as well as a secure income and future prospects. By promoting the Climate Justice Ambassadors of Plant-for-the-Planet, companies enable the education of future generations in climate issues so that they can share their knowledge with others.
9. Why are the trees planted in Mexico rather than in Germany?
Plant-for-the-Planet plants the trees on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán on grounds owned by the Mexican sister organization of Plant-for-the-Planet. The trees grow some two to four times faster in Southern countries than in Germany and thus bind higher quantities of CO2 faster. Furthermore, trees create jobs in countries in the South in the long run: on the Yucatán Peninsula more than 500 people already make a living with the salaries paid to 100 forestry workers of Plant-for-the-Planet.
This is just one example showing how reforestation in the countries in the southern hemisphere contributes to achieving all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals issued by the United Nations.
10. Has Plant-for-the-Planet sufficient capacities for planting trees for all of its partners as a compensation for CO2 emissions?
Yes! Employing 100 forestry workers Plant-for-the-Planet plants some 2 million trees each year. The Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation has trained its members in such as way that it can scale up operations to 10 million trees within one year. Every year Plant-for-the-Planet recruits 36 additional workers to plant and care for trees. To ensure long-term reforestation possibilities on the Yucatán Peninsula, Plant-for-the-Planet is constantly increasing the reforestation area with the aim of increasing the area of currently 22,500 hectares to 100,000 hectares by 2028 so that a minimum of 100 million trees can be planted. The land is owned by Plant-for-the-Planet Mexico A.C., the Mexican sister organisation of Plant-for-the-Planet.
The Plant-for-the-Planet model provides for reforesting the existing areas owned by Mexican farmers in a forest owners’ cooperative. Many farmers lack the financial resources and machinery to maintain their forests. Many create cattle pastures by slash and burning or plundering of forests to then just leave them to their own resources. Offering forest owners a cooperative structure to reforest their land might help to conserve these areas as forests long-term, leave them in ownership of smallholdings, protect them against slash and burning and to bind even more CO2. Such cooperative models already work fine, e.g. in Norway with Metsä.
11. How much CO2 can a tree absorb?
Every tree is different. On the global level, the average tree absorbs 100 kg of CO2 during its lifetime. Plant-for-the-Planet plants on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Plant-for-the-Planet guarantees that the planted trees will be maintained until they have captured and stored enough CO2 in order to compensate and bind it in the wood for the long term. This CO2 storage is monitored by the Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich. A study of 2016 from the Nature magazine ("Biomass resilience of Neotropical Secondary Forest", doi: 10.1038 / nature16512) has shown that a tree in Latin America absorbs 202 kg of CO2 over its entire lifetime. The reforestation of Plant-for-the-Planet has an extremely high quality with a current tree success rate of 94%, which is why it can be assumed that a tree can absorb 500 kg of CO2. To verify this, a long-term study will be conducted over ten years. Plant-for-the-Planet commits to plant at least 2 trees per ton of CO2.
12. How long will the trees be kept for and how will they be used subsequently?
The trees will be left standing for long enough to bind a minimum of 500 kg CO2 before they are harvested and processed into durable wooden products in the sense of sustainable wood use. Here the CO2 storage will be monitored by Crowther Lab, an institute at ETH Zürich. If the forests were left to its own resources individual trees would die over time and rot, thereby releasing the bound CO2 again.
By contrast, in durable wooden products carbon remains stored for decades. The wood is removed from the “rotting cycle” and therefore does not release its carbon again. Moreover, wood is replacing steel and concrete as a construction material, which are already responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions worldwide today. From 2025 the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation will install a wood-processing industry on the Yucatán Peninsula – run by either Plant-for-the-Planet Mexico A.C. or owned by the forest owners’ cooperative – in order to create more value added for the locals plus more jobs. All harvested trees are immediately reforested so that additional carbon storages are created.
13. Who is the ZNU – Center for sustainable leadership?
The applications-oriented research institute at the faculty of economics at Witten/Herdecke University was established by Dr. Axel Kölle and Dr. Christian Geßner in 2008. ZNU currently employs 15 members of staff.
ZNU’s mission is to make sustainability a graspable concept and to inspire people about the opportunities that sustainable management holds. The focus is on research and teaching as well as continuous education for executives, conferences and advice.
ZNU has established a sustainability standard for the FMCG industry (with a focus on the food sector) and presented it to the public in 2013 – at present the ZNU Standard - driving sustainable change has been revised and is now applicable internationally and across industries.
The ZNU Standard - driving sustainable change calls for and promotes the development of an integrated management system for more sustainable governance. It fuses sustainability requirements on the corporate and product levels and allows for a systematic and continuous performance improvement in the environment, business and social affairs spheres.
14. Which companies are involved in the ZNU Network?
The ZNU Network comprises over 70 predominantly small and medium-sized partner companies active as manufacturers, service providers & dealers with a focus on the nutrition sector / FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods). They represent total sales worth >EUR 25 billion and employ to tune of 80,000 staff.
15. Climate protection is not everything after all, sustainability is also about human rights, animal welfare, packaging etc., how does this go together?
The companies in the ZNU Partner Network taking part in ZNU goes Zero were, or will in future be, audited in accordance with the ZNU Standard - driving sustainable change, which can be certified by a third body. This holistic standard calls for and promotes more sustainable processes and products and monitors dynamic progress on an annual basis, thereby allowing for a systematic and continuous performance improvement in the environment, business and social affairs spheres. This holistic approach covers all areas of sustainability.
16. Which political impact do we want to make?
We want to take the lead in climate protection matters and show policy-makers concrete approaches for a comprehensive implementation of climate protection. We are also open here to cooperative approaches with policy makers – after all, climate protection is a joint process of all players in society.
17. What are the next steps?
Gradually we would like to inspire all ZNU partners in the network to participate in ZNU goes Zero. Furthermore, we will approach other actors - such as politics - to strengthen social awareness of climate change and existing initiatives. In addition, we are in the process of identifying additional providers of compensatory measures in addition to Plant-for-the-Planet and of winning ZNU goes Zero - the providers should have subscribed to the motto "education, soil and / or trees". Initial results of the initiative will be presented at the XI. ZNU Future Conference on 02./03. April 2019 in Berlin.