OUR ECOLOGICAL ACTIONS IN ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS
Bielefeld is our homeland and we are at home in the world. This is why we want to protect it and maintain it for the next generation. We are aware that our entrepreneurial activities have an impact on the environment. Therefore, we take into consideration, whenever we make a decision, how it impacts the environment and try to act in a sustainable way. Starting with the design of our products where we combine use, durability and added value with current trends and a love for bags, and transportation, which we undertake as climate friendly as possible, through to the subsequent finishing of the products, which puts our customers’ brands on a sustainable stage. This page offers you an insight.
The building at the Bielefeld site
Our company building represents the centre of our daily work and is thus the starting point of our sustainability strategy. Fundamentally, our building was already designed with sustainability in mind when it was originally planned. So, the direction of the offices to the North, for example, counteracts the unnecessary development of heat. Moreover, all new building sections included modern building methods in line with the current state of technology.
Today, exterior shade, insulation and water cooling in the ceiling provide a pleasant room climate for employees in many areas even in hot summers and optimise the sustainable management of the building. New insights also influence the development of the existing structure.
We started the first measures for ecologically sensible management of the building already in the year 2001, with the installation of the first photovoltaic system on the roof of the company building. 2004, five years after the laying of the foundations, we expanded the company building for the first time. A wood pellet heating system has been supplying us with warmth since 2006. The benefit: without the use of fossil fuels, small wooden pellets are burnt in an incinerator. Less sulphur-dioxide is thus created, which is responsible for acid rain and is therefore guilty of forest decline. Since another building initiative in 2013, we have been heating the entire company building without the use of fossil fuels due to an extension of the pellet incineration system. As the wood pellet system heats only up to an exterior temperature of around +14 °C, a heat pump was installed for the seasonal transition period. It is mainly powered by electricity from the photovoltaic system. This was massively expanded in 2014 in the course of the third construction phase. The goal is to produce power for the company independently.
So that power from own production has the possibility of covering our consumption all year round, we lower our electricity consumption at the same time. So, in 2014, we exchanged the majority of fluorescent tubes with LED and/or economical light sources. Additionally, we installed an automatic lighting system, which is controlled via motion sensors in the latest construction phase. This guarantees that light is used exclusively as needed. In 2018, we also exchanged the lighting in the sewing department with LED lamps.
The current photovoltaic system has an output of 70 KWp. This covers, mainly in the summer months, a greater part of our power requirements. We get any electricity additionally required in the form of eco-power and have been operating our headquarters up to 100 % CO2-neutral since 2018. One of our goals last year was also to produce the additionally required electricity for our growing integration print works ourselves, by expanding the photovoltaic system. Unfortunately, we discovered that, on the basis of the current state of legislation, a simple expansion of the existing system is not permitted.
Thinking of the next generation, in our view, however, it does not make sense to generate additional costs that are not technically necessary and that disproportionately extend the payback period of the investment. However, even if the extension of the system does not seem to make sense at present, we will be keeping the framework conditions in mind. To date, taking this realisation into consideration, we have installed an appropriately powerful photovoltaic system with accumulator in the new logistics centre.
Process-led environment management system
Many of the described measures on-site resulted due to the advisory and qualification programme ÖKOPROFIT®, a modularly structured advisory and qualification programme, which supports businesses of any kind and size in the introduction and improvement of operational environment management. As a result of our continuous work, we have already been (re-)certified according to ÖKOPROFIT® for the 4th time. In 2018, as a consistent and logical addition, we sought and successfully completed certification according to DIN ISO 14001:2015 and have been working with this environmental management system ever since.
In the following, we provide an insight into the measures already implemented by us:
- Fitting the factory lights with reflectors, reducing the number of lamps in use
- Reducing water consumption by using aerators and minimising throughput
- Collecting rainwater
- Converting the roller shutter: strip curtain and remote control, to avoid heat loss
- Replacing two old digital printing presses with the latest technology and using ink with low solvents
- In the new building - pellet heating, thus making it possible to shut off the gas heating in the course of building programme
- In the course of new construction phases: implementing many environmental measures (planting of the roof, thermal activation of building structures, protection from summer heat)
- Installing a light control system in the new building (presence detector, time control, LED) Installing a ventilator to improve heat management and thus the efficiency of the compressor
- Changing to recycled paper
- Introducing an electronic archive system
- Paperless dispatch of invoices
- Re-fitting the lighting system in the sewing department
Waste management, recycling and avoiding waste
Currently, we are checking the handling of waste again, for example. As already described in the section about Logistics and disposal concepts, we are intensively dealing with the subjects of waste management, recycling and avoiding waste in many areas of the company. In the context of our company site, we are striving to achieve a further reduction in residual waste costs by 3 %.
The sustainable use of finite resources is important to us. We are committed to sustainable development that takes into account the needs of individuals, companies and the environment in equal measure. We have therefore anchored this value in our HALFAR® Code of Conduct. In line with this responsibility, we are concerned with the sensible use of resources and the avoidance of waste on many levels and have been audited in accordance with DIN ISO 14001:2015 since 2018. One approach to waste avoidance is the reuse of materials already in circulation. We take this into account with the possibility of upcycling. Our modular systems also give our customers access to this option at an attractive price.
The packaging of our products serves exclusively to protect them during transport and follows the principle of economy. This means that even in the product development phase, we are extensively concerned with avoiding unnecessary packaging. To protect the goods, we mainly use cardboard boxes and PE bags. Once they have fulfilled their intended purpose, these can be sorted and fed into the recycling system for reuse. We can ensure this return for all products finished at HALFAR®, because Halfar has been connected to the German recycling system for more than seven years. With the extensive range of finishing services, above all through the prosigno integrated printing plant located at the CO2-free company site, we create the necessary basis for this. With regard to the residual waste generated at the site, we also pursue the strategy of avoiding it as far as possible. To this end, we have already introduced extensive waste separation systems. The goal for 2020 was to reduce the remaining residual waste by a further 3%. The statistics provided give you an overview of the development of the materials generated for disposal at the headquarters.
Developing e-mobility at headquarters
Also with regards to individual and company traffic, we have already initiated measures and are planning to build on them. In Europe, passenger transport is responsible for around 30 % of all CO2 emissions and is increasing due to the growing registration of vehicles. Electric cars reduce these emissions, especially when they are also powered by electricity from renewable sources. As we have the appropriate infrastructure at HALFAR®, we introduced the first electric vehicle to our company carpool in 2019. Any employee can now book a BMW i3 that is fully electric for business trips, via the internal network. To charge the vehicle, we had already installed the first charging station in 2018. This is located in our underground car park and allows the simultaneous charging of two e-cars up to 22 kWh. This means that the full distance range is available to any employee when used. The distance range of the vehicle is approx. 200 km in normal use. It is therefore currently not suitable for longer business trips. So, a plug-in-hybrid vehicle will be acquired in the near future, which also allows greater distances without any difficulties. The charging options will also be expanded with two e-charging points at our main site in the near future and will then be available to all colleagues and visitors to our company. And, there will also be various options for charging e-vehicles at our new logistics site in Altenhagen. It is also our goal to make business trips more sustainable, wherever possible, by using trains. The additional purchase of travel cards for trains should support this positive development even further.
“CO2-emissions from individual traffic“ is a subject that also occupied our trainees. They took the view that there are potential savings to be made everywhere, but that these remain frequently unnoticed. To uncover such potential in the company, trainees from the whole of the OWL region were invited to register for the 5th time in 2018 for this project by the chamber of industry and commerce. On their own initiative, our trainees participated in this project and went to search for possible potential and solutions. For this, they compiled a precise site balance sheet with regards to the CO2-emissions produced and evaluated it. This went beyond just business activities and took a close look at all processes in and around the company. With the "eco-cockpit" programme, they analysed accruing emissions and evaluated them. A result of the evaluation was that staff and company cars cause a large part of the emissions, which still occur at the site. To minimise the emissions, the trainees created an option in the company’s internal communication platform that supports the formation of carpools. Any employee can register here, stating at what time, on what day and from which place they drive to work. This has already encouraged the formation of the first carpools, which now drive to work together: a great success for the environment and the team spirit of the workforce.
Stadtradeln (city biking) is a campaign of the climate association (Klima-Bündnis), the largest network of cities, communities and districts formed for the protection of the world’s climate. The aims of the campaign are to make a positive contribution to climate protection, to give a signal for communal bicycle mobility and, not least, to enjoy cycling. For this, all participants across the country hit the pedals for 21 days. Our employees have long been proving that cycling is fun.
Whether with the JobBike or their own bicycle, many colleagues are increasingly on the roads without car. So, this joint action also found enthusiastic response and the first Halfar-own city bike team was created. Our team consisted of 25 participants, who busily collected kilometres in the period from 15.06. to 05.07.2019. In all, a proud 5,140 kilometres came together and nearly 730 kg of CO2 was saved, in comparison to using the car over the same distance. The campaign was a full success and brought the subject of sustainable mobility into even greater focus amongst staff members. It is exciting to observe that some colleagues were very motivated to try and manage without driving the car more often.
The green board
True to the motto that nothing is too small and nobody is too little to make a difference, we create the future together, here at HALFAR®, and start with small measures. To take every employee with us, we installed a “green board” in our company last year. Every employee can discover the latest advances in the field of sustainability, and join in. For this, our “green pin board“ is placed directly in front of the canteen, showing all measures, which are regularly updated. Moreover, we also installed a “green post”, which should encourage every member of staff get creative, sharing his/her ideas on various subjects relating to sustainability with us. Since the start of the “green post”, many interesting suggestions have reached us. We tested all of them and have already implemented some of them. This includes: our fruit baskets, the suggestion to revive the DKMS type identification campaign and city biking. They are all suggestions from the ranks of employees. Suggestions to make small-scale changes are also implemented, such as for example the conversion to organic cleaning products. We are really happy with the contributions and ideas.
Bielefeld is not only our homeland, but also that of the animal park established in Olderdissen. It houses 450 animals of 90 various species and offers an opportunity to anyone to gain an insight into wildlife, as the park is available to visitors free of charge and around the clock. Many animals in the park can only be found rarely, or not at all, in the wild today. This also applies to the Soay sheep, which we adopted in 2019. As part of this adoption, we take on a share of the annual cost for feeding the animals in the park. Soay sheep are especially worthy of protection, as they presumably are the oldest species of sheep still living in the world. The species corresponds in type to the domestic sheep of the Bronze Age and stands out due to their robust nature and curly horns. The sheep are named after the Scottish Hebrides island of Soay, where the last population lives free in the wild.
We took on another sponsorship on the promenade in Bielefeld. The footpath over the city’s roofs, particularly popular amongst walkers, and which reaches form the East of Bielefeld to Sparrenburg, had to accept a heavy loss last year. A large section of the ash trees, which formed the avenue and gave the path its special charm, had to be chopped down because of a fungal attack and age. The first ash trees had been planted as early as the middle of the 18th century and made it possible for many generations to enjoy some timeout outdoors in the middle of the city. To allow this opportunity for future generations, and to ensure fresh oxygen in the city, the Bielefelder Bürgerstiftung (Bielefeld civic trust) founded the project "Our tree for Bielefeld". We support this project and adopted the sponsorship for one of the newly planted oak trees. These were planted this year, and already have a considerable height of up to five metres.
Sustainability in practice
Sustainability is daily practice at HALFAR® - this is shown by the great involvement in the implementation of the various projects. Cooperation and networking generate many more ideas for new projects and measures. Before implementation, we carefully check whether the suggestions can be turned into reality. Many criteria have to be considered for this, because every decision ties up resources and should be taken in a considered and sustainable manner. This active solution-oriented examination of various options leads to a differentiated view and a high level of knowledge on the respective topics. We share the knowledge that we have accumulated over the past years in the course of the many projects. We invest extensively in training and further education both internally and externally.
We are also actively involved with the topic of sustainability. We give lectures at selected events, take part in discussions and provide best practice expert knowledge. For example, at the 7th meeting of the contact network of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce, where a keynote lecture on the topic of "Nature and environmental protection as a practised corporate philosophy" was given by our Managing Director Kathrin Stühmeyer-Halfar. We are also actively involved with our customers, within the framework of trade partnerships, educational institutions and all our other partners.
Further development of our sustainable awareness
Our sustainability reporting, which we now do every year, is done on a voluntary basis. Even without legal constraints, we want to give our stakeholders an insight into our work and disclose our motives. This is why we write such a detailed report and continuously develop our reporting. This year, we have included the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in our reporting system, thereby increasing comparability with other companies. In addition, this enables us to compare our actions with the objectives of the United Nations, which are designed to ensure sustainable development on an economic, social and ecological level. We will continue to develop our reporting system together with our CSR measures in the future, and want to make our actions even more transparent.
More space, more opportunities – our new external warehouse
In 2019, our new, state-of-the-art logistics centre in Bielefeld-Altenhagen went into operation. After less than a year of construction, it was completed, and is now expanding our storage capacity. The warehouse has a floor space of 7,100 m². The area houses a narrow-aisle warehouse, which offers space for 11,300 Euro pallets thanks to this particularly efficient arrangement of the shelves. The warehouse is served by special narrow-aisle forklifts which are navigated in the rack aisle only by means of an induction loop laid in the floor, and receive all driving commands via a high-performance WLAN. To ensure that this runs smoothly, the forklifts are equipped with automatic warehouse navigation and drive to the place coordinates fully automatically. A particularly energy-efficient motion curve is used for this purpose. The forklifts are also equipped with a recuperation brake, which makes it possible to recover the energy generated during braking and feed it back into the battery.
Thanks to the above-mentioned measures, we have access to a large number of our products at all times and can react even more flexibly and quickly to customer enquiries.
Additional external warehouses are therefore no longer necessary and the entire warehouse stock can be bundled at our two locations. This has the advantage that we can considerably reduce transport distances. Thanks to the proximity to the main site, previously necessary transport journeys are reduced to half the distance, thus reducing the emissions that arise during transport. The high storage capacity of the new logistics centre relieves the warehouse at the main site and creates new perspective possibilities for the use of the premises. The new warehouse therefore offers added value for the environment through its size, high capacity and efficient utilisation alone. In addition, the entire building is designed in such a way that the strain on the environment is kept to a minimum.
A photovoltaic system was installed on the roof as at our main site. Due to the favourable location of the new warehouse and thanks to the 270 modules on the roof, which have an output of 70 kWp, it is possible to produce the electricity for the new warehouse ourselves. In addition, the facility has its own electricity storage equipment with a storage capacity of 25 kWh. This stores electricity that has been generated but not used, for example at weekends. If the sun does not shine enough, we can use our own electricity storage facility and supply ourselves. Should external power still be required, we also purchase green electricity at this site. Our green electricity can also be used on-site to charge electric cars, e-bikes and forklift trucks. For this purpose, we have installed two charging points with 22 kW charging power in the warehouse. These can be used by employees and visitors alike.
Halfar climate project 2019
In addition to our product and site measures, last year we took a close look at our unavoidable transport emissions and launched our compensation project. To this end, we have recorded and quantified the emissions. The determined quantity is now being used for selected ecological measures. Last year, the amount represented an important part of the investment costs for our new green roof. Six years ago, we already planted a 400 m² roof area in an insect-friendly manner, thereby creating a new habitat for insects. Furthermore, the green roof has the great additional benefit of converting CO2 into fresh oxygen. Since this project was very successful, we decided to replant and redesign another suitable building roof in the interest of the insects. In cooperation with the Insect-Respect® initiative founded by Dr. Hans-Dietrich Reckhaus, Halfar employees have jointly planted the roof of our first construction phase. The compensation area created in this way covers an area of 480 m² and is the result of a very special motivation.
As with all our measures, the selection of the climate project at Halfar is based on certain criteria. The project should:
Insect protection and renaturation are matters particularly close to our hearts for certain reasons, which we will list later. But other criteria also spoke in favour of the climate project:
- be permanent,
- provide substantial added value for the environment, where possible at more than one level,
- be able to be reviewed by us in terms of implementation,
- ensure that the investment flows directly into the project and have no or very low costs for administration etc.,
- not pursue any commercial interests.
Insect protection and renaturation are matters particularly close to our hearts for certain reasons, which we will list later. But other criteria also spoke in favour of the climate project:
- Participation of employees
- Local proximity
- Oxygen production
- Insulating effect
Participation: After the employee action was announced in the company, the 10 possible places for helpers were immediately taken. Many employees wanted to get up on the roof and create another rich insect habitat. This shows the high interest of the employees in the topic. Together with the management and the experts from Insect Respect®, the roof was planted over a weekend. The area not only looks beautiful and is attractive to the employees, but also has many other advantages. The main priority is, of course, the insects. They benefit from the rich and specifically selected range of regional plants as a source of food. In addition, the space is designed in such a way that insects find shelter and nesting opportunities. For this purpose, many places have been created with clay and sand to give the animals the opportunity to dig nesting holes or collect material for nests. In addition, some insect hotels made of dead wood, stones and shrubs were created as a place of well-being, retreat and, above all, nesting for the little guests. But the new green space also benefits us, as it converts released CO2 into fresh oxygen. Another advantage is that the planting provides natural protection against heat and cold. In summer, our green roof prevents it from heating up too quickly underneath, and in winter it acts as a natural insulation to keep out the cold. There are also advantages for the building, as on the one hand resources are saved, as the life of the roof can be extended, and on the other hand the greenery acts as a natural dust filter and rainwater retention, which reduces the burden on the sewerage system. In the end, young and old all benefit from an insect-friendly planted roof. To ensure that the plants are selected correctly and that the shelters for insects are laid out correctly, we have obtained professional support from Insect Respect®. The founder Dr. Hans-Dietrich Reckhaus and the biologist Dr. Philipp Unterweger supported us energetically and informed all participants about the immense value of the project for biodiversity. Insect Respect® has set itself the goal of promoting awareness for responsible handling of insects. They also support the expansion of compensation areas to provide insects with a protected habitat. Thanks to the great commitment of Insect Respect®, numerous such compensation areas have been created on roofs and on the grounds since 2012. These not only provide habitats for many insects, but also enable research work to be carried out to ensure that the areas can be optimally planted. Such projects form the basis for preserving the insects and help to slow down the extreme decline.
Another project that aims to preserve insects is the initiative "Bielefeld Round Table for More Biodiversity" founded by Armin Halfar in 2017 and, in particular, the resulting "Insect Aid" campaign. This is made up of Bielefeld's citizens and entrepreneurs and takes quick and unconventional action against the dramatic loss of insects. In doing so, they focus primarily on education and do a lot of work to better understand the insects that are often very alien to us. Unfortunately, insects cannot "communicate" themselves, which is why Insect Aid uses various channels to inform about the tiny workers in our ecosystem. On the website, interested parties will find a lot of useful information and further points of contact on the topic of "creating insect-friendly habitats" and biodiversity. A flyer is also available to provide information, and anyone can help. If there are suitable places where flyers could be displayed or distributed, dedicated citizens can contact Insect Aid directly.