In the interview below, Nora Reumschüssel talks about how Unite deals with environmental sustainability and how Unitees are getting involved.
How does Unite approach sustainability, and what motivates you to do so?
Sustainability has always been important to us. But ever since our rebranding from Mercateo to Unite, it’s been front and centre. That’s why our motto is: we connect the economy for sustainable business. As such, we have a responsibility towards environmental sustainability.
We’ve divided our sustainability campaigns into 2 areas. I’m in charge of in-house activities, and my colleague works on making our e-procurement platform the most sustainable it can be.
There’s also a motivated group of Unitees that has formed to promote sustainability in all areas of the company. You can read more about that in our Sustainability Report.
Can you give us an example of how Unite does that?
We recently hosted a vegan buffet, which was surprisingly well-received! We put up posters to educate people on the environmental benefits of veganism.
In the spring, we ran our ‘bicycle spring clean’ campaign to promote more sustainable commute options. The event took place at a bicycle workshop near the office and gave Unitees the chance to repair their bikes with the help of bike mechanics.
We also share energy-saving tips and more on our intranet pages. It might seem trivial to talk about saving electricity – switch off the lights and turn off your computer at the end of the day – but it all adds up!
We also joined the Germany-wide Fair Week campaign in Leipzig last year. The next one’s coming up in September. As part of Fair Week, we visited a coffee roastery and learned all about fair trade. In Köthen, we set up a fair trade quiz outside the office canteen.
These are some of the many sustainability events that we’ve hosted so far.
How do you manage to put all that into place at Unite? And what have been your biggest challenges so far?
We have the support of our company board, which is so important! In fact, there’s been a shift throughout the whole company. For instance, we agreed that our Environmental Sustainability Team gets to spend 10% of its work time on sustainability-related campaigns.
There’s also a lot of interest outside the team – many people will come to us to offer their support. Rather than being mere bystanders, they want to help shape what we do.
It can be challenging not knowing if a campaign will generate interest or not. A low attendance could, for instance, be traced back to our flexible work models and many employees working from home that day. There’s a variety of reasons that can determine the success of a campaign. We’ll only be able to reap what we sow further down the road.
How does your work impact individuals and corporate culture?
Sustainability is getting more and more attention. It starts with conversations in the staff kitchen with questions like “What’s the proper way to dispose of my tea bags?”. In the office, we’re constantly discussing sustainability issues that we’ve heard about in the news.
Sustainability is one of our core company values. As such, it’s at the core of each process at Unite. It also gets us more involved as a team.
So how do you even begin?
At first, we wanted to tackle the issues with the biggest impact. But when you’re starting out, that’s too much to ask – especially when you consider how many departments have a say in the matter.
I recommend starting simple and working your way up the complexity ladder. First, you need to get motivated people in your company involved in your campaigns.
Your next step is to try to reach the ones with more of a stand-offish attitude. It’s about convincing them by being transparent and respectful rather than lecturing them. State the reasons for what you’re doing and use examples to show why certain ways of doing things are better than others.
What’s the Environmental Sustainability Team working on next?
Because we operate across 13 European countries besides Germany, we’d like to have one sustainability ambassador in each country. The goal is for them to run small sustainability campaigns at their own location.
Eventually, we want to introduce sustainability metrics so we can measure our progress in all areas of the company.
There’s also another campaign called ‘Mobility Week’ coming up in September. We’re still working out the details, but we’re planning to include a driver safety course.