Climate change is one of the major challenges of our time
In a constantly changing world with limited resources and fluctuating prices, genuine sustainability, innovation, and the active participation of all stakeholders are needed to achieve successful shared value creation.
At Unite, we connect the economy for sustainable business and help companies achieve long-term sustainability goals. Our E-Procurement platform, with its integrated Mercateo B2B marketplace and Procurement Portal, enables easy procurement for businesses and the public sector. The Unite Platform brings buyers and suppliers together for mutual benefit, promoting fair competition and trusted partnerships.
Our sustainability report highlights some of our solutions contributing to sustainability, environmental protection, social responsibility, and corporate governance. Although we are only obligated to disclose our sustainability information starting in 2026, it is important for us to provide a good overview of where we stand now and the challenges that still lie ahead. As we continuously develop our business model and products, internal sustainability remains a matter close to our hearts.
The decision to develop a sustainability strategy is intrinsically motivated. Through appropriate corporate governance, we have established clear responsibilities for the e-procurement platform's sustainability, compliance and internal sustainability. Every employee had the opportunity to contribute to developing the sustainability roadmap by completing a questionnaire. External stakeholders also participated in the process through dialogues and written recommendations. Together with them, we identified the sustainability issues that are essential to us so that we can consistently work on them.
Sustainability report according to the DNK standard
We use the German Sustainability Code (DNK) for our sustainability report. The DNK provides a cross-sector and widely recognised standard in Europe for reporting on the non-financial performance of companies. The code defines 20 criteria that provide guidance to companies regarding ecology, social issues and corporate governance. The DNK ensures better comparability of the sustainability performance of reporting organisations. Our performance is also compared to other companies through our EcoVadis certification.
In developing our sustainability strategy using the DNK, we asked three questions:
- How can we contribute to sustainable development that is environmentally friendly?
- What does collective action mean?
- What steps are necessary to ensure proper behaviour?
We care about the environment
1.2 million certified articles
Through Unite, goods worth millions are purchased annually. Our most significant impact lies in providing participants on the platform with opportunities to choose more sustainable products and suppliers. That's why we are incorporating more product and supplier transparency into our platform. On the Mercateo B2B marketplace, we give our customers the ability to filter for sustainable articles. Currently, products with over 30 environmental and social labels are specifically filterable for approximately 2,000 search terms. Across all our marketplaces (including international ones), we offer around 1.2 million certified articles. Purchasing managers can find the certificates transparently displayed on the search results page, alongside details such as price and availability.
Study: Sustainable Procurement and Responsible Supply Chains
Procurement plays a central role when it comes to sustainability. This is evidenced by the new study "Sustainable Procurement and Responsible Supply Chains 2023" conducted by the JARO Institute for Sustainability and Digitalisation e.V. in collaboration with the CBS International Business School and Unite. The study's results show that sustainability is considered significant even in economically challenging times, driven partly by customer expectations.
CO₂ reduction journey
We are currently developing a CO₂ reduction path, a significant component of our sustainability efforts. It describes when we as a company will become carbon neutral. The rule we follow is reduction before compensation.
With this, we establish short-and long-term reduction measures, such as transforming our business mobility. What cannot be further reduced in emissions within a year is compensated through voluntary participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
We began implementing various reduction measures for instance, we use electricity from renewable sources for our office locations in Germany. We have significantly reduced space and heat consumption in our offices through more efficient space utilisation and subletting.
Furthermore, in line with our environmental goals, we have changed our travel policy in favour of train travel. Our company car policy aims to control CO₂ emissions, and several vehicles in our fleet have been replaced with electric cars.
Sustainability team’s efforts
Our sustainability team supports colleagues in making environmentally conscious decisions to reduce Unite's negative carbon footprint. Through various actions such as fixing bicycles in a self-help workshop, offering vegan chili tastings on World Environment Day, and providing Fairtrade-certified coffee and fair-trade chocolate during Fairtrade Week, colleagues are sensitised to ecological sustainability. The team also supports the development of a reduction path towards a carbon neutral Unite.
Diverse, trusting, fair, courageous, and human - these are our corporate values, which express our intrinsic motivation to contribute together to a sustainable future. We place the employee at the centre of our endeavours by cultivating a motivating and fair working environment.
Promoting ethical behaviour
Fair Tax: Transparency in Tax Payment
The Fair Tax Foundation awarded us the "Fair Tax Mark" mark for responsible tax behaviour. We are the first platform company to receive this international recognition for tax transparency. Additionally, we are the first multinational company based in Germany to receive this mark.
Respecting human rights in the supply chain
Although we are not subject to the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act due to our company size, we strive to meet the resulting requirements.
The first step was to revise our Code of Conduct. The new code emphasises the supply chain, meaning that the business partner is responsible not only for ensuring the rights of employees and human rights within their organisation but also within their supply chain through the implementation of control mechanisms.
The Code of Conduct is the basis for all our business relationships. It obliges our direct business partners to uphold and respect human and environmental rights.
Additionally, we have an independent whistleblower system that allows for anonymous reporting of violations of laws and internal regulations.
Change requires collective action
Since 2022, there has been an employee-elected Culture Circle that regularly engages with the Unite board to discuss topics related to international and national collaboration within the company. The Culture Circle also includes employees from foreign subsidiaries to jointly represent the interests of all. The Culture Circle contributes to promoting and further developing our corporate culture, ensuring that everyone feels heard and understood.
We advocate for diverse and inclusive work and living environments for all employees. We offer a variety of family-friendly, inclusive measures and flexible working time arrangements. The lockdowns during the pandemic catalysed us to explore new digital concepts. For our flexible working models, we received the third-place award in the nationwide Mindshift Awards. The jury recognised our Smart Work concept, which enables flexible work and hybrid collaboration for our employees.
Diversity enriches our work environment and opens opportunities for new solutions. By signing the Diversity Charter in 2021, we have already taken a stand for diversity. We acknowledge and welcome that people are different and promote this concerning diverse backgrounds, origins, ages, genders, etc. We employ over 700 individuals from 40 nations, of which 55% are women. Women occupy 44% of leadership positions. The age structure ranges from 16 to 63 years.
Digitalisation has made global work possible. Therefore, in addition to employees at 14 European locations, we now also have many remote workers around the world. A working group is dedicated to diversity and equal opportunities to raise awareness within the company for diversity.
Our company’s health management team has cared for employees' health for many years. The team organises skin screenings, eye check-ups, health days with check-ups and sports activities, flu vaccinations, and much more. In addition, trained "ergonomics officers" provide training on proper posture at the workplace to prevent back pain. We have received the Healthcare Award from Barmer health insurance for our commitment to health promotion for the fourth time.
Motivated, satisfied, and therefore also high-performing employees are one of the decisive success factors for any company. Through our in-house "Academy," employees can further develop their soft skills and professional expertise. The complete range of offerings is accessible through our learning platform to enable learning as independent as possible from time, location and language.
In 2022, we established a volunteer Ukraine Aid Group composed of employees. They organised donation campaigns, facilitated refugee accommodations, and made private donations to aid organisations. We also encourage our customers and suppliers to donate relief goods on the company website. Additionally, we are in contact with aid organisations such as the Association for Global Emergency Relief, which handles relief transports to Ukraine on our behalf.
In the summer of 2023, we moved into new office buildings in Leipzig and Munich. Our new headquarters in Leipzig, called "Netzwerk" (network), is an identity-establishing place that brings Unite members together, fosters exchange, and promotes networking with others. Different work areas cater to the needs of employees, including spaces for colleagues who prefer focused, quiet work, as well as creative elements and rooms. An in-house canteen that takes care of catering needs.
Our headquarters was built according to extensive sustainability and green energy criteria. We are currently pursuing certification according to the Gold Standard sustainability criteria of the German Sustainable Building Council, and the process is still ongoing. The certification includes compliance with various parameters such as energy efficiency, resource conservation, and a healthy working environment - with a total index of 65% or higher.
Our commitment extends not only to promoting fair procurement processes and enhanced sustainability criteria throughout the entire supply chain but also to creating a healthy working environment.
Sustainable business practices are not only good for the planet but also beneficial for the business itself. Our roadmap for 2024 focuses on strengthening this understanding of our products, solutions, and partnerships.
We see that we still have a long way to go. We must understand customer requirements better and create transparency throughout the supply chain. The transition to sustainability is a continuous journey that can only be achieved together.