A carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of CO2 emitted, for example by a company. In 2021, we produced approximately 53,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Based on around 830,000 kitchens, that amounts to some 65 kg of CO2 per kitchen. This is still too high for us. That’s why we’re pursuing a broad sustainability strategy aimed at improving our carbon footprint.
By the way, if we are to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, then every German will have to keep their CO₂ emissions below 1,000 kg each year. Obviously, there’s still a great deal for us to do – and we want to give it our best effort!
Energy is essential for production: machines have to be powered and people need, for example, good lighting to ensure a healthy and ergonomic workplace. Some of the electricity that we require for our business activities is obtained from renewables. We have a photovoltaic system on the roof of Plant IV and another installation of a similar size on an administration building – and we’re keen to significantly increase the proportion of clean electricity we generate on site. We plan to install a state-of-the-art photovoltaic system covering all of Plant III’s roof, which we’re expecting to put into operation in 2023.
We heat our buildings with wood waste when the temperatures are lowest; during the milder months of the year, we use the waste heat from our air compressors as a source of heat. Heat is produced when air is compressed in these compressors. We take the waste heat generated through friction and compression and feed it into our heating circuits. If we didn’t use this waste heat, it would simply be discharged into the air. We therefore achieve a double effect: our heating water is also warmed up. This means that we don’t have to burn any additional energy sources to heat our buildings.
We produce over 90,000 tonnes of wood waste a year. Of course, we don’t simply dispose of this, but re-use it in various ways. For example, we effectively recycle waste that can no longer be used: instead of meeting our heating needs with non-renewables such as oil, gas or coal, we utilise wood as a renewable material. This is an extremely sustainable use of our production waste. For example, it serves to heat our entire production facilities and the administration offices in Plants I, II, III and V, and therefore over 400,000 m2, primarily in winter.
We generate electricity in our high-bay warehouses and reduce consumption at the same time. Our high-bay warehouse in Plant I has more than 27,000 pallet bays, for example. Fourteen fully automatic storage and retrieval machines (SRMs) are used there for pallet movements. These are in motion all day long. When such a machine carries a load from up high to down low, we make use of gravity: we utilise the motors of the SRMs as dynamos to generate electricity during braking and descending.
The best packaging is packaging that has not been produced in the first place. Wherever technically possible, we dispense with packaging entirely in all areas. To ensure goods are still protected, we use closed-loop systems. In cooperation with our suppliers, almost all production materials are delivered in such reusable packaging. Fittings, of which we need many thousands every day to produce drawers, pull-outs and the like, come to us in trays, like crates, instead of disposable boxes. These trays have a lifespan of many years and therefore save on disposable packaging.
Although a great deal of waste and scrap can be avoided, there will always be a certain amount of waste. With our comprehensive disposal concept, we endeavour to collect and carefully separate the waste. For this to work as standard across all plants, nobilia has defined all of the different types of waste and introduced a colour coding system. This system clearly illustrates to all employees which waste should be disposed of in which container. The different fractions of waste that result are subsequently taken away by certified disposal companies. In this way, we are managing to achieve a recycling rate of well over 60%.
Our management system helps us to define clear rules, instructions and processes for our activities. This creates transparency that greatly facilitates our work. When it comes to saving energy and reducing our carbon footprint, ISO 50001 (energy) is especially important. This international standard is helping nobilia to establish systematic energy management based on recording energy flows (energy sources, use and consumers) and evaluating the level of energy efficiency. This data forms the basis on which measures can be developed and implemented.
Replacing conventional bulbs with LEDs, switching off lights when no-one’s there – just like in all our homes, this is standard practice at nobilia too. We’ve therefore installed LED lighting in production areas and most administration buildings. And we save even more energy by only switching on lights when needed. To this end, we’ve installed a “DALI” lighting control system at nobilia, which adjusts the lighting according to the available daylight: depending on the amount of natural daylight entering the respective hall, the LED lighting is automatically dimmed.
A large proportion of the CO2 emissions we produce result from production and our vehicle fleet. A targeted, company-wide concept is needed to work on measures that will improve energy efficiency. With this in mind, we’ve established at nobilia an Energy and Environmental Management Committee in our technology division. This committee evaluates and coordinates all energy and environmental activities across all departments and plants and takes steps towards their implementation. All technical departments with a bearing on energy and the environment take part in the committee meetings.
Through our emergency management plans, we aim to be best prepared for any risks that may arise. In-house paramedics, safety stations and fire protection measures are examples of our emergency management setup. At nobilia, we’ve introduced a system with around 40 in-house paramedics for risks to health. In addition to a rescue backpack, additional safety stations are also in place across every area. Fire protection measures of all kinds have the highest priority for us. Our focus in this area includes, for example, cooperation and drills with the local fire department and the establishment of an alert system to notify all necessary individuals in the event of an incident.
At nobilia, we produce around 90,000 tonnes of wood waste a year. We utilise this waste in two ways: some as a renewable heating material, but most we return to a producer for use as a recycled material in new chipboard or for energy generation. Here too, however, we take a “prevention first, then recycling” approach. This applies in particular to rejects, which, unlike normal sawdust, take valuable energy and work time to produce. Therefore, avoiding rejects benefits the environment and makes our work more efficient, which in turn saves money during production.
At nobilia, we only use as much water as is truly needed. We can largely operate without water, which is only required for some cooling processes. Otherwise, our water use is limited to the canteen, washrooms and cleaning activities. We also minimise the use of hazardous substances, mainly adhesives, cleaning agents and lubricants. Protecting the health of our employees has the highest priority for us, which is why hazardous substances undergo comprehensive safety evaluation and testing before they are introduced into the company.