AVO tackles sustainability and receives certificate from the University of Witten/Herdecke

AVO-Werke August Beisse GmbH is the first company in the German condiments industry to be certified in accordance with the ZNU’s Sustainable Business Standard.

‘We are delighted that AVO has now established its sustainability management system in accordance with our ZNU Sustainable Business Standard. This underlines the company’s seriousness about facing up to the multifaceted challenges of sustainability,’ said Dr Christian Gessner, founder and director of Zentrum für Nachhaltige Unternehmensführung [the Centre for Sustainable Management], ZNU for short, at Witten/Herdecke University.

It was two years ago that the workshops associated with certification according to the ZNU standard began. This has been a long road that AVO consciously embarked on – because for AVO’s managing directors, Bernhard Loch and Guido Massmann, sustainability is more than just a buzzword. ‘Sustainable management applies to all areas of a company and makes it fit for the future,’ says Loch.

Anyone who thinks of sustainability only in terms of the ecological implications needs to think on a wider scale. ‘Certification covers three major areas,’ says Louis Rosenzweig, Sustainability Manager at AVO. ‘In addition to the environment, there are also the economic and social aspects. These in turn are broken down into many sub-areas.’ While terms such as net carbon neutrality, energy-saving measures and emissions avoidance are included in the assessment under the environmental heading, the social section also looks at such matters as sick leave and the demographic development of employees.
Collecting data, evaluating data, defining goals – this triad is what processes in the company should be following. The basic idea is that those who define clear goals on the basis of good data, and monitor them again and again, act sustainably. The evaluation and improvement of processes can involve the supply chains and the procurement of raw materials as well as data protection and the company's regional commitment. In an audit lasting several days, independent external auditors have now ascertained what ecological, social and corporate sustainability measures AVO is implementing in concrete terms. The catalogue is long, and ranges from the emissions report to the reorganisation of the packaging system to training schemes for employees.

Among other things, the audits that AVO has established for external partners deserve mention. In addition to the quality of the goods or services, compliance rules and working conditions of the employees are also evaluated. In the area of social and environmental issues, AVO has been involved for years with the ‘Little Smile’ project in Sri Lanka, a charitable organisation one of whose activities is the running of spice plantations. Within the framework of helping people to help themselves, AVO has undertaken to purchase their spices even above the usual market level – in fact 90% of its organic pepper comes from this project. In addition, AVO assumes the costs for the annual Bioland certification.

In the end, the 12-member Sustainability team could be happy with the outcome: their efforts were a success, and the certificate was duly awarded. ‘The process does not stop there, however. This marks only the beginning of our permanent efforts to become more and more sustainable,’ says Rosenzweig. The certificate is valid until 2025, when the audits start again. But the effort is worth it, because the results are valuable – not least with regard to day-to-day business. ‘Our customers from the food trade, the food industry and the craft-based food sector attach great importance to having a partner in AVO that sets itself up on a sustainable basis, provides certified proof of this and continues to develop in this direction,’ says Guido Massmann, summing up AVO’s efforts.