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All for Zero! Why commitment to sustainability is zero monotonous at ista

Topics: Sustainability, Company, Saving energy

CO2-free by 2030: People who set ambitious goals for themselves need determination, perseverance and a strong team. The latest progress report shows that ista can count on its employees.

Sandra Müller organises the Welcome Week for new talent at ista and knows: everyone is working with great enthusiasm and good ideas to achieve the net-zero target.

“Climate protection and sustainability are often a topic during the Welcome Week,” Sandra Müller explains. The 28-year-old organises an induction event every two to three months, which gives new employees at ista the opportunity to get to know each other and familiarises them with the most important areas of the company and topics. “At our last event in May, we asked everyone what they associate with sustainability at ista,” Müller reports. We received many different answers. Giving priority to rail and electric cars for business trips, saving paper through digitalisation, recycling raw materials when replacing devices: “The Welcome Week participants are very interested in finding out what action ista is taking to achieve its net-zero target.”

Joining forces for zero CO2

ista has already been operating climate-neutral since June 2021; the company wants to be CO2-free by 2030. This can only be achieved if everyone pulls together and seizes any and every opportunity to reduce emissions. The motto of the newly published ista progress report is therefore: “All for Zero!” The report gives detailed information about the steps ista is taking to successively reduce its carbon footprint.

One important leverage point is our fleet of vehicles going electric. “The employees can already use electric cars as fleet vehicles at our Head Office in Essen and at six other sites in Germany,” Sandra Müller reports. Ten all-electric vehicles are in use there, with more to follow in the coming months. Whenever possible, they are fuelled with green electricity. Where ista itself signs contracts with utilities, the German branches already only purchase power from renewable sources. ista is negotiating with the landlords at the other sites to achieve a switch to renewables there, too. That is the second leverage point with which ista can reduce emissions particularly effectively.

“The third leverage point is the one where our employees feel the effect most,” Müller explains. “Our new travel policy, which came into effect on 1 July 2021, applies the ‘video-first rule’: when meetings, conferences or training courses can be conducted just as easily online, we forego business trips. If they cannot be avoided, the train-instead-of-plane rule applies to domestic travel.”


Online learning and creative collaboration

The Welcome Week has already been held online since 2020. The original reason for discontinuing the in-presence event was the Covid-19 pandemic. “But we have had good experience with the online format,” says Müller. Thanks to creative communication tools, the getting-to-know-colleagues part works very well. "We also avoid further emissions by eliminating the need to travel from the different German locations to Head Office.”

Sandra Müller first came to ista in 2019 as an intern. She then stayed with the company as a working student and joined the HR Development department permanently after graduating in the spring of 2021. Since then, she has been responsible there for onboarding, organising training courses and for apprenticeships. She herself guides graduate trainees and young colleagues who are doing a dual-study course at ista through their first steps in the company.

“Our employees’ personal development and creative collaboration are benefitting enormously from the new group-wide learning platform istaLEARN,” says Sandra Müller. The platform was launched at the start of 2022 and now offers all learning opportunities at the one place. Classroom training can be booked via istaLEARN and, at the same time, the number of online training options is being continually extended. “Since the launch of istaLEARN, we can reach all employees worldwide with selected training courses. The first company-wide international course was the Code of Conduct training, which was compulsory for all employees,” she explains. “We are very much looking forward to expanding the offering significantly in the coming months.”

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Including and involving employees

The social dimension of sustainability is something that is close to Sandra Müller’s heart. She wrote her Master's thesis on the opportunities of corporate volunteering for HR development. When it comes to achieving specific climate targets, she has her eye, above all, on how to strengthen employees’ commitment. “It is essential to provide stimulating ideas that make sustainability tangible and encourage people to interact,” says Müller. Then we see time and time again that many ista colleagues are highly motivated to commit personally to the net-zero goal and contribute their own ideas to the process, one example being the recent CO2 Fasting Challenge at Easter.

“The most important thing is that the topic remains a talking point. After all, it is all too easy for it to slip our minds in daily life,” Müller believes. “And, in the end, it all comes down to many small decisions that together can have an effect: Do I switch something off or not?  Do I take the car or the train, even though it might take 20 minutes longer? Will I not use a paper mug in the canteen but bring my own coffee mug instead?” The answers ultimately depend on whether the net-zero goal is shared by as many people as possible, says Sandra Müller. “Then ‘All for Zero’ will really become a common cause.”

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