Since the beginning of 2001, the protection of biodiversity has played an important role in company politics at Daimler AGs largest plant with more than 40,000 employees. At that time a natural solution was needed to bring under control a large pigeon population. It is for this reason that a close and long-term collaboration was swiftly established with NABU (Birdlife Germany) and the German Association for the Mössingen Bird Protection Centre, on whose recommendation Peregrine Falcon nest boxes were mounted on the companys chimneys.
As a natural predator, these falcons ensure a decrease in the number of pigeons. Even today, the nest boxes continue to fulfil their goal. As part of the scheme 200 nest boxes are to be mounted at the plant with the support of NABU. Even company training was involved.
Following measures taken by NABU, wild bee and bat boxes, as well as nest boxes for the Common House Martin have been built. Since 2002, the monitoring of breeding birds and bats at the Sindelfingen location has been taking place. The personnel, as well as the public will be inspired through information panels and events such as the Daimler-Batnight, a bat tour at the plant. The intranet also plays an important role in raising awareness among the staff.
The Biodiversity Check appeared to be a logical subsequent step to further advance the environmental management in the company and to get an overview of the departments, particularly the operational procedures that have an impact on ecosystems and biodiversity. Daimler has recognised the economic importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services and, supported by the Check, wants to understand the effects of its activities on biodiversity and ecosystems. According to the so-called TEEB study, the total economic cost per year represented by damage to biodiversity alone through worldwide forest destruction amounts to 4.5 trillion dollars.
The Check was carried out at the middle management level in early 2011 in collaboration with the main environmental department. It focuses on direct and indirect biodiversity impacts in the main areas of corporate operation; from strategy and management through procurement, production, research & development to marketing and human resources.
On three subsequent occasions Global Nature Fund (GNF) and the business consultancy dokeo interviewed and discussed the scope and limitations of the study. Finally, a questionnaire was drawn up based on the Sindelfingen plant and made available to the companys relevant departments. At the second meeting, the departments made presentations reporting to the two implementation organisations on the impacts of their activities and the measures taken up until that point for a sustainable use of resources and the protection of nature. The presentations were collected and then open questions were posed to the different departments for discussion. Afterwards during a final roundtable discussion on outcomes and options, a status quo report was developed and evaluated. On this occasion, concrete business suggestions were made to reduce the risks and negative impacts on biodiversity and strengthen Daimlers commitment to the protection of biodiversity. Following this, the working group of environmental protection representatives and the biodiversity working group within the project "Daimler Green Production were informed about the results of the Check.
The Biodiversity Check made it possible for Daimler to identify main impacts of its business processes on the environment and to identify options to reduce these impacts. The Check was part of the companys environmental strategy to put the Sindelfingen plant under examination. We wanted to know where we are on the right track and where we have to make improvements, Michael Schwarz says, explaining the motivation for carrying out the Check. The Check serves businesses as a guide and can help to determine which business units are particularly relevant to reduce biodiversity impacts and generate competitive advantages. As an important "side-effect" the Biodiversity Check can also entail cost reduction, e.g. Businesses that increase their land surface area for production or similar reasons are, by law, required to carry out compensation measures. If the measures are taken early on and voluntarily they are more advantageous than if taken when the area compensation becomes a necessary requirement, says Dr. Michael Schwarz. He also willingly makes this point to his personnel. It is therefore in the very interest of the company to take early action and to set aside areas for the protection of biodiversity in order to make it easier to comply with environmental legislation.
During the evaluations phase, Daimler praised the Check for being a basis of decision making for further action and as a practical tool to support the identification of meaningful indicators. "The Biodiversity Check made it possible for us to recognise which impacts our processes have on the environment and the opportunities that exist to reduce these impacts, and particularly to implement positive elements, said Michael Schwarz. "Moreover, we have received very practical options for courses of action for the further development of our biodiversity strategy, which we can implement immediately, such as a reconsideration of vertical surfaces through facade greening using ivy, growing native plants, a negative assessment of neobiota and paved surfaces, as well as technical measures such as insect friendly lighting.
The most important element for taking action is a strengthened communication at all departmental levels thereby heightening the personnels awareness of and appreciation for the protection and preservation of biological diversity. Furthermore, all resources should be certified. This already occurs in part at the canteen which provides local products and MSC certified fish. Another step is including the supply chain in Daimlers biodiversity considerations. The implementation appears difficult at first, since the plant Sindelfingen cannot be disconnected from Daimlers overall plan and is only one of its many plants. Targeted communication is necessary in order to integrate the concept of biodiversity at all plants.
Until now, other plants, such as the Gaggenau site, have adopted the idea. The network developed with environmental protection coordinators is already showing its effects. Only through the multiplier effect with the support of an internal environmental protection network can the information be brought to the main and specific departments.
With the results of the Biodiversity Check, Daimler can now take targeted measures in order to reduce negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems or even better avoid them altogether. This is in the long-term not only good for the environment and for society, but also very concretely for businesses. Reducing risks, reducing costs and heightening employee motivation are positive outcomes. Businesses that dealt with environmental impacts at an early stage have a competitive advantage and are at the same time anticipating legal requirements.
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