Sustainability

OMIRA Sustainability Report

In the OMIRA Sustainability Report, we inform you about the economic, ecological and social goals set in 2015 as well as their implementation. Our Sustainability Report has been prepared in accordance with the globally recognized guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI G4).

Download the OMIRA Sustainability report 2015 here.


In synch: success and ethics

“Everyone’s welcome to look over our shoulder.”

As with any enterprise, we want to and have to be commercially successful. At the same time we have committed ourselves to environmentally and climate-friendly production along with sustainable business practices. A path which is going to pose challenges for us again and again, yet a rewarding one and absolutely worthwhile. We are convinced of this. We want to walk that path together with our milk producers, our staff and suppliers – candidly, transparent and auditable.

As the very first step, OMIRA has joined the United Nations Global Compact and by doing so avows to comply with specified minimum social and ecological standards. To create transparency within communication we have become a member of Sedex, short for Supplier Ethical Data Exchange, an organisation and platform which enables companies to share information bearing an ethical and ecological relevance.

Step by step: On the way to sustainability

“To us, sustainability is not some kind of buzzword: it’s a social contract.”

Hardly any other topic has evolved so intensely in the recent past as the subject of sustainability. Primarily seized upon at first by major international companies back in the ’90s and frequently utilised towards ‘honing’ profiles in increasingly dense competition on the marketplace, today it has permeated all sectors of society. Sustainability has gained relevance for more and more people, companies and institutions. Until the end of 2014 it had been only natural for OMIRA to act responsibly and manage business on a profit-oriented basis – the co-operative mandate at our dairy provides ample cause all by itself. And yet, it wasn’t until early in 2015 that the term ‘sustainability’ was placed at the very top of the agenda as a stand-alone corporate goal to which everyone involved obligates themselves, a target to be achieved as professionally and with as much commitment as possible.

As the saying goes, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’: that’s the unanimous belief at OMIRA regarding the Sustainability Project. With the provision of personnel resources, farsighted planning, and in co-operation with Hochschule Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, a German university for applied sciences, and “zukunftswerk”, a German co-operative consultancy, the course has been set and consistent action has been taken on the project. In doing so we perceive sustainability as an ongoing process based on three pillars: ecology, economy, and social issues.

To date we are decidedly well on the way. In the brief period of time – but thoroughly committed – we have already attained a number of subtargets. Further precise perspectives for the future have been developed in the process. According to our understanding of transparency, we would not only like to let the whole workforce and all partners, the public and customers be involved in it: we want them to join us in mutual enthusiasm for sustainable action across the entire process chain – and win them over as allies.


Now comes KUH: The sustainability strategy for our milk producers

“We need customised solutions.”

To optimise sustainability at the agricultural facilities affiliated with us, we worked together with the aforementioned university Hochschule Weihenstephan-Triesdorf to develop the customised strategy called KUH. Since then this strategy has defined our approach and the way we act in this area. In the German acronym the K stands for cow, the U for the environment, and the H for the farm. In turn, each area is split up into multiple substrategies to which various activities have been assigned. OMIRA will evaluate the diverse factors on a regular basis according to a point system and consequently develop a sustainability premium as a surcharge to the milk price. So that sustainability is worthwhile for the milk suppliers in a financial sense, too.

K as in “Kuh”, the cow: Focus on animal welfare

“Animal welfare is not a feeling. It’s responsibility being practised.”

By now most consumers are quite familiar with the term animal welfare. Customers meet up with it at the supermarket meat counter, for example, or on cardboard packaging for eggs. The term alone sounds positive enough to be readily associated with happy animals that feel good; the consumer is reassured. After all, he or she wants to buy meat and milk with a clear conscience. The topic is more up-to-date than ever – yet apart from specialist circles, hardly anyone has any real knowledge about it.

As a matter of fact, the term animal welfare is delineated according to several fundamental points, which means it can be measured, too. Different factors are used as a basis for this, depending on the livestock involved. Which also means that different activities can be used to influence animal welfare. It goes without saying that the milk producers organised in OMIRA attach a great deal of importance to their cows’ well-being. Those who work together so intimately with nature treat their livelihood with respect. They think and act in terms of generations, always with an eye to economic efficiency. The calculation is quite simple: if the cows are doing well, then yields and quality will tally to match. Animal welfare is a key element on the path to sustainability for OMIRA, too. An element that we want to improve further in the long term together with farmers.

To make an evaluation of sustainable dairy farming on the part of our farmers possible, OMIRA focuses on the following factors in the field of animal welfare sustainable management in the barn stalls, husbandry and feeding appropriate to the species, and animal health.

Key term animal welfare: How to make cows feel good

Are ‘happy cows’ just an advertising claim that gets its message across solely by using suggestion and that simply follows consumers’ desire to place their faith and confidence in something? The answer is: no. Although ‘animal welfare’ is rather difficult to define, nowadays three fundamental factors that constitute the term animal welfare generally apply: animal health, the possibility for the animals to put their natural behaviour patterns into practise, and their well-being. At this point we are going to address the second point in particular and explain what specifically makes up cows’ natural behaviour and what promotes it.

Barn climate

Cows have a favourite temperature range that lies between -7 and 16 degrees Celsius. Given, the weather in our latitudes doesn’t always play along with that. Airy barns built to shield against the mainly prevailing wind direction with flexible side walls and well-insulated roofs contribute to a ‘feel good’ climate for cows. Ventilation fans have proven themselves as a supporting element, too.

Cattle shed

Cows are herd animals that live together in units of different sizes. This works out due to a hierarchy established via aggressive ranking encounters between individual animals. Once the ranking order has been set, the cows maintain a distance, they don’t get too close to each other and, accordingly, get out of each other’s way on the walkways. Sheds and stalls have to be large enough to enable this kind of behaviour. Sufficient feeding spaces and spaces to rest lying down must be equally available, and of course enough watering troughs so that the animals don’t get in each other’s way. Cows should be dehorned or naturally polled to minimise the danger of injury to other, lower-ranked animals, as well as to the farmer.

Movement

Whether in the cattle shed or grazing, en route to feeding places or the milking parlour: cows move around quite a bit. Their possibilities for movement absolutely ought to take this into account. Slip-resistant and sure-footed flooring conditions in the stall and on the walkways provide for safety and a calmer atmosphere.

Rest periods

We’ve all seen it at some time – cows like to lie down and stretch out. A cow has up to 10 rest periods over the course of a day. These periods have a number of functions: joints are relieved, the hooves can dry, there is better blood circulation in the udder, and the animals ruminate. The cubicles for resting ought to enable all of these functions along with the positions for lying down associated with them. The cubicles’ brisket boards and neck rails must equally take this into consideration.

Feed and water

Cattle need to be presented with fodder regularly: particularly the coarse feed mix must be available around the clock. Dividers separating individual animals foster an unharried feed intake. Elevated feeding areas also have a favourable effect. Sufficient drinking water and clean watering troughs are equally regarded as standard.

Stall comfort

Cows have other needs apart from eating, drinking and resting. They like to rub against things, too. They lick each other or scrape against objects. This not only requires space (see Cattle shed): it can also be made easier for the animals, for example using appropriately mounted brushes.

Conclusion

The subject of animal welfare is increasingly gaining significance. This applies not only to consumers but to food producers as well. At this point we would like to emphasise once again that this key term is only naturally ‘on the agenda’ for milk producers, too – and always has been. Nonetheless, and especially for milk producers, some things have changed as a result of standards which have meanwhile been defined together with new specifications. Not all producers have managed to comply with these new ‘yardsticks’ yet, but we are working together towards optimisation and employing a dynamic process to seek solutions.

Although many consumers desire a greater degree of animal welfare, it is not clear to most of them that more animal welfare always calls for more or greater investments. As a result, animal welfare is going to be equally reflected in the price for dairy products. OMIRA firmly believes that clarification and transparency towards the consumer have a faith and confidence-building effect here and are certainly capable of changing purchasing behaviour.

U as in “Umwelt”, the environment: The subject falls on fertile ground

“Agricultural land areas are habitats to be treated respectfully.”

In the case of our farmers, the sustainability factor Environment is comprised of the sectors soil, pasture land, crop protection and energy. Those who perceive agricultural land areas as a habitat must also be prepared to assume responsibility. The environment is literally a far-flung field that is also becoming increasingly important to the consumer, though it’s equally gaining more and more significance in the context of global climate change. First and foremost, we view it as our mission here to raise farmers’ awareness, to support cognitive processes, and to point out potential strategies for the sustainable deployment of resources.

H as in “Hof”, the farm: The people at the centre

“Good work simply needs both: astute minds and hands that knuckle down.”

We map the social sustainability of an agricultural facility in terms of the health of all staff, the working hours and arrangements for time off, all education and training, the planning and preparation for farm succession, and social involvement (incl. trainees, honorary posts, public service for the common good, and work together with occupational associations). Particularly in the field of advanced training we offer farmers and those employed there quite a few advisable activities, workshops and even eLearning tools regarding both current topics and subjects relevant to the future.


Annual surveys: Always up to date

“We enquire and take a look, and we do it regularly.”

We conduct annual surveys via various communications channels to enable us to support our farmers in the area of sustainability management in a targeted and effective manner whenever requested. That makes voluntary participation freely accessible, fast and easy. And this way changes can be registered accurately while proposals and ideas can be adapted as needed.

In addition, external auditors form an opinion about the farms within the framework of the existing “QM-Milch” auditing system. “QM-Milch” is the quality management programme from the German milk sector. As a proprietary management system, it defines strict safety and quality specifications for milk production and monitors them nationwide. With its high standards “QM-Milch” ensures that not only the quality of the product is safeguarded: it ensures that the entire production process is transparent and retraceable – everywhere in Germany. The standards are regularly updated, for instance in response to new draft legislation or guidelines.

As a result, the work performed by the “QM-Milch” association creates added safety, transparency, and not least a growing awareness towards future requirements.

Let’s talk about it: Communication

“Those who want to be heard have to raise their voices.”

It is important to us that not only all of those participating are informed to the best extent, and as a consequence are truly ‘involved’: the public and our stakeholders ought to be equally able to get a clear picture of the sustainability process at OMIRA at all times. There is no ‘beating around the bush’ at the annual general meeting and in the newly established agricultural advisory council. Topics are analysed and discussed, and ultimately solutions are designed. Our farmers can find all key information ‘in black & white’ in the producer portal on our internet website. Naturally we (almost) always have time for a face-to-face talk and an individual consultation.


Stopping climate change: Dealing responsibly with energy and resources

“From an ecological viewpoint, the last thing we want is a big footprint.”

We’ve taken a clear stand: OMIRA is climate neutral.

After merely one year OMIRA is entitled to call itself a climate neutral operation, and has consequently set standards within the industry. An outcome that required a great deal of effort on our part, and one which we are rightly a bit proud of.

Greenhouse gas emissions have a decisive impact on climate change, above all CO2 emissions, of which no small portion can be attributed to mankind. The first thing OMIRA did to achieve climate neutrality was to have its corporate carbon footprint determined according to international standards (as per the Kyoto Protocol). This analysis was followed by the rapid enactment of a variety of measures towards improvement. The goal: to continuously decrease CO2 emissions on the part of the OMIRA Group and, if possible, get them down towards zero. Investments in energy-efficient processes, eco-friendly technologies and renewable energy, the use of green electricity and a reduction of power consumption all contributed to a substantial improvement of our carbon footprint. A welcome side effect of these endeavours: being awarded the EnBW Innovation Prize in September 2014 on the subject of “Overall Concept towards Improving the Operational Energy Footprint and Placing Less of a Burden on the Environment.”

Even so, at that point in time our own CO2 emissions figure hadn’t reached zero yet due to the fact that the constant diminishing of the figure is a process which can only progress to an economically tenable degree.

Bearing this fact in mind, politicians around the world created the possibility to purchase and/or trade in CO2 emission rights, carbon allowances and credits to provide enterprises with the opportunity to attain a balanced carbon footprint nonetheless. Note that to this day no statutory obligation to do so exists.

The mindset behind this: climate change is a global phenomenon, in its emergence as well as its repercussions. It pays no mind to national borders. Regardless of where the emissions originate, the dangers resulting from them remain the same. Conversely, if emissions are decreased somewhere in the world, then this benefits the global balance-sheet. Emissions rights allocated or auctioned off by governments provide companies with the opportunity to support corresponding climate protection projects worldwide, and by doing so to improve or offset their carbon footprint. A sensible instrument in environmental policy through which impetus can be given to make changes, especially in countries with low or no environmental standards at all.

OMIRA has acquired CO2 certificates which promote projects in South America and Asia. These certificates have been recognised on the balance-sheet and retired in an EU account. This is the step that leads to an actual CO2 reduction. We deem this course of action to be very advisable and one which points the way, particularly in so-called ‘third’ and newly industrialising countries.

At the same time, it goes without saying that our target is still to optimise the way we deal with natural resources and our use of eco-friendly production processes year by year.

From waste to raw material: Resources can be found everywhere

“Whether waste or raw material is merely a point of view.”

A sensible approach to resources equally includes waste reduction and/or waste prevention. Based on the supposition that ‘waste products are raw materials in the wrong place’, our guidelines towards waste prevention – and above all regarding sorting and a subsequent recycling of these raw materials – are reviewed and improved on an ongoing basis. 
What’s more, we work continuously on optimising water efficiency. It’s not enough that all employees are called upon to deal responsibly with water. We see an equally and particularly concrete potential to improve our consumption footprint in the area of cleaning bulk milk tankers.


The human factor: Our responsibility as employer

“Satisfied employees are an asset to everyone.”

At OMIRA, special attention is naturally given to the men and women on staff at the dairy. After all, as a whole they contribute decisively towards corporate success. Following their premiere in 2015, staff surveys are now being implemented regularly in order to ascertain how satisfied employees are. They are conducted anonymously using a standardised questionnaire. The key points of the analyses are put into action to ensure long-term employee satisfaction. We are presently preparing our next major project: we want to become the best employer in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg.

Independent thereof, we are going to enlarge our value-oriented corporate culture and, above all, promote open-minded communication across all levels based on mutual trust.

Above and beyond this, we offer our staff instruction and activities towards accident prevention along with a number of free preventive measures to promote health, for example the annual flu vaccination or courses in back training.

However, OMIRA also invests continuously in options for continued and advanced education to benefit employees. These are the offers that are valued and acknowledged first and foremost by staff. They too make OMIRA an attractive employer with interesting career opportunities. And flexible working-hours models accommodate the individual plans our employees have drawn up for their lives.

We train young people in many different professions due to our firm beliefs and with great diligence. Each year new trainees join the team, and once they have concluded their training period we can offer most of them a steady job – jobs which are eagerly accepted. For our part, we look forward to well trained, motivated staff as the basis and driving force of our business operation.

Key Social Indicators

Figures based on 2017
Employees in Ravensburg: 431
Employees in Neuburg: 213
Trainees: 24

More joy than work: the social commitment

“A sense of community arises only when everyone contributes something to it.”

As a producer of fresh foods, it’s a matter of importance to us that the concept of dairy products as a part of balanced nutrition is brought home even to the very youngest of us early on, and that production processes are communicated in a manner suited to children. That fresh milk and dairy products flow from a tap and get filled into bottles or tetrapacks afterwards doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s why we make it possible for pre-school and primary school children to visit farms and experience conscientious milk producers and their livestock first-hand. In our opinion, the little ones’ nutritional competence as well as developing an awareness of how foodstuffs originate can’t begin early enough.

As a regional dairy, we feel very closely affiliated with our region and regularly support local charitable institutions. We equally encourage employees at OMIRA to involve themselves on an honorary basis or support organisations we consider trustworthy through donations.