A apprenticeship ratio well above the industry standard, carbon reduction concepts in its new buildings and the ‘Top Employer for Engineers’ award – for Weidmüller, responsibility towards staff, customers, suppliers and society in general is a duty to be fulfilled every day. Sabine Elting of the human resources division at Weidmüller outlines the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to the global provider of electrical connectivity and electronics.
What does CSR mean for Weidmüller?
Sabine Elting: At Weidmüller, corporate social responsibility is a fixed aspect of all corporate activity, and reflects our fundamental values. Apart from encouraging innovation and maintaining good relationships with customers and suppliers, these values cover staff relations and the quality of our products. Weidmüller not only complies strictly with the relevant environmental and social welfare standards, but also makes absolutely sure that the strict EU guidelines on health and safety in the workplace are followed at all our production sites around the world. For us as an employer, however, CSR also means engaging with around 3,500 employees at the various global locations – and providing a role model for all of them. This year, we were named the top employer for engineers in recognition of this commitment.
Where has Weidmüller made a specific commitment in terms of CSR?
Sabine Elting: We are aware of our responsibility to our immediate environment. We have just launched an investment program of € 136 million over the next two years – the largest single investment in Weidmüller's history. Of this, € 70 million will be invested in the Detmold site alone. These measures will consolidate the entire region, because a robust production site will attract further investment, trained staff and more suppliers.
This year, we are also taking on 200 engineers and specialist staff. We are constantly on the lookout for qualified workers to fill posts that become vacant. At our company, we offer health checks and company sports clubs, we have a apprenticeship ratio of nearly 10 percent, which is above the industry average, and we invest around € 1.5 million a year in further professional development for our staff. In addition, we are open to all educational backgrounds, so we can offer all young people an opportunity and a good start to their careers. We also operate many different flexible worktime models so that employees can combine a family and a career. We have already won the ‘Fair Company Seal of Approval’ for the excellent conditions we offer our work placement students.
Saving energy at all levels of production is particularly important to us. To give an example, we were recently presented with the ‘Energy Efficiency Award 2007’ for the innovative energy concept we applied in the construction of a combined heat and power plant. Weidmüller will be investing around €5 million in wide-ranging energy efficiency measures over the next two years. Simply saving electricity and making better use of heat and cold in production will reduce our carbon emissions by 18,000 tons a year.
How does Weidmüller implement its concept of CSR globally?
Sabine Elting: With our products, it is important for us to comply with standards and promote sustainability. The question of how to tackle pollutants is crucial for us, and 90 percent of our materials can be recycled. The strict environmental standards that we apply in Asia, for example, are identical to those we uphold in Germany. The products that we manufacture in Asia are mainly aimed at the local market. This proximity to our foreign customers allows us to meet their needs in the best possible way. Communicating with each other openly and across cultures is very important for us. To be more precise, we bring about a global understanding of CSR through our integral quality and environmental management system and through the example set by our managers as regards safety at work and staff development.
What aspects of CSR will Weidmüller be focusing on in the future?
Sabine Elting: More and more customers are becoming interested in our social, ethical and ecological profile, and that could determine their next purchase decision. Sustainable growth is always our top priority. In addition, treating people and the natural world with responsibility and respect is an important criterion in shaping our behavior. Demographic change, an increasing awareness of quality in emerging regions such as Asia and India and rising energy demands from our constantly expanding production operations will present new challenges for us in this respect.