Sustainability at Rheinmetall
From social responsibility to climate and environmental protection.
We at Rheinmetall have been taking responsibility for over 130 years, and on a daily basis. The public’s interest in corporate responsibility continues to grow, with customers, investors, employees and the general public all seeking to form a complete picture of how companies operate, how they conduct their global business activities, and the impact these have on people and the environment. We are receiving an increasing number of inquiries from all areas of society as people’s expectations regarding transparency and demands for comparability grow.
From social responsibility to governance all the way through to climate action and environmental protection – the Corporate Social Responsibility corporate function headed by Ursula Pohen (Head of CSR) pools together, evaluates and communicates information on sustainability activities across the entire Group. A glance over the shoulder of Doreen Hölzer provides some insight into what a working day looks like for the team.
Precisely that. In the CSR corporate function, we track and analyze stakeholder requirements, among other things, and derive areas for action and objectives as well as projects and measures from them.
At the moment, we’re devoting our particular attention to enacting the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act, which comes into effect on January 1, 2023, and encompasses two subprojects involving the tier 1 supply chain and our in-house business unit. It sounds a bit abstract, but it’s not at all: Companies, Rheinmetall included, contribute to sustainable development – for example, by reducing CO2 emissions or implementing processes to uphold human rights within the business and on the supplier side.
As well as this, we’re already looking closely at the disclosure obligations under the European Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which will come into force from January 2024. We’re progressively expanding our sustainability reporting to give stakeholders a transparent picture of how much Rheinmetall is focusing on sustainability and what progress it has already made in this regard. These report contents are also incorporated in the responses to ESG ratings – another important aspect of our work.
"The fascinating thing about CSR is that it covers a broad range of subject matter, from human rights and occupational health and safety through biodiversity and water management all the way to energy management, recycling and diversity."
This means that we have to work closely with other departments, locations and colleagues all around the world, which allows us to constantly discover new sides of Rheinmetall, gain a better understanding of how things fit together and of course keep a watchful eye. At the same time, the granularity inherent in the ESG system enables you to really “get into” new aspects. In our area you can be a subject matter specialist and a generalist at the same time – so the job truly never gets boring or monotonous.
My area of activity encompasses all aspects relating to the “S” in ESG, so the awareness of our social responsibility. For a long time, the social side was somewhat overshadowed by climate and environmental issues, but it’s really starting to develop now. This is being heavily driven by a number of factors, not least new regulatory requirements in Germany, Europe and countries in other economic areas.
We want, for instance, to satisfy due diligence requirements with regard to human rights more fully within our spheres of influence. With this in mind, we’re initiating or cooperating on Group-wide projects. It’s interesting in this respect because this allows you to repeatedly change your perspective and get to know other aspects of your company. I’ve already gained a number of insights into Procurement, HR and Compliance, for example.
Aside from my “hobbyhorse,” I’m enthusiastic about other subject areas as well. Biodiversity, for instance, is one element of CSR that many people forget about. Of course we have something to show for our efforts with Fojana, our conservation area in the heathland of Lower Saxony. But we’re contributing to nature conservation and species protection in countries like South Africa too with our conservation areas at four production locations. ESG developments are still incredibly dynamic. The sustainability agenda is being defined by many different players, all of whom bring different issues, expectations and objectives to the table. My working day is quite varied – I always have something new to contend with.
Life isn’t always easy for CSR managers either :-). Challenges are part of the job. I see the diversity, breadth and depth of ESG aspects, which I’ve spoken about, as a positive challenge – with each subject area requiring a different level of detail and specific professional expertise. Of course you don’t get to deal with every subject there is. You also don’t get to see the progress you’re making in your work on a daily basis. A company doesn’t become sustainable overnight. It’s a continuous task that requires the heart and soul, commitment and hard work of a great many employees. The sharing of information and knowledge in a Group as big as this can also be a bit irregular at times, and this requires patience and perseverance.
I’d already looked at global challenges such as tackling child and forced labor and climate change during my BSc and MSc in Political Science. The world is facing some big challenges that call for us to rethink our actions and to change course – and that includes companies.
I quickly came to the realization that I’m more interested in how companies are tackling global challenges in a practical sense than as a purely academic debate. I think it’s really exciting to see companies become more sustainable step by step. Seeing everyone moving together in the right direction and making progress is a beautiful thing. I find it motivating to be part of this development that, despite what we have accomplished so far, still demands so much of so many of us.
In contrast to other DAX and MDAX corporations, the CSR team at Rheinmetall is relatively small. This means I have the opportunity to try my hand at lots of different things and acquire broad specialist knowledge rather than having to settle on subsections of the job early on. Rheinmetall has a very diversified product portfolio and locations in 33 countries. From a CSR perspective, you don’t get more diverse, complex and appealing than that. What is more, Rheinmetall has set itself ambitious CSR objectives like becoming carbon-neutral by 2035. There’s still much to be done to achieve these objectives, and this means there will be exciting tasks ahead and numerous opportunities to make a difference. I’d like to do my bit to help Rheinmetall achieve these objectives.
Not to mention the fact that Rheinmetall is an employer that can offer job security, but also a dynamic setting in an international context. Rheinmetall opens a great many doors to young people in particular. I’ve been working at Rheinmetall for two years now and have successfully completed the “CSR in practice crash course.” There’s still no shortage of tasks, variety and challenges; there’s lots to do and thankfully it is set to stay that way, particularly in light of the increasing demands the EU is placing on companies. In other words, there’s still a long way to go on this journey and there are plenty of opportunities into which you can channel your expertise and enthusiasm.
Would you like to get to know more about CSR at Rheinmetall?
You can reach the CSR website area with further information here .