Social and regional responsibility

Regionality as a strength

The Uelzena corporate group also benefits from globalisation of the markets, but there are many segments that are intentionally kept at a regional level. The group maintains close partnerships with companies from the immediate vicinity, supports and promotes social initiatives and facilities around its four sites and, last but not least, views its sustainability agenda as a major regional project.

.Overall, companies play a key role in regional development, whether as employers, educators, investors, sponsors or patrons of community life in the local area. Regions are reliant on strong and dedicated companies to develop economically and socially. Conversely, every company needs an environment that gives it the potential to do business successfully and offers its employees attractive living conditions. All this means the Uelzena Group has a vested interest in strengthening regional structures around its sites.

Regional workers, suppliers and service providers

Solely as an employer, the Uelzena Group contributes significantly to the wealth of the regions in which it is active. In Uelzen and Bismark, it is one of the largest businesses in the area – the same applies to Ratzeburg and Warmsen. In 2019, the workforce grew to 777 employees, nearly 50 more than the previous year. The majority of these employees work at the headquarters in Uelzen. As is common in the industry, the majority are employed full-time, in other words: Uelzena provides a livelihood to many families in the surrounding area.

Equally as important is Uelzena’s significance as a purchaser and consumer of regionally produced raw materials. More than 89 percent of milk raw materials is now procured from an area within 150 km of the company locations. In the case of raw milk, this proportion even reaches 100 percent. More and more milk producers in these catchment areas supply the Uelzena Group via their cooperative: At 760 farms in 2017, this number rose to 830 in 2018 and it has risen even further in the reporting year, up to nearly 870 farms. At the same time, the delivered raw milk quantity in 2019 increased by 21 percent. This means simply that virtually all the milk payout is now kept within those same rural regions. Overall, the good regional quota of the milk raw materials is responsible for the total of 86 percent of all regional goods in the reporting year

Regionality is also an important criterion for the Uelzena Group’s choice in business partners and service providers: From artisan producers to consultancies, the company gives preference to regional providers over competitors further afield if the services offered are comparable. However, certain specialist skills cannot always be found locally and so there is sometimes no alternative but to purchase from providers outside the region. In 2019, the proportion of regional service providers used by the Uelzena Group remained unchanged at 17 percent.

.Sponsoring in the region

As part of its regional responsibility, Uelzena believes it is important to support community life around its sites. For instance, the company pledges to sponsor city festivals, Christmas markets and social meeting places such as local youth centres or centres set up by the DKSB, a German child protection association. Institutions such as the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and the fire brigade are also supported, as they provide career guidance for young people and introduce the Uelzena Group into the discussion early on as an attractive, progressive employer.

Another focus is the sponsorship of youth teams and sports clubs. Support is not just financial as the company also provides material donations such as prizes for tombolas, donations of beverage powders or butter for events such as the city festival, historical guided tours and the annual winter ice-skating rink in Uelzen, to name a few. Sponsorship is given proactively or in response to requests. Key projects and recipients in the reporting period include the child and youth divisions of the Bismark riding club, the Warmsen sports club and the THW in Uelzen. For the fifth year in a row, Uelzena has given a generous Christmas donation to support projects for children and young people. A general principle is that at least 50 percent of all sponsoring is focused on children and youth work. This target was achieved in full in 2019.

Support for voluntary work towards social cohesion

For many years, the Uelzena Group has emphasised its regional responsibility by providing funds to motivate its employees in their decision to take up voluntary positions, thereby strengthening social cohesion. With the exception of politics and the church, voluntary work covers the most diverse social fields. Several Uelzena employees are active firefighters, sports club instructors, parents who are involved in schools and kindergartens, and others who help charitable associations. Facilities and institutes within a radius of 50 km of the company sites receive support.

Uelzena currently supports its employees who undertake voluntary work with an annual financial grant. The intention is to encourage five percent of its employees to undertake voluntary work. In order to achieve this target and to maintain the positive feedback of its staff, the company plans to communicate the possibilities and benefits of voluntary work more actively and widely in future.

"Our code of conduct sets standards for moral, ethical and legally impeccable behaviour. All employees have a personal responsibility for integrating this in their work."

Christoph Bonmann, Managing Director of Finance & Human Resources, Uelzena

Compliance – standards of conduct in the company

Compliance essentially refers to adherence to general statutory provisions and meeting specific ethical standards and requirements that a company has voluntarily set itself. Compliance issues not only affect the immediate vicinity in which a company is active, they also affect its general position on the matter of social responsibility. This topic has been a firm component of the Uelzena Group’s culture for many years, but it is now becoming increasingly important. More and more customers, suppliers and stakeholders have now formulated their own compliance regulations and are looking very closely at how well potential business partners meet their defined requirements.

As part of the materiality analysis in 2018, the topic of compliance was re-weighted and allocated to the action field of ‘social and regional responsibility’. One reason for this is the increasing relevance of compliance issues, not only within a company context but also in a regional and social context. The code of conduct that the Uelzena Group adopted in 2017 was a general set of rules that commits the company to act ethically in business, and when dealing with employees, customers and suppliers. The code of conduct species the framework and defines principles and rules for conduct within the Uelzena Group as well as with business partners and third parties.

It goes without saying that the Uelzena Group adheres to relevant laws. To date, there have been no reported breaches of employee or human rights, or cartel or anti-corruption directives. Similarly, there were no complaints in the reporting period relating to the voluntary or statutory social and environmental standards. In addition, the reporting channel and process for any suspected cases have been simplified considerably within the compliance management system.

More on the topic: Ethically responsible and sustainable action by the Uelzena Group

.Outlook for 2020

As in the other action fields, the successful initiatives and projects in the reporting year will also be extended for the future. The focus lies on regional procurement. However, in view of the prevailing coronavirus pandemic in 2020, some scheduled measures will have to be deferred or reconsidered and adapted.

 
 Sustainability context: Why we need a sustainable regional strategy

The four production sites of the Uelzena Group in Uelzen, Ratzeburg, Warmsen and Bismark are all located in the north of Germany. These are rural areas where agriculture plays a central role. However, industry and trade are under-represented and the economic structure is rather weak. This makes the significance of industrial companies such as Uelzena and its subsidiaries even more important. These companies are key employers, buyers of raw materials, clients for local service providers and taxpayers.

The Uelzena Group, as a large industrial enterprise in a structurally weak, rural region is well aware of its responsibility. Therefore, it procures its most important agricultural raw material, namely milk, predominantly from the region, from farmers located close to its sites. When awarding contracts to service providers, local providers are preferred. Moreover, the Uelzena Group also promotes charitable projects in which its employees are involved.

Ethical and compliance behaviour and conduct of companies takes on an even great significance at a regional level as sustainable business also means dealing responsibly with employees, society and the environment. The increasing awareness of society for compliant and ethical/moral conduct presents companies with new challenges. Uelzena is very conscious of its responsibility, promoting trust with values-based management among its employees, respective regions and other stakeholders in the long term.

 Our management approach: Regional responsibility

The regional procurement of agricultural raw materials, doing business with local service providers and the consideration of local communities are relevant sustainability topics. This is of particular interest for the members, the regional suppliers and service providers of the Uelzena Group and for local politicians and authorities. See also: Our stakeholders.

The compliant and ethical/moral conduct of the Uelzena Group towards its workforce, society and the environment is a topic on the company’s sustainability agenda. By incorporating the Uelzena Group code of conduct as part of their internal compliance management system, the company acknowledges its own responsibility in a social and economic context.

The approach: The Uelzena Group prefers – wherever possible – regional suppliers and service providers, supports prospects for young people from the local regions, encourages its employees in their voluntary work and commits to ethical behaviour and proper conduct.

 

Our sustainable strategy for the regions – overview on targets and measures

Regional development

  • The Uelzena Group prefers local service providers and suppliers – thus promoting milk production, jobs and the businesses in the regions.
  • Young people and their prospects are supported within the regions so that more of them will decide to stay in their home region –  and may even choose a career in Uelzen, Warmsen, Ratzeburg or Bismark.
  • The company also supports its employees’ commitment to voluntary work with the aim of contributing to the preservation or development of diverse club activities in the regions.
  • Compliance with applicable legislation, employee and human rights, cartel and anti-corruption directives and adherence to voluntary or statutory social and environmental standards is a given at Uelzena Group and forms the basis for sustainable development in the regions.

Higher regional added value

Agricultural raw materials and semi-finished goods: The Uelzena Group guarantees its regional member dairies that it will buy their milk raw materials including cream, concentrates and raw milk and that it will pay a competitive milk price. A very large share of these dairy raw materials comes from regional sources, from the Northern German Federal States Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt. Dairy raw materials such as unprocessed milk and cream are considered to be regional when they come from within a 150 kilometre radius around the production sites. In this way, Uelzena eG and its subsidiaries are supporting local farmers, providing income in rural areas and strengthening agricultural added value activities in our milk collecting regions. Non-dairy raw materials and semi-finished goods are considered to be regional when they come from within Germany. For example, sugar is procured from German refineries that exclusively process German sugar beets.

Services: The Uelzena Group intentionally prefers - at the same price-performance ratio – regional suppliers and service providers that are located within a radius of a maximum of 50 kilometres around each of its sites. This also includes craft businesses and forwarding companies. In doing so, businesses and jobs from the regions are supported.

Support for young people

The Uelzena eG and its subsidiaries support promising projects from youth work, schools and their own initiatives. They support schools as educational sponsors and participate in career finding activities in cooperation with schools and regional businesses. In 2016, for example, the youth centres in Uelzen, Bismark, Ratzeburg and Warmsen were supported; in 2017 various youth sports clubs and in 2018 the youth fire brigades at the plant locations received funds.

Higher regional quality of life

The Uelzena Group welcomes and encourages voluntary work from its employees, when it is a regular and unpaid activity for a public-interest institution. A varied range of sports clubs and other social and cultural facilities in the regions contribute to a better quality of life so that these regions are now becoming once again more attractive to young people. If possible, we offer our employees flexible working hours upon request and as long as they are feasible for our company. In addition, employees can apply for financial support for the non-profit organizations they work for. To date, around half of the funding budget has been used.

Ethically responsible and sustainable action

The Uelzena Group has drawn up a code of conduct (see download box) that forms the foundation of the company’s common rules and regulations, principles and values, thereby committing it and its employees to act with integrity and in a sustainable manner. Employees are regularly provided with information and their awareness of the topic is highlighted through accompanying training. They can easily report breaches to the company’s compliance officer using a compliance management system (CMS).

 

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