Interview Dr Holger Hoppe

Dr Holger Hoppe – Head of Sustainability Management (photo)

Dr Holger Hoppe
Head of Sustainability

In 2014 Linde Material Handling launched its sustainability strategy and established the topic within the structure of the organisation. In an interview, Dr Holger Hoppe, Head of Sustainability Management, explained the background and the process.

Has sustainability not been an issue for Linde Material Handling up to now?

Hoppe: Quite the contrary, sustainability has always been a guiding principle for our operations – whether this is in development, in production or indeed the use of our products, whether it has been in relation to the people who work for Linde or all the places where we are active. Customers, business partners, employees and the surrounding communities expect a market leading company like Linde Material Handling to have future-proof, responsible corporate governance – quite rightly so. And this is the hallmark of the brand Linde Material Handling.

Why have you given the sustainability strategy a formal structure? What was the motivating factor for this?

Hoppe: Firstly, we wanted to give greater visibility to the concrete significance that sustainability has for us. Another factor was undoubtedly that our customers were increasingly enquiring about this issue and in many cases also demanding a rigorous sustainability strategy and effective sustainability communication as a basis for the partnership with them. However, we also perceive a big strategic opportunity in the process that we have initiated. By focussing on issues that are essential for the future capability of Linde Material Handling, we are strengthening our position within the competition. This new formal structure creates a good framework in order to achieve these targets. We are also thereby well placed to provide our customers with improved support for their own sustainability activities.

What does this mean in concrete terms?

Hoppe: The starting point for our sustainability strategy is provided by the key challenges and the fields of action based on the associated issues which we have defined. Two examples: We are committed to developing more energy efficient and alternative power units to enhance climate and environmental protection. We also want to promote diversity and equal opportunities within the Company in order to retain our appeal as an employer. This focus helps us to align all activities in the Company with a coherent strategy and initiate projects which contribute to the attainment of these targets. This secures the future-proof capability and competitiveness of Linde.

What is the scope of the new sustainability strategy?

Hoppe: It is certainly not restricted to our own “four walls”. We are analysing the entire value chain from our suppliers to the entire life-cycle of our products with customers. In order to achieve this, we have developed a model for the fields of action in which we highlight the points in the value chain where our sustainability targets exert their greatest impact. This model is an effective controlling instrument while at the same time providing a helpful reference framework for our sustainability activities. It demonstrates to us the points where specific projects are most effective.

In 2015, you created the foundations for the new sustainability strategy. What is your perspective for the process of implementation?

Hoppe: A key component of the groundwork was also to create an organisational structure for the implementation of sustainability in the Company – with clear roles and responsibilities and penetration into the operational units. Naturally the sustainability committee within the area of responsibility of the Management Board forms part of this, as do the Sustainability Office headed by myself, the heads of the individual fields of action, and the regional sustainability coordinators on the ground. Soon, concrete appointments will have been made to all the functions for this new organisational structure and we will then be in a position to implement the new sustainability strategy successfully.

And when will you roll out the operational implementation of the sustainability targets?

Hoppe: We have already begun the roll-out of our new sustainability strategy. We even launched some of the projects such as HSE certification and the preparation of lifecycle assessments in advance of this. The current projects will be transferred to the new structures. We will start to focus on the fields of action immediately. Our operational units will then be able to work towards achieving the targets even more efficiently and effectively on the basis of this platform and the individual targets, measurement parameters and measures.

The change will also involve a great deal of resources. What does Linde hope to gain from the new content and structures?

Hoppe: Linde Material Handling has a leading global position in its sector for the areas of quality, innovative capability and earnings strength. Our new sustainability strategy and the associated focus on major challenges will contribute to safeguarding this position over the long term.