At its headquarters in Eislingen in the German region of Swabia, the chemical company Zeller + Gmelin has achieved the goal of climate neutrality. The basis for this was previously created in numerous energy saving projects. In an interview with DQS, Gülen Ak talks about the CO₂ footprint, the introduction and implementation of climate management, and certification to ISO 50001 (energy management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management). The head of quality, environmental and energy management, sustainability and climate neutrality has been with the lubricant manufacturer for 24 years and has also been a DQS auditor for chemical companies and international groups for many years.


What does climate management mean?

"Corporate climate management aims to identify, record, actively reduce and avoid relevant emission sources and emissions at the site as well as from upstream and downstream activities along the value chain and also includes internal and external reporting on dealing with climate change.

The value chain describes the stages of production and value creation as an ordered sequence of activities and processes. Upstream stages include, for example, the manufacture of primary products or purchased transport services, while downstream stages relate, for example, to the use or disposal of a product.

Conceptually, climate management is part of corporate environmental management, which also includes areas such as wastewater, waste, etc. Environmental management itself is seen as part of corporate sustainability management, along with the areas of economy and social issues."

Source: Corporate climate management along the value chain, published by WWF Germany and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Introduction of climate management - How does it work?

"(...) Climate management (includes) a long-term, strategic examination of directly and indirectly responsible emission sources and business-relevant effects of climate change on the company.

To this end, the relevant emission sources, including those from upstream and downstream activities, are identified and prioritized according to emission levels, opportunities and risks, and external requirements. Data collection as well as active control along the entire value chain requires - depending on the emission category - active cooperation with suppliers, business partners or even the company's own employees."

Source: Corporate climate management along the value chain, published by WWF Germany and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Interview with Gülen Ak

Head of Quality, Environmental and Energy Management, Sustainability and Climate Neutrality at Zeller+Gmelin

Zeller + Gmelin can call itself a climate-neutral site. In the course of climate management, the CO₂ footprint was determined by means of a CO₂ balance sheet and compensated through the targeted support of biomass and wind power projects. After offsetting, the certified climate experts at Fokus Zukunft GmbH certified the Eislinger company as a "Climate Neutral Company 2020".

Further savings potential was also identified and implemented through the highly value-added and recognized KEFF check by the organization based at the Stuttgart Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

Ms. Ak, you have already done some homework on energy efficiency in the run-up to the climate neutrality balance. What were these projects?

We started implementing an energy management system according to the international standard ISO 50001:2018 in April 2019. Based on this energy standard, we are continuously improving our energy performance.

Further savings potential was also identified and implemented through the very value-adding and recognized KEFF check according to the funding guideline "Regional Competence Centers Network Energy Efficiency (KEFF)" of the Ministry for the Environment, Climate and Energy Management Baden-Württemberg. After implementing all relevant standard requirements, DQS GmbH then issued us with an ISO 50001 certificate for this in November 2019.

KEFF Check: The "Competence Centers for Energy Efficiency" (KEFF) project is designed to raise awareness of energy efficiency among companies in the Stuttgart region. Above all, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are informed about further possibilities of energy consulting as well as cooperation possibilities and exemplary solutions. The aim of KEFF is, for example, to point out concrete energy efficiency measures via the KEFF check and, if possible, to assist in their implementation. More information can be found on the website of the Stuttgart Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

The platform for our climate balance was the certified energy management system. In the meantime, we had already stored a lot of data, key energy figures, key production figures, etc. there, in compliance with the law and with a view to constantly improving our energy performance and risk assessment. This was then implemented as part of an energy planning process.

Right off the bat, where do you stand on the balance sheet?
For a manufacturing company, we have achieved quite a good value. Overall, we determined CO₂ emissions of 4,763 tons at the Eislingen site for 2018. That is 8.68 tons per employee. That puts us in the middle of the good range.

How important is the environmental concept to you?
In my 24 years at Zeller + Gmelin, I have implemented the environmental concept from the very beginning and introduced the environmental management system in accordance with DIN EN ISO 14001 back in 2007. So we have been continuously defining and pursuing environmental goals for thirteen years, always keeping energy in mind.

Until last year, the topic of energy was still covered by environmental management. With the new ISO certification according to energy management criteria, we now have our own new standard for this, namely ISO 50001:2018. Most ISO standards are now aligned with the "High Level Structure," a uniform basic structure for management systems. This makes it much easier to implement in an integrated management system.

Wasn't all this pretty new territory for you then?
Not at all. As an external DQS auditor for quality management, environment and energy, and occupational safety, I have been very familiar with these topics for years. In this function, I conduct audits at large chemical companies, among others. So of course it was nothing new to me when we launched the topics of climate neutrality and energy management at our company. And it is also an advantage to know both sides, namely that of the auditor and that of the company to be certified. Even if I'm not allowed to take on both roles at the same time, of course.

How did you then determine the CO₂ footprint in concrete terms?
We followed the guidelines of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the internationally recognized standard for determining the CO₂ footprint. We were supported in this by the external "Fokus Zukunft" institute.

We then entered all energy-relevant parameters in tabular form in a special database. We recorded heat, fuel and electricity consumption, as well as upstream emissions, business trips, work routes, waste volumes and wastewater quantities. But also much more, right down to the consumables used in production and in the offices. The recording is precisely regulated in so-called scopes, i.e. areas of application, from 1-3.

Wasn't that rather time-consuming?
Our big advantage here was, as I mentioned, that we use an integrated management system. This enabled us to obtain a large part of the data we needed, such as energy consumption, key production figures, etc., virtually at the push of a button. This allows us to map the topics of quality, environment, and energy in an integrated way in one system, which means that we have a process that we can look at across the entire value chain, depending on its relevance.


Gülen Ak: "We had to list all our savings projects for our energy management certificate anyway. Once this diligence work is done, it's finally just a small step to the climate balance sheet." In the picture at the energy monitoring station with Ralf Wendling, Head of Lubricants Production. The energy monitor in the meeting room digitally displays current energy inputs and consumption.

What was your biggest challenge?
A real challenge was the business trips and the associated overnight stays. I was supported in this by colleagues from the HR department. It was sisyphus work to subsequently determine all the data on all business trips for 2018. It was important to know which mode of transport was used, where overnight stays were spent, etc., as this has to be taken into account differently in the energy balance.

As a result of this research work, we will install an integrated travel management system in the future so that we can also obtain travel data here at the push of a button. In terms of the energy balance, travel has a marginal impact of 7 percent. The low travel expenditure is mainly due to the use of digital media. For example, many use digital media and video conferencing and save on some business trips.

To what extent are you supported by your colleagues in your climate management projects?
The entire workforce was informed extensively about the project via the intranet, and also by the department heads. During my tours of the plant, many of my colleagues repeatedly told me that they thought such a project was great. I also received full support from the management. After only a short time, I received inquiries from the foreign subsidiaries asking when I would be implementing energy management at their sites so that they could draw up a climate balance sheet.

Our big advantage is that we use an integrated management system, which means that we can obtain much of the data we need, such as energy consumption, production figures, etc., at the touch of a button.

Gülen Ak, Head of Quality, Environmental and Energy Management, Sustainability and Climate Neutrality Zeller + Gmelin

The energy balance of the work routes is remarkable here. This is reflected in only 8 percent. Many of our approximately 500 employees at the Eislingen site live nearby and travel by public transport, bicycle or even on foot. That's 140 employees, or one third of the workforce.

To promote sustainable commuting and in the course of climate neutrality, we had a modern bicycle garage for 50 bikes built on part of the parking spaces in 2019. This allows 10 percent of the workforce to store their bikes securely.

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Introduction of climate management: Can you name a few lighthouse projects?

One lighthouse project was certainly the modernization of our entire cooling water system to reduce fluctuations in supply temperatures. At the same time, this has led to an increase in the recooling capacity for the cooling water, i.e., better use of the energy from the returning condensate and cooling water.

This is a very sustainable aspect for us, as the plant is very energy-efficient with a high degree of efficiency. This also includes energy optimization through the use of heat pumps to make better use of the residual heat, for example for heating service water.


Each morning in the production area starts with shop floor management: Relevant energy issues are also included here

In addition, we now use waste heat to c ool raw materials or to air-condition the production halls with a much more pleasant air climate. But I would also like to mention our modernized compressor plant, which also contributes to digitalization and Industry 4.0 at Zeller + Gmelin.

Another project of significance was our "computer-controlled metering system for UV binders" installed in 2017. At the time, this was an example of excellence in the "100 Companies for Resource Efficiency" initiative. And last but not least, our route optimization within logistics.

In 2017, for example, we determined the distances covered daily by internal transport. Of the 135 mostly electric forklifts that make up over 80 percent of our vehicle fleet, 50 percent of the routes could be reduced. Of course, this has a direct impact on theCO2 balance.

The climate neutrality certificate lists offsets. What does this mean?
In order to make the site climate-neutral despite the extensive energy-saving projects, we also purchased offsets. I had a say in which projects we wanted to use the offsets for.

Our shared vision is reflected in our environmental and climate goals.

Gülen Ak, Head of Quality, Environmental and Energy Management, Sustainability and Climate Neutrality Zeller + Gmelin

It was important to me that the projects were from non-profit organizations with good standards and in countries where we are very active with subsidiaries. We specifically support biomass and wind power projects in Turkey, India and China. And one thing is for sure, even if we achieve an even better carbon footprint in 2019, we will continue to support these projects. By the way, we had already supported such projects before we even addressed the issue of climate neutrality.

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And what happens next?
In the meantime, all sites are certified according to quality management, even in China. The headquarters in Eislingen, England and France are also certified to the environmental standard. But all other sites meet the Zeller + Gmelin environmental specifications. We have a single system for all sites, which means they all use identical processes, procedures, documents, forms, etc., and are monitored or certified according to the same specifications.

Our shared vision is reflected in our environmental and climate targets. These are then broken down to the individual sites and implemented consistently. Our CIPs also do not differentiate between "normal" suggestions for improvement and suggestions in the area of the environment and energy; we want to push this even more.

We are currently realizing a new building for our laboratory under climate neutrality aspects. For example, passenger elevators are powered by photovoltaics and electricity is even generated and fed back during the downward travel.

In the future, we plan to use even more green electricity in order to sustainably reduce our carbon footprint. In addition, ongoing energy-saving projects, for example in production, will have a positive impact on the balance. And finally, we could still realize potential savings via climate-neutral energy sources.

Ms. Ak, thank you very much for this informative interview.

DQS Blog

Numbers, data, facts

Zeller+Gmelin is an independent, medium-sized family business founded in Eislingen in 1866. Over the decades, it has developed into an international partner for high-quality lubricants for industry, vehicles and machinery, as well as printing inks and chemical products.

The medium-sized company supplies 80 countries around the world and, in addition to Eislingen, has one production site each in the USA, China and Great Britain. Success factors are a high level of customer orientation and a pronounced understanding of applications and processes.

The high-quality products occupy a leading position on the international market. Zeller+Gmelin offers individual and integrated solutions from a single source, from research and development to production.

DQS: Simply leveraging Quality.

DQS audits provide you with clarity. The holistic, neutral view from the outside on people, processes, systems and results shows how effective your management system is, how it is implemented and mastered. It is important to us that you perceive our audits not as an examination, but as an enrichment for the further development of your management system - and as the basis for your success.

We always audit impartially, independently and appropriately - on the basis of internationally recognized accreditations by the German Accreditation Body (DAkkS) and system providers such as IATF and UNIFE, among many others. They are the basis of our business activities - and of our customers' trust in us.

Gülen Ak

Dipl.-Ing. Gülen Ak ist Leiterin Qualität-, Umwelt- und Energiemanagement der Zeller+Gmelin Gruppe sowie Nachhaltigkeits- und Compliancebeauftragte. Seit 2000 ist sie DQS-Auditorin und zugelassen für die Regelwerke ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 18001 und ISO 50001.


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