Interview with Group Sustainability Officer

How to become climate neutral?

CHG-MERIDIAN's first sustainability report was published in April this year. Herewith, the company transparently demonstrates the measures it has already taken and the ambitious goals it has set for itself for the future. One of these is climate neutrality from 2021. Matthias Steybe, Group Sustainability Officer (GSO) at CHG-MERIDIAN, explains in an interview how this is to be achieved and what is required for the process.

Mr. Steybe, climate-related issues are becoming increasingly important – just recently, U.S. President Joe Biden called for more ambitious climate targets at his own climate summit, and the EU also significantly adjusted its targets again in April. What does this development mean for CHG-MERIDIAN?

The issue is indeed at the top of the agenda in politics and business, right after COVID-19. Companies have recognized a need for action and are actively addressing their contribution to sustainable development – partly, but not only, because of the increasingly stringent laws and requirements imposed by politics. We at CHG-MERIDIAN have done the same and, against this backdrop, have decided to operate in a carbon-neutral way from this year on.


Read more in our Sustainability Report


You mentioned the political requirements. What are the other reasons behind this decision?

Well, first and foremost, as a company we have a responsibility towards our stakeholders, i.e. our financing partners, shareholders, employees, customers and the general public. This includes making a positive contribution as a company and not doing business at the expense of others or the environment. This is also the case for many of our customers, who deal with identical issues along their supply chain. In this context, we are of course also challenged in our role as a supplier.

Group Sustainability Officer Matthias Steybe
Matthias Steybe has been Group Sustainability Officer (GSO) at the CHG-MERIDIAN Group since 2020.

Where does CHG-MERIDIAN as a company stand when it comes to climate protection? At the very beginning?

No, quite the opposite: we have already done a lot to reduce our CO₂ emissions. For example, CHG-MERIDIAN only uses green electricity at all of its branches in the DACH region and has maintained its own photovoltaic system on the roof of our company headquarters in Weingarten (Germany) since 2017.

In addition, we calculated our corporate carbon footprint (CCF) for Germany, Austria and Switzerland for the first time in 2020. We are now expanding this and, in the next step, calculating our Group-wide CCF in order to finally offset all CO₂ emissions generated by our business activities from 2021 onwards.

What does carbon footprint mean in concrete terms, and where do emissions arise everywhere as a result of your business activities?

This is a somewhat more complex issue. We have based our calculations on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is an internationally recognized standard. According to this, the CO₂ footprint, i.e. all CO₂ emissions, is divided into three classes: Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3. A distinction is made, for example, between direct emissions from the vehicle fleet or heating and indirect emissions resulting from the purchase of goods or business travel. In addition to Scope 1 and 2, we at CHG-MERIDIAN take into account all company-related emissions from Scope 3, which is why we refer to our climate neutrality target as "corporate emissions".

We collected and analyzed the respective data together with an independent environmental institute and finally even had them checked by proven, external experts.

How to become climate neutral | CHG-MERIDIAN


Within Scope 3, there are emission categories that relate to the company in general (e.g., employee commuting) or to the products (e.g. use of leased property, plant and equipment). Since in most cases the product selection is made by the customers themselves, we have little influence here and therefore exclude these product-related emissions (Product Lifecycle Emissions) from our CCF calculation.

This sounds very complex and also work-intensive...

It was and still is. But we just want to make sure that we are doing everything right here and that there's sense in our measures.

And how does CHG-MERIDIAN intend to become climate-neutral?

Basically, the motto is: avoid as the primary goal, then reduce and finally offset. We have opted for a "quick start" here and want to achieve our climate neutrality initially by making offsetting payments to climate protection projects which are certified by internationally recognized standards. We have already gained experience in this area with our carbonZER0 product and have a strong international partner at our side. In the medium term, I envisage that we will also offset our carbon footprint through regional or perhaps even our own CHG-MERIDIAN carbon offset projects.

In parallel, however, we would also like to initiate reduction measures now in order to reduce our real emissions bit by bit and, at best, avoid them in the long term. However, there will always be some unavoidable emissions left over, which we will then have to compensate.

That certainly won't be easy, because we won't just switch off the lights or cancel all business trips...

Exactly,...[laughs]... The devil really is in the details here. That's why it's important to me to present everything transparently and to emphasize very clearly: It is a continuous process to which each of us in the company and in our environment can contribute.

Thank you very much for the interview, Mr. Steybe.