A certificate for environmental management

Darstellung zum Zertifikat der Umweltpartnerschaft Hamburg

Published on 15.09.2021
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In the spring of 2020, shortly before the pandemic began, a desire arose among colleagues for greater commitment to climate and environmental protection. Many privately made adjustments for a smaller carbon footprint and wanted to continue working on the job. Actually, we already felt reasonably "good" about our personal sustainability at F7. We tried to avoid waste, switched accounting to paperless as much as possible, and the few remaining office supplies to multi-certified products (especially Blue Angel). As a software company, there is no production waste or packaging to optimize. We wanted to do more, but didn't know how. At a meeting, all the colleagues threw their wishes and ideas into a pot: protect the climate, reduce CO2 emissions, be a role model, live diversity and, of course, be able to advertise it afterwards.
To do this, they needed help from outside.


In our search for a way to put our ecological efforts into a fancy certificate, we took the usual route: hearsay, as well as customer and colleague recommendations. In the process, we stumbled upon ECOPROFIT, which sounded very promising, especially for the accounting department. The whole thing stands for "ECOlogical Project for Integrated Environmental Technology", but what's the harm in doing something positive (i.e. profit) out of it (besides the feeling of doing something good for the environment and climate)? Even if it's just the option of being able to offer customers proven added value in terms of sustainability.

The one-year program cooperates with cities and municipalities and takes the companies by the hand through several personal consultations and workshops. In this way, they learn with the support of professionals (in our case, Ökopol took over the supervision), exchange ideas with the other participants and turn a wide variety of adjusting screws over the course of the project. Any company can participate, regardless of size, turnover or industry. At the end of the project, there is an on-site visit during which the company is "audited.

We signed up immediately.


Sudden contact restrictions and lockdows quickly moved the actual face-to-face workshops to the Internet, with more or less technical understanding depending on the participant. So virtually like everywhere else in time. For us, the online conferences were somewhat disappointing, as we had hoped for networking with fellow participants. In general, ECOPROFIT is more of a community than a program for individuals. Even after receiving the certificate, many companies join the associated club, which primarily offers networking opportunities in addition to regular expert lectures.

>>Graduates of the program report enthusiastically on their achievements and the knowledge they have gained, and happily invite everyone to their company. We didn't get into a cult here, did we?<<

The workshops in the course also included presentations designed to provide assistance on the mountain of paperwork that came along with the project, in addition to just information. Can we work out a monitoring of waste separation? How many colleagues come what distance to work? And what metrics can be generated by our electricity consumption?

Difficulties arose where we had simply never counted and listed anything before - paper consumption, development of heating costs in relation to the number of colleagues - and suddenly everything was different in the COVID home office. How do you list waste quantities of the last years if you don't even have the possibility to consult the current consumption?


The ECOPROFIT program is suitable for any type of company, but primarily tailored to Alpha. We have been working differently since our transformation, which simplified some of the work in the run, but caused gray hairs in the documentation of the paperwork to be filled out. After all, we have regular communication with all colleagues and everyone was roughly aware of our sustainability efforts from the beginning. The independent teams monitor themselves and usually turn their own set screws. This is no different in the day-to-day work of developing websites than it is in environmental management. However, we were now forced, among other things, to appoint "project managers" and associated "responsible persons and deputies", which actually made no sense in our corporate form. We simply ignored invitations to company meetings, appointment lists for announcements and signatures of the audience at announcements of the project. We wanted sustainability, not over-bureaucracy that would not have offered us any added value.


A major area in ECOPROFIT concerns occupational health and safety. After all, sustainability is not just about climate and environment. And contrary to initial assumptions, this area has been the one that has brought the most change for us. And yes, we are a bit embarrassed about that.

Of course, it's not that we provided an unsafe environment for colleagues before. We are and were well-equipped in fire extinguishers and first aiders, have a first aid kit, and pay attention to lighting and the like. But unfortunately, we had only a very rudimentary idea of office workstation analyses and virtually none of our hazardous materials, aka dishwasher tabs.


Even at (someday again possible) raucous office parties, probably no one will think of biting into a tab, drinking the coffee machine descaler or rubbing the whiteboard cleaner into their eyes. It's just that occupational health and safety is not about common sense. And honestly, since the Corona pandemic, you can see every day that common sense is not something you should rely on. 

That's why we now not only have all the analyses, the right data sheets, hazardous materials book and protective containers, but also document the teachings on them in detail. Our cleaning agents have been changed to more environmentally friendly substances that are less "hazardous" than before and mean less paperwork in addition to better environmental protection. Now the announcement on the correct use of F7's own ladder regularly causes amusement, but we are absolutely sure that we are no longer doing anything wrong in terms of occupational safety. And we didn't necessarily expect THAT from a sustainability program.


The city of Hamburg, which is a cooperation partner of the ECOPROFIT program, prices possible savings for participating companies. Replacing the electrical system will pay off at some point, as will the solar system on the roof. Insulation of the exterior walls reduces emissions and heating costs. For a small company like F7, as a tenant in a multi-party building and without tangible production, there's not really much to be gained there. Our set screws were smaller, cost more than they bring financially and were sometimes controversially discussed within the company. We have revised the waste separation (and see after Corona sometime whether it works so at all), are even more critical of the materials used, electricity suppliers and electrical appliances to be purchased. Other ideas have been discarded or are in the pipeline for the future (like a charging facility for electric cars at the garage parking lot).

>>But I don't want sandpaper on the toilets!<<

The flow restrictors on the faucets don't save much but ultimately every commitment counts. And how we do with regional, organic food and generally the things consumed in the office, only time will tell when more of the colleagues come back from the home office.


There is a limit somewhere, of course. Replacing all the neon lights installed by the landlord, which are rarely used, would cost a lot of money and wouldn't pay off financially for another 30 years. And the developers should get the best working device for their needs, although the fair variants would certainly be more sustainable for the climate. Maybe this will change in a few years? ECOPROFIT is a path and not a goal. 

Yes, we now have a nice certificate and at the same time we have become an environmental partner of the city of Hamburg. But through the ECOPROFIT Club and possibilities of re-certification (nothing expires but the year is big on the certificate) the participants are encouraged to continue to take care of documentation and self-auditing.
And we, at least, will.

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