We deal openly with the topic of sustainability. We report not only on our goals and success, but also admit that we’re still at the beginning when it comes to a few items.
In an interview, CEOs Christoph Hundertmark and Dr. Michael Gerle explain why they see sustainability as a central issue of future viability and corporate responsibility.

Sustainability is a question of future viability and corporate responsibility

Christoph Hundertmark

For an internationally active company in the chemical industry, the path to climate neutrality involves new challenges each day. The world is changing drastically. The tempo of the changes and of international competition is increasing at a furious pace. Especially in Europe, society and businesses are contributing to sustainable business practices.

As a family business with almost 190 years of tradition, BECHEM is deeply convinced that responsible operation in the interest of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a prerequisite for the sustainable economic success and future viability of the company. The focus is on the customer: Our solutions create added value for our customers while conserving resources. We’ve always felt and acted this way as a mid-sized company, even though there were no sustainability reports or 17 UN Goals a generation ago.

We use the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) as a guide. We try to cover the goals and support them as best we can, thereby promoting sustainable commitment. We joined the UN Global Compact because we would like to do our part toward a more inclusive and sustainable economy to the benefit of all people, communities, and markets, by setting an example with over 24,000 businesses from more than 170 countries, based on ten universal principles (divided into human rights, labor standards, the environment, and preventing corruption) and the SDGs.

“We’ve dealt deliberately with the topic of sustainability for many years. For BECHEM, the three pillars of economy, ecology and social issues are an active further development that will never stop. We’ve set the course accordingly and established a Sustainability Management department that bundles our activities at the three German sites. We look forward to the recognition of our successes (which BECHEM has already received in the sustainability rating 2022 of EcoVadis, for example). The bronze status is an important milestone for us and, at the same time, an incentive to continue actively designing the sustainability management. Through additional potential for improvement, we’re focusing on the silver status,” says Christoph Hundertmark with a view to the future.

Sustainability is enshrined in the company strategy

“We want to create more value for our customers, employees, our social environment as well as our company – and simultaneously reduce our environmental footprint. Our commitment is strictly based on fundamental sustainability principles and is firmly embedded in BECHEM’s corporate strategy and culture. In recent decades, we’ve already started making our corporate decisions with an eye on sustainability and the future,” states Christoph Hundertmark.
BECHEM is at home in the chemical industry, so we feel even more obligated to reconcile business and the environment with sustainable concepts. The fundamental attitude of the company’s management and staff towards issues such as climate protection, resource conservation or even conscious nutrition are also crucial for our sustainable operation.
“To remain sustainable in economic and environmental terms, we’ve rolled out the Strategy 2030 under the motto
“Come on, let’s make the future,” thereby making people aware of sustainable thinking. And this is really close to my heart personally. By specifically defining our brand compass, strategy house, and service commitment, we’ve worked out our strategic guidelines and goals and gained a shared understanding of the achievements, competencies, strengths, and values that characterize BECHEM. And sustainability remains in focus. Sustainability is a mindset in everyday business that demands consistent actions across departments. In describing the company’s future, Christoph Hundertmark says “We make our company’s decisions based on our sustainability goals, because I would like to use our ambitious sustainability management to leave the next generation of BECHEM more sustainable in every respect than it was when I took the helm in the 6th generation.”

An important milestone: joining the UN Global Compact

Thomas Brexeler

We think green when developing products

Dr. Michael Gerle explains the principle for product development: “We develop sustainable products and process innovations that have made great contributions to efficiency and sustainability for our customers since year one. In fact, they were developed in 1834, our very year of founding, to reduce friction and wear, increase lifetimes, and minimize maintenance. We’ve continually thought about the environmental compatibility of our products and the production processes in which they are used. When developing products, we think green, try to expand our biolubricants, choose raw materials that conserve energy and resources, and dispense with those that harm the environment. Our primary research goal is to develop products that consume as little energy and release as little CO²e as possible during their production and subsequent application.

Thomas Brexeler, CSO

Enthusiastic customers with whom we’ve developed new solutions (to simplify assembly production, increase tool service lives, or increase process reliability and surface quality, for example) motivate our entire team every day just as much as the awards we receive on the federal level or from suppliers.
This is currently exemplified by the water-based grease developed in the area of grease lubrication, which passed national and international tests in rail-guided transport systems. BECHEM is a research partner in the development of lubricants that, for the first time, supply hydraulic units and machine lubrication with one product. In addition to conserving the finite resource mineral oil, this approach facilitates a significant reduction in energy consumption. The water-based fluid produces a lower operating temperature of the hydraulic unit with less power loss. Its consistency also reduces the pump pressure (at the same volume flow) by approx. 31%.”

Berufluid is the spark behind the development of sustainable cooling lubricant

“Water has been our topic for a long time”, Dr. Michael Gerle emphasized regarding the water-miscible cooling lubricant Berufluid, which received the first German Raw Material Efficiency Prize* in 2011. BECHEM  was one of the first companies to demonstrate a way to replace mineral oil-based grinding oils with oil-free, water-based products with adjustable viscosity to enable more sustainable and efficient manufacturing. To put it briefly: Increase efficiency by improving processes. With this product series, BECHEM has introduced sustainability into metal cutting.

together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, Freising, and the Institute of Machine Tools and Production Technology of the Technische Universität Braunschweig, was awarded the 2011 German Raw Material Efficiency Prize in the “Research Facilities” category for developing the Berufluid cooling lubricant.

Lubricants for more sustainability

Dr. Michael Gerle: “With our lubrication solutions, we answer the question of how production processes can be sustainably designed with lubricants. In addition to the traditional task of minimizing friction and wear, our lubricants today solve far more complex issues. As a constructive component or as a process medium, they determine the functional efficiency of technical products and the cost-effectiveness of plants and production processes. However, in many cases, they also play a key role in environmental protection, occupational health and safety, hygiene as well as energy and CO²e reduction by increasing the service life of tools and machines, or by contributing to the lifetime and operational safety of products.

We reduced our emissions by 12%
from 2021 to 2022

Dr. Michael Gerle

An important building block: Electromobility

“As a supplier for the automobile industry and other transport systems, BECHEM is close to the topic of electromobility. After the first 16 charging stations at the headquarters in Hagen and four charging stations at our  plant in Gardelegen-Mieste, more are being planned which will be fed by the company’s own photovoltaic installation. In this way, we’d like to help charge not only our own company cars (an increasing number of which are electric), but also the electric vehicles of our employees and customers. We know how important the transformation to a cleaner world of transport is, and we orient our research and development more purposefully toward products that contribute more significantly to this,” says Christoph Hundertmark to demonstrate the additional expansion of electromobility at BECHEM.

Dr. Michael Gerle adds that, as an automobile and Tier-1 supplier, BECHEM has a very special status in the climate-neutral goals of the automobile industry regarding Scope 3. “We will increasingly be included in our customers’ sustainability initiatives and must implement the regulations of sustainability management. Certifications are important and customary for collaboration with other companies, such as in the automotive or food industry. Key performance indicators from sustainability reports are considered central decision-making criteria in managing procurement. We choose our suppliers carefully. In the future, we intend to only use companies with a sustainable corporate strategy so that we can also reduce the CO²e footprint in the supply chain.”

Sustainable funding projects

As a partner to various research institutes, we also use our know-how to offer support during the development of sustainability projects – for example, during the development of a biopolymer-based hydraulic fluid with plant-based additives to protect against corrosion, which contributes to sustainability by replacing mineral-oil-based hydraulic fluids and corrosion protection additives. BECHEM has helped make lead-free zinc wrought alloys (known as Zinc Extrusion Products or “ZEP”) process-capable as an alternative to leaded brass, for which it was awarded the German Raw Materials Efficiency Prize 2022.

Status quo of Carl Bechem GmbH

Christoph Hundertmark shows the status quo with figures: “In the baseline year 2021, CARL BECHEM GMBH’s greenhouse gas balance amounted to 34,263,739 kg CO²e. On January 1, 2023, we took a great step toward climate-neutrality when we switched to 100% green energy and reduced our emissions by 7%. In spring 2023, we used the UN Gold Standard to compensate for our heating oil consumption as CO²e neutral, thereby positioning our production in the main plant in Hagen to be CO²e neutral. On the path toward meeting our climate goals, we reduced our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 12% from 2021 to 2022. We documented our sustainability activities for the first time in the German Sustainability Code (DNK) statement of 2023.”
Scope 3, the indirect emissions within the value chain (meaning, the emissions upstream and downstream from our production process), typically lie between 80% and 90% in the industry: Ours were calculated as 84.1%. Emissions from sources that BECHEM directly or indirectly controls or is responsible for (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from purchased energy (Scope 2) were each calculated as around 8% in 2021. By switching to green energy, we saved around 1,087 tons CO²e in 2023.

As a family company, BECHEM is committed to active climate and environmental protection and invests in modern, environmentally friendly facilities. To further reduce its CO²e footprint, BECHEM relies on product development and investments in photovoltaics, for example, but also on electric vehicles, dispensing with business trips and the increased use of video conferences this allows, or on extensive energy-saving measures such  as geothermal drilling, which has supplied the Hagen plant with environmentally friendly and cost-saving heat since 2007 by using modern heat exchangers. “By using reconditioned barrels, we were already able to save 475 tons of CO²e in 2021, and we will continue consistently going down this path. And by optimizing the thermal oil heating, we were able to reduce the total oil consumption by at least 10%,” says Dr. Michael Gerle, naming a few examples of possible savings opportunities.

“As part of our company suggestion scheme, we’ve tested over 400 of these ideas from our employees in recent years and implemented many of them. We paid attractive bonuses for ideas that we could implement directly in a production that saved more energy or in shorter workflows. To compensate for the CO2e emissions produced by the printing of our print media, we support projects to protect the climate, such as the reforestation of areas in the Sauerland that were strongly affected by the Kyrill storm in 2007. But traditional projects such as using recycled copy paper, using energy-saving lighting, reducing meat-based dishes in the cafeteria, and the apiary in our plant in Gardelegen- Mieste that produces delicious honey are only a few examples that add up to make an important contribution.”

Sustainability also means considering the social aspects of the SDGs.

Christoph Hundertmark

Social sustainability

Christoph Hundertmark says: “For 190 years, BECHEM has been a familyowned business that is managed in accordance with family principles and has enshrined them in its values. Diversity and equal opportunity, adequate remuneration and wage equality, work safety and health protection, social security and social security benefits, corporate benefits such as JobRad, the active support of local retailers, and participation by employees through an end-of-theyear bonus increase employer attractiveness and have been standard at BECHEM for a long time. The Charter of Diversity, which we signed in 2015, or awards such as Top Job 2019, Leading Employer 2022, 2023 and 2024, and our participation in the Progress Index “Family” show that we take responsibility toward our employees and comply with the SDGs holistically – ecologically, economically and socially. We’re also committed to local families in our plant in Bangalore, India, where we support schools and arrange for the construction of fresh water wells. We supply the employees in our plant in Shenyang, China, with some self-grown, freshly prepared food direct from the BECHEM farm. Another important milestone was the signing of the Letter of Commitment to the General Secretary of the United Nations in 2023 – joining the UN Global Compact.”

The next steps

“The photovoltaic plants installed in Hagen and Gardelegen-Mieste will be continually expanded in the coming years to constantly increase the percentage of renewable energy. In 2022, the photovoltaic plants  generated 7% of our required energy: At the end of 2023, it was already 30%. We’ve firmly enshrined our sustainability goals in our sustainability strategy, including annually improving our EcoVadis point score or certification in accordance with ISO 50001 (energy management).

Climate neutrality is an additional path

“We talk openly about sustainability,” says Christoph Hundertmark, “internally as well as externally. We provide information about our goals and what we have already accomplished. We do not only report on our successes. We also openly admit to areasin which we are not yet perfect or where we are still in the beginning phase. Always with the goal of becoming better, we also actively exchange information with other companies and public organizations, because only together can we be strong and learn from each other. We accept the challenge. For us, sustainability means future viability and corporate responsibility instead of “nice to have.” Reaching the goal of climate-neutrality entails the following: Only together with our customers and employees can we become a sustainable company and improve daily to achieve more together. It is another, exciting path. We are working on this. Every day.”