‘Many feel it is essential to live and work sustainably’

GIZ is committed to sustainable development. Its worldwide commitment to a future worth living goes far beyond project work: four GIZ staff members talk about what they’re doing for a future worth living – also after work.


Global focus on sustainability

‘GIZ is active in 120 countries the world over – so measuring the sustainability of the entire company is no easy task. Although our German sites are certified in accordance with the European Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) in the area of the ecological dimension, conditions in developing countries and emerging economies are often very different.

We cannot apply a uniform standard there: What can be easily implemented in our offices in Mexico, for example, may be completely utopian in a fragile country like Yemen. Bespoke measures are therefore necessary when it comes to sustainability and corporate responsibility – especially in the foreign offices. My team and I support the offices in this process.

In this context, we launched the Corporate Sustainability Handprint (CSH) in 2015: with this tool, we capture all three dimensions of sustainability – environmental/climate, economic and social aspects. Among other things, we measure the ecological footprint (i.e. the resource consumption by offices) and carbon emissions, including those from air travel.

On the other hand, positive commitment is also taken into account: for example, when colleagues install a solar panel on the office roof, introduce cross-project vehicle pools, buy office furniture produced by local businesses under fair trade conditions or get involved in social initiatives. All locations worldwide continuously collect this data. That is the responsibility of what are known as CSH officers. Once a year, they send us the data and we evaluate it. 

Every two years, the offices set themselves new sustainability targets. We support them in reaching those targets with our sustainability programme. In an online community and at webinars, our CSH officers around the world exchange and share their ideas with each other.

With the CSH, we have thus created an instrument with which we can holistically manage and improve the sustainability of our offices outside Germany. It has become an integral part of our business processes.’


The Corporate Sustainability Handprint in action

‘Since we launched the Corporate Sustainability Handprint in 2015, a lot has happened in our offices in Tanzania, something we’re really proud of! As CSH Officer, I’m responsible for collecting Qualitative & Quantitative data from our offices and improving sustainability in our day-to-day office operations. Together, we in the GIZ team are working to achieve our sustainability goals.

Unfortunately, sustainability is yet to play a major role in Tanzania – waste is not recycled systematically, for instance. So, we have introduced our own Recycling Framework system in the GIZ offices: offices separate their waste and a private waste disposal company collects and recycles providing monthly Reports for each location. All GIZ staff and cleaners are briefed annually ensuring waste separation runs smoothly.

We also pay attention to sustainability at events. For example, we use a local catering company that serves locally sourced food, use of plastic bottles is discouraged and we only minimally turn down the air-conditioning temperature in event rooms to conserve energy.

The offices, too, we only cool by at most six degrees. And we collect the condensation water from the air conditioning using it to water plants. We use energy-efficient LED lamps throughout and print double-sided to save paper. When choosing our service providers, we make sure they are local and produce sustainably and fairly, for example flags or stickers.’


Running for a plasticfree city

‘Sustainability is a topic that concerns me and many of my colleagues not only in the projects, but also in the workplace and in our private lives. In 2020, we therefore founded an eco-initiative to jointly organise activities for environmental conservation and for greater sustainability. Since then, we have been meeting monthly, exchanging ideas and making plans.

Last year, for example, we organised an ECO Run together with the NGO Sachet Héloué: Together with the city’s residents we collected plastic waste from Cotonou’s streets and beach. The campaign was a tremendous success! Afterwards, the waste was recycled and processed to make school desks.

What else are we doing? We regularly raise awareness of sustainability issues among our GIZ colleagues: How can you avoid plastic waste, recycle waste, or save printing paper?’


‘Cycling is booming’

‘I have served as volunteer bicycle coordinator for the GIZ Bonn Office since 2017. Funnily enough, I’m not actually a bike person; I prefer walking. But cycling is a really convenient mode of transport: we have loads of one-way streets in the city and endless traffic congestion due to the many railway gates. Cycling is practically the only way you can arrive on time. I love being responsible for the topic because cycling is booming and there is so much going on.

Every three years, GIZ is certified by B.A.U.M. e.V. as a cycling-friendly company. That concerns, for example, infrastructure for cyclists – do we have enough bike stands, lockers and showers? But also, how important is the topic of bicycle-friendliness to the company? Have management objectives been agreed, are there cycling network activities?

For example, we have set up a bicycle pool, with currently fifteen bikes that interns and new staff can borrow for several months at a time. GIZ is also taking part in the nationwide ‘Cycle to work’ campaign run by the association of cyclists ADFC and the statutory health insurer AOK. Colleagues cycle to the office as often as possible from May to September. They keep track of the distances they cycle, get a certificate – and then they’re in with a chance of winning a prize.

Many feel it is essential to live and work sustainably, as is also shown by the huge interest and commitment outside working hours. Getting this message out there and making it visible – that’s also part of my role as an ambassador in connecting people and fostering dialogue.’

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