As a company, which operates internationally, it is particularly important for the L&R Group to show sustainable action throughout the entire value chain. However, in addition to ecological parameters, also economic factors play a role when observing sustainability within a company.
- What do we need to buy from where in order to remain competitive?
- Where are the markets we can and want to serve?
- How can we maintain a clear overview of our complex supply chain at all times and ensure that we are able to quickly respond to any changes?
For L&R, acting in an ecologically sustainable manner starts with product development and includes the process of purchasing raw materials, the production process, product delivery and the use and disposal of our products. We are also always careful to make sure that our processes and production methods conserve resources, that our materials are environmentally friendly and that our logistics are low-energy and gentle on the environment.
“L&R develops, produces and distributes customised solutions for meeting the medical challenges faced by patients and healthcare professionals, ranging from conventional dressing materials to modern treatment and patient-care systems. We ensure that our key sustainability performance indicators are taken into account as well as possible throughout our entire value chain.”
Senior Executive VP & COO
Suprasorb X is a moisture-regulating wound dressing for non-infected wounds. The unique structure of this dressing’s biosynthetic HydroBalance fibres means that it will either release moisture to the wound or absorb excess exudate depending on the wound’s state.
The dressing is made of bacterial nanocellulose (BNC) and water. BNC is a biopolymer produced from glucose bacteria. The bacterial cellulose is extracted from the sustainable material, nata de coco (coconut). Nata de coco is a natural product that has been produced for over 100 years on farms such as in the Philippines. It is harvested by local suppliers, processed and then sent in bulk to L&R’s production facilities. On receipt, it is carefully quality checked before being used to produce high-performance wound dressings. L&R’s subsidiary Rauscher Consumer Products also develops and produces hygiene products for the consumer sector and has developed and produced its products for many years now with a special emphasis on sustainability.
Environmentally friendly Bellawa cotton buds consist of natural, soft cotton wadding and are produced without using chlorine bleach. The stick is made of easily degradable paper and the packaging of 100 per cent recycled cardboard. The product is plastic-free, fully biodegradable, resource-friendly and vegan.
Bellawa fairtrade cotton buds furthermore have buds made of natural, soft, 100 per cent cotton, certified in accordance with fair-trade criteria.
Both of these products don’t only meet all of the requirements for a cotton bud suitable for daily use and personal care, but are also a sustainable alternative to conventional cotton buds with plastic and will preempt the anticipated EU-wide ban of cotton buds with plastic from 2021.
The use of high-quality raw materials is key to the excellent quality of our products. L&R works based on the certified quality management systems ISO 13485 and ISO 9001. The company acts in compliance with defined standards, using tested raw materials, purchased parts, components and services.
One of the company’s long-standing partners and raw material suppliers, for example, is the company Lenzing from Austria. Lenzing supplies L&R with viscose fibres produced from wood, i.e. a renewable raw material. The viscose pulp is certified organic and produced using an environmentally friendly handling process.
Other examples of the selection of raw materials sustainably gained and used by the L&R Group include the yarns used for their textiles. They are certified according to Oeko-Tex Standard 100.
L&R works with approximately 1,300 suppliers worldwide. All of our suppliers comply with our Code of Conduct, which sets out our social and environmental requirements. All of our suppliers are subject to a strict and clearly defined qualification process based upon commercial, regulatory and qualitative criteria. We also check them within the scope of our regular supplier audits.
“We not only check our suppliers based on economic criteria, but also on social and environmental measures. Our high quality standards and Code of Conduct are binding for our suppliers. We expect more of them than to simply provide us with top-quality raw materials, products and services. We also consider them important partners in local markets, with whom we can jointly achieve our goals of successful product development and of continuous improvement of products and processes.”
Purchasing and Procurement Manager
Resource-saving processes and manufacturing methods play a big role in L&R’s sustainable value chain. The L&R Group has made sustainable corporate management a priority in both the development and implementation of its strategy. This is also reflected in our level of investment. In 2018, we invested 1.3 million euros in the implementation of a number of sustainable production and building management projects.
Sustainability is also an important principle in the company’s day-to-day management practices. L&R uses the Kaizen principle, a method aimed at continuous improvement, which is continuously monitored and implemented by those responsible for sustainability within the company based on KPIs. The corresponding indicators are provided regularly by monitoring and used as a basis for checking compliance with our environmental guidelines.
Also regarding the transport routes, L&R works continously on more efficient and CO2 reducing solutions.
L&R has, for example, been able to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions of one of its production facilities in Xishui, China, by switching to local sourcing, i.e. to sourcing materials required from as near as possible to the production facility. Previously, the raw materials for production in China were frequently imported from Europe. The percentage of materials sourced locally by L&R has increased from 36 per cent in 2015 to 56 per cent in 2018.
The L&R Group’s strong growth has also resulted in the Group opening new logistics hubs on all five continents.
“Setting up local distribution centres has also been a highly positive move in terms of sustainability. The short transport routes result in clear improvements to the supply chain in terms of efficiency and resource conservation. The L&R Group has opened new regional logistics hubs in Shanghai, Melbourne, Milwaukee and Brazil during the past few years. New Zealand and North Africa are currently being assessed for new hubs.
Facts and concrete figures speak for themselves. In order to orchestrate commodity flows and product deliveries more sustainably, we offer our customers and business partners 91,248 square metres of storage space at our distribution centres, 94,942 square metres of storage space for pallets, 7,346 deliveries to customers with an average of 30,754 products daily and 421 L&R staff worldwide who work at our logistics hubs.”
Dr. Wolfgang Zimmermann
Director of Supply Chain Management
L&R is also constantly refining the logistics solutions used within its supply chain. In a pilot project, L&R is testing transportation using rail & road containers for the logistics route between Asia and Europe instead of the sea containers used to date. So far, express deliveries from China were sent as airfreight, associated with high costs and corresponding CO2 emissions. In the future, these deliveries will be transported by rail.
Step by step – we are getting there.
Every project we implement makes us more efficient and hence protects resources and improves the CO2 balance:
- Optimizing the freight routes in Austria by doing away with set routes.
- Our successful cooperation with Austria’s postal service provider has allowed us to benefit from the provider’s CO2 neutral letter, parcel and promotion material delivery service for many years.
- The use of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles by our German sales team has allowed us to look after our customers in a way that is gentle on resources.
When it comes to packaging, we always apply the same simple principle “avoid – reduce – recycle”. We have long since started participating in all of the various national and international packaging waste disposal systems (such as the Green Dot) and systematically avoid the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in packaging.
As of 1 January 2019, the German Packaging Ordinance has been superseded by the new German Packaging Law. L&R has already registered its brands and products in the LUCID Database set up by the new “Central Packaging Register Foundation”. This foundation reports to the German Federal Environmental Agency. L&R fully complies with its responsibilities concerning participation in the further processing systems for packaging just as it has done in the past for the national disposal systems like the Green Dot, ARA, ECOKOM etc.
Just as in the other areas of the supply chain, L&R also continuously optimises its processes in order to reduce the amount of resources used for packaging and applies standard solutions and materials at all of its facilities in an effort to reduce complexity, waste and transport volumes (modular design).
The reduction of the number of different cardboard boxes used for L&R’s tampons (six million products annually) clearly shows what savings can be achieved simply by improving modular packaging design. In a Group-wide standardisation of the packaging and reduction of the number of different boxes used from 95 to 48, as well as the standardisation and reduction of the number of different material qualities from seven to three. We were able to reduce our carbon footprint not just by reducing the material and manufacturing costs, but also through the resulting reduction in storage and transport volumes. This was made possible by improving the way demand assessments are bundled and by reducing the rejects produced by our pre-supplier and at our own production facilities thanks to fewer set-up changeovers and start-up rejects.
The packaging we use for our feminine hygiene products, in particular, is optimised constantly. At present, L&R is, for example, investigating the technical feasibility of even further reducing the materials used as well as the use of renewable and compostable materials (polylactic acid films, which are plant based, and biodegradable plastic waste) in a number of different projects.
In order to continue to improve its carbon footprint even further in a targeted manner, a pilot project was started in order to initially determine a product’s carbon footprint.
This Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) provides information on the total greenhouse emissions created during a product’s life cycle. PCFs are measured in kilogramme CO2 equivalents for a defined functional unit. L&R will establish the PCFs as specified under ISO 14040/14044 for four different tampon sizes (mini, normal, super and super plus). This process takes all of the associated raw and auxiliary materials and energy sources into account. This is then used as a basis for transparent depiction of the products’ ecological footprints and for their sustainable reduction.
This article is taken from our Sustainability Report. You can download the whole report here.