Talking sustainability with our Board of Directors

Exploring people, passion, change.

A five-member Board of Directors of experienced managers is entrusted with running Hager Group: Dr. Ralph Fürderer, Philippe Ferragu, Daniel Hager, Franck Houdebert and Mike Elbers

Exploring people, passion, change:

Talking sustainability with our Board of Directors

These days, sustainability is on everyone’s lips, yet, is it more than a buzzword? Our Board of Directors discuss what makes Hager Group’s approach a real commitment.

Cate Shaw (moderator): Daniel, would you like to get the ball rolling by sharing with our readers just what a difference Hager Group is making? And what exactly do we mean by sustainability?

At Hager Group our ambition is to transform and grow in the long term rather than maximising profits in the short term. This is what being a sustainable organisation is all about. For a family business, sustainability is about thinking in generations and transmission to the next generation. The challenge is, of course, translating concepts into real and measurable actions. Philippe will most certainly agree with me when I say making money is, of course, something that we have to and want to do as without it we would not be sustainable. Yet what counts is how we go about it.

I couldn’t agree more Daniel. Yes, it is of course important to make money, but as you say, it goes much further than that. We must be in line with our convictions too. Let’s not forget that sustainability is especially important for the family business that we are – we need long-term thinking and careful financial planning.

I’d like to rebound on what you said about measurable actions, Daniel. It is important to be transparent about what we are doing and the impact it will have. The company’s vision is to make life on this planet safer, cleaner and more enjoyable. To bring this to life, we are supporting electrification – one of the key vectors to becoming more sustainable. We want to stay in business and lay the foundations for the future. We must remain modest and refuse greenwashing. Our employees recognise this, and want to work for an employer of choice, who walks the talk. The current situation and regulations mean that we must act now. Depending on the choices we make, we may lose some business, which we will simply have to accept. In any case, we must take our customers and partners with us on our sustainability journey.

We must take our customers and partners with us on our sustainability journey.

So, in other words, we want to do things properly for the right reasons by adopting a sustainable approach when interacting with employees, partners etc. Mike, do our customers really expect us to continuously reduce our ecological footprint and offer more energy-efficient solutions?

Yes, and for many different reasons. Not a day goes by without me being asked what we are doing to improve our carbon footprint and do I drive an electric car. The discussions we are having about sustainability are the same discussions that our customers are having. How can we do things better and be more sustainable? We provide energy-efficient solutions for our customers, who in turn provide them to their customers. Our role is to help consumers become greener consumers. The impact of what we are doing here is three-fold; there is an impact on the business, ecology and people. We need to balance this carefully to get as many people on board as possible – our employees, partners, customers and society around us.

Yes, exactly, the more people we have on board, adopters, the better the dynamic for long-lasting and long-reaching impact. Franck, Mike just mentioned our employees. What is your take on being an employer of choice?

We want to be and are an employer of choice. Sustainability is about looking into the future and building tomorrow with our current and future colleagues. This means knowing how to retain the talents we have and attract new ones with an objective to increase our diversity and inclusiveness. I think that generally speaking, people want transparency, being transparent is part of being trustworthy. Our values, being trustworthy and a family company reassure people. We are honest about what we do, who we are, and we provide a safe and dynamic working environment. We are committed to our vision of making people’s life on our planet safer, cleaner and more enjoyable. When we talk to candidates, we understand that they are not expecting a company to solve every issue, they want to work for a company that walks the talk, is truly engaged, takes tangible actions, provides flexible working hours, interesting projects, training and development plans. We do all of this, I am proud to be able to honestly tell them that we are a company that is changing to shape the future.

Talking of change, Daniel, can we really change? What needs to change?

Clearly, we need to reduce CO₂ emissions. Regulations will help us do this as they provide a frame in which to work. Something equally as important is people and their behaviour. You know it really doesn’t take that long to change a habit, making changes is accessible to everyone. Take our environmental sustainability approach – Blue Planet Commitment – it is designed to help every employee in the group revisit their way of doing things and questioning processes. For example, this could range from using less raw material in production, rarely using paper, rethinking how we travel, adapting the heating and lighting systems…. These actions and new behaviours will be beneficial for society as a whole.

Yes, a type of knock-on effect. But for it to really take, there needs to be passion and conviction too. Afterall, this report is titled People, Passion and Change.

Exactly Cate, when we are speaking about sustainability, it’s really about opening our mind to what is happening around us. Having passion and conviction for what we do will help us move forward. There are many colleagues within the company that have benefitted from training to become experts in areas that they didn’t initially study for. It is their passion that helped them take the step. They have totally changed the way they work, they are passionate and committed, many of them feature in this report. Mobilising our own people is essential. We can’t achieve any of this if we don’t have the best people and we provide them with the skills and empowerment they need to reach our full potential.

Customers continue to choose us because they trust our solutions and we have worked together for a long time.

Mike Elbers
Chief Marketing Officer

I’d like to chip in here and pick up on the topic of change. Change is synonymous with innovation and in our industry that can mean technology, too. We need strong skills and capabilities in these domains. Unfortunately, to be totally transparent with you, we are short on material scientists, this can cause bottlenecks when we need to resolve critical situations. We can and must concentrate on these skill sets in recruitment to really drive innovation into our product offer. It’s a way, isn’t Mike, of being more credible with our customers, proving a product offer that is in line with our Blue Planet Commitment? This will be a change, a challenge, a risk to take… really daring to go into new territory and do something new.

Of course, it’s important to produce innovations, it’s also as Franck said, about trust and engagement. Customers continue to choose us because they trust our solutions and we have worked together for a long time, we must leverage this. And I can tell you that today, when people know you work at Hager Group, an electrical company, they ask what we are doing to save energy, reduce CO₂ emissions, be more sustainable, more innovative. Sustainability is, as we said at the start – the word on everyone’s lips.

Daniel Hager

Daniel is our Chief Executive Officer, he has held this position since 2008. He chairs the Board of Directors and together they set the company strategy in line with our ambition to lead in tomorrow’s electrical world. A runner, Daniel takes every opportunity he can to discover new places with his running shoes on. He is adamant that he and the company have a key role to play in reducing CO₂ emissions and collects expert advice whenever he can to make sure we are running in the right direction.

Franck Houdebert

Franck is our Chief Group Human Resources Officer. He grew up in a small village in the countryside close to nature. He is responsible for employees at Hager Group. He is also responsible for part of the sustainability department, Group Communications and the Asia-Pacific sales region. Franck is a keen fencer and father of three young adults, he learns from them and he is determined to leave them a planet fit to live on.

Philippe Ferragu

Philippe is our Chief Group Resources Officer. He manages the financial & legal departments. He enjoys reading, listening to music and going on walks with his wife and sons. He is very aware of the need to be agile and adapt working methods to reduce our carbon footprint.

Mike Elbers

Mike is our Chief Marketing Officer, he is responsible for Solution Development and Marketing. Mike’s role is all about making sure that we develop the right offer portfolio in order to best serve our customers; maintaining, renewing and deepening relationships with our existing and future customers are important to him. Mike is an avid reader, he likes to keep up to date on what is happening by reading different studies, stories, newspapers and books. A family-man at heart, with his children he enjoys playing in the garden, cycling and eating ice-cream.

Dr. Ralph Fürderer

Ralph is our Chief Technical Officer, he is responsible for engineering and manufacturing as well as supply chain, logistics, group quality & environment. For him the job is all about ensuring we are a reliable and trusted partner for our customers. He loves the great outdoors and often goes out for a run or walks. He is convinced that our industrial carbon footprint can and must be reduced.

So, Philippe, how do we budget for innovation and sustainability?

It is a commitment from the company to invest in this. There is no question about this. We’re all committed, some actions are costly, some less so. There are mandatory investments, there is no way around this. It is our duty also to spend our money as best as possible. There are many initiatives to be budgeted, this in particular concerns Ralph and his teams. Budgeting for sustainability is no different to the normal way of budgeting, we ask for a quotation, make bids for tender and then try to get the best value for our money. The main point is that there is no discussion about the fact that we want to invest money in this.

It is important to be transparent about what we are doing and the impact it will have.

Let me elaborate on what Philippe just said about initiatives. In 2021 we analysed our carbon footprint, so we now know what we need to measure and how we can have a direct impact on for example decarbonisation – one of the main angles of environmental sustainability. We are able to measure the indirect impact of our behaviour, our products and our suppliers. In 2022 we will be sharing with employees exactly how we can make a direct impact by changing our energy-consumption behaviour on site, how we will be using and saving on greener energy and changing the way we organise ourselves. Local production and sourcing will become much more important than in the past. Actions will have a visible impact, providing evidence we are changing.

Taking of evidence, what tangible figures and actions do we have so far?

Many of our buildings have been producing their own energy for the last ten years or so. We use photovoltaic panels, there are 440 on the roof of Hager Forum in Obernai. Our car policy incorporates the CO₂ consumption of the car. Hager Energy (E3/DC) provides solutions to optimise resource and energy consumption. A further example is a recent difficult decision we made based on CO₂ emissions. Do we use generators in production knowing that they produce a lot of CO₂, or do we push to find alternatives? The second is, of course more expensive, but from an environmental perspective the only solution as it is more sustainable in the long term. It’s what I said earlier about forsaking short-terms profits for more long-term nobler goals.

Today, our awareness of the importance of our living and working environment is more heightened than ever. And never before have we had such an opportunity to have a positive influence. To wrap up, I’d like to quote one of the people who was interviewed for this report: “We’re not looking to be the best in our industry. We’re looking to be the best for the planet in our industry.” Which aligns perfectly with what you’ve just said Daniel.

Thank you very much, gentlemen, for participating and sharing your thoughts with us.

Cate Shaw moderated this discussion. She is a member of the group communications team and author of this report.
Daniel Hager – Passionate people creating the change for a more sustainable world.Driving change and sustainability – How we are decarbonising our business.Designing out plastic? – Sustainability and eco-friendly solutions are our promise.Changing our perspectives – Guibert del Marmol about being sustainable.Stronger together – Entrepreneurial spirit and collective intelligence.Being part of the solution – Diversity, skills and commitment.Talking sustainability with our Board of Directors – Exploring people, passion, change.Our Supervisory Board – Facts & figures – Imprint – Hager Group Annual Report ArchiveHager Group Annual Report 2020/21Hager Group Annual Report 2019/20Hager Group Annual Report 2018/19Hager Group Annual Report 2017/18Hager Group Annual Report 2016Hager Group Annual Report 2015