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Many ECG companies are innovative, show that it’s possible to operate differently, transform the system every day and enrich our world with their activities.

For each of the 20 themes, that the ECG balance sheet sheds light on, motivating examples are illustrated here to inspire others. Of course the practices exemplified are representative of many other good examples, that do exist.

Exemplary company practices for each matrix theme.

Added value with appreciation

Annual cultivation meeting with organic farmers. © Sonnentor

Since 1988 SONNENTOR has been processing and selling organically produced herbs, which it obtains directly from farms, without intermediate trade and in respectful partnerships. Cultivation and supply contracts take local conditions into account, with guaranteed minimum prices above the market. SONNENTOR offers technical advice but also audits the production conditions. An annual cultivation meeting is held where farmers can connect and exchange. SONNENTOR also lives the principle of “direct trade” partnership with farmers in Africa and South America.

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The Round Table for Grain – cooperation, solidarity and transparency in the supply chain

Round Table for Grain, 2019. © Märkisches Landbrot

Since 1992, Märkisches Landbrot has been a Demeter certified bakery and mill, buying its grain directly from regional farmers in Brandenburg, Germany and nearby Poland. At their annual Round Table for Grain all farmers producing grain for the bakery, as well as other Demeter bakeries if they wish, come together to negotiate expected harvest results and set the years’ prices – quite independent of the world market. If promises cannot be kept due to crop failures, for example, the group is called again to re-negotiate. At the end of the round table meeting, farmers vote anonymously on whether Märkisches Landbrot may use the “fair-trading & regional” partner logo.

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The Bausinger Sustainability Index

Rating according to Bausinger Sustainability Index (BNI). © Bausinger

The Bausinger company produces yoga mats made of new wool in the 3rd generation. Bausinger also sells merchandise which they systematically check to comply with the three company values: organic, fair and local. For each new article to be added to their portfolio, the so-called Bausinger Sustainability Index (BSI) is calculated in advance, i.e. the production history of an article is systematically researched and assessed using a list of a total of 38 sub-criteria and awarded points. The product is thus assigned a BSI total point value. Bausinger shares the information and assessments collected with its customers on its website and online shop.

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Collaborative seed development in 1,000 Gardens

Soybean varieties free from patents for northern cultivation areas. © Taifun Tofu

Taifun-Tofu GmbH has been producing organic quality tofu specialties in south-west Germany for over 30 years and together with its soy producers in Europe it has long been committed to sustainable, GMO-free, regional soy cultivation. Taifun-Tofu and the State’s Seed Cultivation Institute of the University of Hohenheim, Germany have reached a landmark in seed development with an innovative method. More than 2,000 farmers and amateur gardeners across Germany participated in the cultivation of varieties of soy beans, leading to the cultivation of a few types that can be cultivated in cooler European climates – which was not possible until now. These varieties will be available without patents, a sustainable contribution to our future nutrition.

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Guests share ownership

Co-owned socio-cultural meeting place. © Nellie Nashorn

The socio-cultural center Nellie Nashorn (Rhino) in southern Germany shows that even without making any profits, it is possible to successfully manage an organization oriented towards the common good. After the insolvency of the original association in 2015, the users of the cultural center themselves founded a non-profit limited liability company to ensure the center could continue. Thus, guests of the Nellie Rhino became co-owners, and through their far-reaching voluntary commitment also became co-workers and even suppliers of the socio-cultural center, thus enabling it to operate in the long term.

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Active land policy

The land framed in yellow has always been owned by the municipality. In 1954 an elementary school was built there. Then, over the decades, land was purchased, and today all the plots framed in red are owned by the municipality. The municipality has 30 percent co-ownership of the plot framed in blue. © Municipality of Mäder

In 1978, the municipality of Mäder acquired a plot of land for the first time and designated it as a public green space. Since then, the growing municipality has set itself social and ecological development goals in its zoning plan and also designates many areas for municipal use that do not yet belong to the municipality. Over four decades, the municipality has steadily acquired land and built municipal infrastructure there – schools, kindergartens, social centers, affordable housing and, last but not least, green spaces. For the municipality, which is now experienced in land policy, land is a treasure that should not be sold, not even to pay off debt.

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Ecological profit

The ‘Grüne Erde Welt’ was built on an existing commercial site. Small, newly sealed areas were compensated with renaturation of another area. © Grüne Erde

Grüne Erde has sustainability goals and finances many investments independently of banks, giving priority to social and ecological aspects. All company-owned buildings have been ecologically renovated and annual investments are made in the expansion of electric mobility and photovoltaics. In the case of one rental property, Grüne Erde assumed the costs of a new wood chip heating system that the landlord could not afford. The new building in the Almtal Valley, the ‘Grüne Erde Welt’, which has won several awards, replaces rental properties with lower ecological standards. Grüne Erde also invests five percent of its profits in public welfare-oriented projects with no expectation of a return.

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Fair distribution and democratic corporate culture

Operational decisions by consensus. © Blattwerk

When Blattwerk Gartengestaltung GmbH was founded in 1982, it was based on the idea of businesses being managed on basic democratic principles. Until the mid-1990s, employees were simultaneously shareholders. Then ownership differentiated as usual in mainstream business organizations. From the early days the practice of transparent and consensual decision making has prevailed. Notably, the company allows for internal deliberation on how profits are to be distributed between shareholders, employees and the company.

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Holistic work culture

FAHNENGÄRTNER team at work together. © FAHNENGÄRTNER

FAHNENGÄRTNER has been manufacturing flags and advertising materials since 1945. The corporate culture of the Austrian family-owned company is characterized by meaningful jobs and a high degree of co-determination and self-organization of the workforce. The health program, which was initiated by employees and has won several awards, offers a company kindergarten and a regional company kitchen as well as a wide range of training opportunities and sports and health courses. The company also places great importance on equal opportunities. For example, 50 percent of management positions are held by women and 50 percent by men.

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Working part-time with shared responsibility

Employees have a stake in success, capital and decisions. © bio verlag

The publications of bio verlag gmbh are about sustainability and fair trade. Since 2011, bio verlag has also been formally employee-owned through capital and profit sharing. The advantages of shared responsibility are also evident in the way contracts are drawn up. Salaries are transparent for everyone and classifications are reviewed regularly. Employees can organize their weekly working hours flexibly, without core hours. For coordination in the teams, an attempt is made to meet all needs through constant exchange. Thanks to a balanced working time model, 70 percent of employees, including managers, work part-time with an average of 27 hours per week.

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Sustainble orchard on political grounds

Stefan Voelkel with his four sons Jacob, Jurek, Boris and David Voelkel. © Voelkel

The first orchard of the organic juice producer Voelkel in the Wendland region in Northern Germany was cultivated according to anthroposophical principles a hundred years ago. In this way, the founding couple anchored in the family business an awareness of responsibility for people and nature that extends beyond the company. Voelkel’s management and employees are socially and politically involved in many ways. Employees have access to Demeter technical literature and further training. The company makes it possible for employees to eat one hundred percent organic food at work and at home. Only in terms of mobility can employees not behave in an exemplary sustainable manner – public transport is lacking.

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Member defined processes

“We want to be able to show ourselves as a whole person, with everything there is, and still take our jobs really seriously and move things forward in a massive way.” © soulbottles

Since its founding in 2012, the young Berlin-based social enterprise soulbottles has brought one million plastic-free drinking bottles into the world. The company is owned by the employees themselves, who do not want to limit entrepreneurial leadership to just a few. They use the Holacracy form of organization, whereby all tasks are divided into roles that can always be redefined or filled. Operational development and the system of cooperation are shaped by the members through defined processes. All members are introduced to non-violent communication, so that appreciation, mediation and conflict resolution are part of the culture in the Soul universe.

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A hairdressing industry that’s healthy for all

Willi Luger with alumni of the vocational training for ‘natural hairdressers’. © CulumNATURA

Out of concern for the health of hairdressers and their customers, Willi Luger, who is a hairdresser himself, has developed skin-friendly hair cosmetics made from natural products. Today his company CulumNATURA distributes the high quality products to small salons without the usual discounts for bulk purchasing or online trade, thus protecting his clients also economically. CulumNATURA has founded an academy enabling the training of hairdressers in the use of non-harmful products and promotes the recognition of hairdressing with natural products by the industry.

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The pearl bottle – limiting growth and respecting planetary boundaries

The pearl bottle — a bottle design of fifty years. © Randegger Ottilien-Quelle

Randegger Ottilienquelle has been using the same bottle design for 50 years for its mineral water, the “pearl bottle”. In 1969, 200 bottlers of mineral water developed this design together under the umbrella of the Cooperative Deutscher Brunnen. This bottle has been proven an ecological and economic success for half a century: bottlers only need to add their own labels, and consumers recognize the mineral water quality by the bottle design while automatically participating in Europe’s largest reusable botteling system.

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Green electronics

elobau deliberately avoids all hazardous and toxic substances in its products. © elobau

The internationally active ensian group produces non-contact sensor technology for commercial vehicles, machine safety and level measurement under the brand name elobau. It is represented in 38 countries and has around 950 employees worldwide. Due to high vertical integration, the products are produced at the site. elobau systematically pays attention to developing durable modular products with repairable and replaceable individual parts and keeping materials separable to make later recycling uncomplicated. In 2019, the industry’s first control console made of apple leather and approximately 70 percent petroleum-free plastics was produced in cooperation with researchers.

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Lights on! – The Transparency Initiative

As part of the transparency initiative, two Ökofrost employees visit the ice cream producer La Via Lattea. © Ökofrost

Ökofrost has been a specialist wholesaler for organic frozen foods since 1996. With the transparency initiative ‘Full Understanding’, the company invites customers to take a closer look at the manufacturing processes of the Biopolar products, an Ökofrost brand. A specialized website offers a systematic report on social and ecological aspects and animal welfare for each product. Ökofrost deliberately does not shy away from the dark sides of organic production, e.g. the disclosure of corporate structures in the organic sector. The aim of the elaborate transparency initiative is to create appreciation and awareness for the products purchased and the organic foods sector itself.

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More value for people

Inclusion in the neighborhood. © Samariterstiftung

The church-based Samaritan Foundation and its ten associated subsidiaries in Württemberg in Southern Germany provide support for 4,000 people in the areas of care for the elderly, care for people with disabilities and social psychiatry. The aim is to enable people who are discriminated against in the economic system to enjoy dignified living conditions. Through educational work, the social destigmatization of mental crises and illnesses is to be achieved. The services offered by the facilities are actively integrated into the respective neighborhoods. New concepts of inclusive community work are also under development.

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Profits for the common good

Hobby, work and family time – the buch7 team. © buch7

With the aim of donating a large part of the profits to ecological, social and cultural causes, the online book company buch7 was founded as a limited liability company in 2008. In the beginning, the founders worked for free, so that half of the first profits were donated. After a long build-up phase, the breakthrough came in 2013, as a result of a high-profile documentary about working conditions at Amazon.
Today, buch7 is a company with nine employees, over two million euros in sales and a cumulative donation of over 500,000 euros, which corresponds to about 75 percent of profits. Donations are made unbureaucratically to small projects.

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Swimming in sustainable numbers

In the Maria-Einsiedel natural swimming pool, the swimming water in the separately constructed regeneration pond is purified in a purely biological and mechanical manner. As clean, soft water, the swimming water flows back into the swimming and children’s pond. © Münchner Bäder

At 16 locations, guests at Munich’s pools have a wide range of options for keeping healthy and spending their leisure time. Ecological damage caused by the operation of the pools is primarily due to water and energy consumption. With the introduction of an environmental management system in accordance with EMAS regulations in 2006, strategic and annual environmental protection goals, translated into key figures, were able to set the direction in all areas of the company. In conjunction with team targets and performance-based compensation, the process of change throughout the company is having a measurable impact: For example, water consumption has been reduced from over one million cubic meters before 2012 to 650,000 currently.

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Protest against genetic engineering

Demonstration march of the initiative ‘Zivilcourage gegen Gentechnik’, 2008, Rosenheim. © Initiative Zivilcourage gegen Gentechnik

The family business EM-Chiemgau has been developing micro-biological inputs for agriculture for 25 years. Together with 40 farmers, director Christoph Fischer founded the Initiative ‘Zivilcourage'(Civil Courage) in 2006 to inform about the dangers of agro-genetic engineering. Thanks to large mobilization, they managed to rally a majority of farmers and other citizens in Bavaria behind them demanding a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified maize. As a direct consequence, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture finally – and reluctantly – endorsed the landmark ban in 2009, which is still valid today.

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