Interview with Dr. Nadine Sterley, Chief Sustainability Officer

Dr. Nadine Sterley Chief Sustainability Officer

Did the geopolitical and economic headwinds in 2022 impact GEA’s progress in the area of sustainability?

It was a challenging year, but we stayed on track. Over the past twelve months, we have paid particular attention to our own operating activities. All of GEA’s sustainability targets are now firmly embedded in our organization, with designated individuals and teams responsible for our progress in this field. At the same time, we launched an internal energy-saving campaign and identified our most energy-intensive sites. These have been given priority in our 2040 decarbonization roadmap. By switching to renewable energy sources, we have already halved our Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions compared with 2019. We neutralize GEA’s remaining emissions through investments in Gold Standard climate protection projects around the world. In view of the global energy crisis, we have pushed ahead with our own sustainability initiatives.

Does this mean GEA is on track to achieve net zero by 2040?

Yes. As mentioned, we are very confident with regard to our Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Admittedly, Scope 3 emissions pose more of a challenge for GEA as a mechanical engineering company. Most of these indirect emissions result from the use of our machinery by customers; the remainder are upstream emissions from suppliers. To achieve our net-zero target, we need to get the entire value chain on board. We have introduced a sustainable procurement strategy for our key suppliers and maintain regular dialog with them regarding the requirements they must meet in full by 2026. With regard to our customers, our main focus is product innovation. We use the emissions data they provide to continuously improve our solutions and make them more efficient. Our new “AddBetter” green label embeds sustainability even more deeply in product development. This label enables customers to easily identify our most resource-efficient products, which will in turn help them – and us – reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What social initiatives did GEA launch in 2022?

We launched an integrated social engagement concept and a corporate giving strategy. These initiatives have two specific goals: We intend to donate one percent of the group’s net profit each year and share knowledge with 100,000 people through our employees’ voluntary work by 2026. Our giving strategy has four pillars: disaster relief, promoting education – especially in mathematics, IT, science, engineering and technology – combating child poverty, and promoting access to clean water, renewable energy and medical care. With regard to volunteering, we want to encourage all GEA employees to use their skills to benefit society in one of the four focus areas mentioned. Starting from 2023, all employees will be able to take one day’s paid leave each year to volunteer.

Additionally, we made significant progress in the areas of diversity and inclusion last year. Examples include the mentoring program for women and our “Lean In Circles”. Both of these initiatives aim to empower and raise the profile of women at GEA. We want to encourage more female employees to pursue the leadership track. Since mechanical engineering still attracts far fewer women than men, we need to work all the harder. GEA is a diverse, open and culturally sensitive company. To make sure it stays that way, we have also expanded the geographic footprint of our recruiting team. Internally, we encourage virtual interactions between our employees in different countries, which forges closer relationships. The goal of all of these activities is to make GEA an employer of choice in our industry.

How does GEA integrate sustainability into its corporate governance?

First of all, sustainability is a key element in our Mission 26 corporate strategy. That makes it fundamental to all decisions we make as a company. We have established a GEA Sustainability Committee. Its members include representatives from our divisions and global functions. This ensures a coordinated approach across the company, enabling us to efficiently implement our sustainability targets. In 2021, GEA integrated its sustainability targets into the new Executive Board remuneration system. From 2023, our senior management team, the Global Executive Committee, will also be included in this incentive scheme.

At the same time, we have established a team for sustainable finance within our finance organization, which has helped us become more sustainable in this area. For example, GEA’s syndicated loan now has sustainability-linked features. This means that our sustainability performance influences the interest rate payable on borrowed funds. In addition, GEA is the first company in Germany to combine a share buyback program with an initiative to donate the savings made. In 2022, we donated EUR 250,000 to an organization dedicated to providing clean water to schools in Tanzania.

“Sustainability is a key element in our Mission 26 corporate strategy. That makes it fundamental to all decisions we make as a company.”

Dr. Nadine Sterley

Chief Sustainability Officer

How important is it to inspire and encourage other companies to be more sustainable?

This is a crucial aspect of our sustainability efforts. We want to lead by example and play an active role, sharing our experience and expertise and taking others along on our journey. GEA is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders and the Alliance for Clean Air. As part of these initiatives, we want to motivate other companies to join the collective effort to reduce harmful emissions and promote standards for reporting and disclosing these emissions. 

GEA is involved in other sustainability organizations, such as the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and econsense, a sustainability network of 47 like-minded multinational companies, which – like GEA – are all pioneers in the field of sustainability. Through our membership in these organizations, we aim to foster dialog with other international companies and encourage legislators in Germany and the European Union to further enhance sustainability standards.

Where do you think GEA currently stands with regard to sustainability?

GEA has been committed to sustainability for many years – since long before “ESG” became a buzzword. So we are making very good progress. This is borne out by the regular accolades we receive. For instance, we were a finalist for the German Sustainability Award in 2022 and have been newly included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Europe Index. We are also a well-established fixture in the DAX 50 ESG and MSCI Global Sustainability indices. 

I am especially gratified by the high level of motivation and commitment shown by many of GEA’s employees across the globe. Our coworkers are proactive and have a real desire to contribute. Every time we reach out to them, the most frequently asked question is: “What can I do?” Whether it’s finding specific ways to save energy at our sites or joining a working group – they pitch in. And they know how much we value their input. This is vital because we need the support of all GEA employees to achieve our ambitious goals.

“I am especially gratified by the high level of motivation and commitment shown by many of GEA’s employees across the globe. Our coworkers are proactive and have a real desire to contribute.”

Dr. Nadine Sterley

Chief Sustainability Officer

Sustainability at GEA - Project in Tansania


Sustainability Report 2022

GEA informs its investors, customers, employees as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and all other stakeholders on the implementation of sustainability in the company’s strategy regarding ecology and social responsibility in its latest sustainability report.
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