Our DMK 2020 sustainability strategy

Entrepreneurship in harmony with people and nature is a central concern for the DMK Group. That's why we published our detailed “DMK 2020” strategy in 2013. The ambitious sustainability programme comprised five areas with 20 fields of action and a total of 60 goals.

By the year 2017/18 we had succeeded in achieving 25 of these goals. We therefore thoroughly revised and expanded the strategy again, focusing more on key topics such as animal welfare and climate protection. Today, our sustainability strategy contains 5 areas with a total of 10 topics and clear targets.


Around 7,000 farmers supply the raw milk for our products. Our aspiration is to increase the well-being of the cows and at the same time reduce their environmental impact. Both goals can be achieved by keeping cattle in proper conditions and undertaking systematic health management, responsible feed cultivation and appropriate feeding.

That's why we created the Milkmaster Programme. It supports the dairy farmers in their demanding task of combining entrepreneurial success with sustainability now and in the future.

Field of action: animal welfare

DMK pursues a comprehensive approach to animal welfare and environmental protection: cow comfort, animal health, feed cultivation, feeding and milk quality are integrated into the Milkmaster Programme and have been reviewed annually since 2015 for all dairy farmers on the basis of 148 ratios, including housing systems, for example. Only happy cows give high-quality milk. The extent of a cow's well-being depends on a variety of factors. They include exercise and the opportunity to move around freely, the space in the cowshed, the resting areas – in particular, special ones for sick and calving cows - the climate in the cowshed and the use of cow brushes. The dairy farmers take a variety of measures, which are incorporated in our Milkmaster Programme, to ensure the cows' well-being. Modern cowsheds offer cows a high degree of comfort all round. 

The health of the cows is the foundation of responsible milk production. It influences the quality and safety of the milk and therefore of food. Veterinary offices conduct the legally prescribed random sample tests at all German dairy farms. Animal health management on the farms is carried out using modern measuring methods and regular external monitoring. Topics such as the proper use of antibiotics are also included. All these aspects are embedded in our Milkmaster Programme. DMK works together with partners along the entire value chain to further improve the health of the cattle. 

Field of action: climate protection

Climate protection plays a major role for stakeholders – in this area, DMK works hard to improve the eco-balance of dairy farming. In past years, DMK calculated several eco-balances for agricultural production and therefore has robust data on its impact and the key correlations available. DMK pays special attention to dairy farming, because it accounts for around 70 percent of dairy products' ecological footprint. Examples of influencing factors are the feedstuffs used, the application of fertilisers and the milk yield. The ecological impact of pasture grazing, in contract, have not yet been systematically confirmed: pasture grazing is helpful in some regions, less so in others. Practical environmental protection is established on many farms. One in two farms generated its own renewable energy in 2017. The majority have installed photovoltaic plants, while biogas systems account for the largest share of the energy generation. Energy-saving measures for milking and for cooling the raw milk, such as plate coolers and pipe coolers or heat recovery, are now taken for granted by many dairy farmers. 

DMK will engage even more strongly in climate protection on the farms in future. One future approach, for example, will be to strengthen the exchange of best practices among the farmers –  "learning from the best".

Focus: Our Milkmaster Programme

Milkmaster is DMK 2020's implementation programme for the dairy farmers, with which DMK sets standards for more sustainability in the dairy industry's agricultural working and production methods. The DMK milk producers were closely involved in the development and adoption of the programme, which was launched in 2014 and with its integration in the milk supply regulation has been binding for all milk producers since the start of 2016. The core of the Milkmaster Programme lies in our farms' continuous further development in issues relating to animal welfare, nature conservation and quality. A production code ensures standardised alignment on topics such as feeding, animal welfare, animal health, the rearing of calves and young livestock and milk storage. Many of the topics that are relevant to customers and the public are addressed in the Milkmaster Programme

Focus: Good farm animal welfare

Proper loose housing meets our high requirements on animal welfare, animal health and optimum feeding conditions. Modern cubicle sheds provide space for exercise and facilities for resting and lying down that are laid out with straw or mats. These sheds provide cows, which feel comfortable at an outside temperature of around 15°C, with suitable conditions and give good opportunities to observe the cattle or give them additional feed individually, e.g. in the case of pregnant cows.

The conditions under which cattle are kept are clearly positioned in the Milkmaster Programme. The combination of loose housing systems with access to pasture is welcomed for all cattle (dairy cows and others) where conditions on the farm allow for it. As a cooperative characterised by a wide variety of regions and farms with heterogeneous local conditions under a single umbrella, we see this as a fair balance between animal welfare and farm conditions.


We process raw milk to make first-class products at more than 20 sites. However, in doing so we consume valuable resources which we aim to use as economically as possible.

To further improve the eco-balance at all sites and make production even more sustainable in the future, we have defined two key fields of action in the area of the environment: “Energy” and “Water”.  DMK is certified in accordance with the DIN EN ISO 14001 environment management standard at 26 sites and reports a variety of environmental ratios.

Field of action: Energy

Milk processing requires energy –  for example, for drying in the production of milk powder, homogenisation and pasteurisation, the cleaning of machinery and the cooling of the products. Our goal is to further improve energy efficiency and raise employees' awareness of ways to deal with energy responsibly. All production sites are certified in accordance with DIN EN ISO 50001 and therefore have functioning energy management systems. The environmental and energy rules published in the year 2013 and recurring training courses on saving energy provide guidance for staff members.

Field of action: Water

Water is needed for cooling, cleaning and processing in the manufacture of dairy products. In the context of DMK 2020, we set ourselves the goal of decreasing the consumption of fresh water by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 2012. DMK has already attained a very good position on the issue of water. Compared to other German dairy companies, with a specific average water consumption of 1.09l/kg, DMK is significantly below the German average of 2.05l/kg according to the latest "MIV-Umfrage Wasser/Abwasser 2017", a survey of water and sewage.

Another focal area is to keep discharged water pollution as low as possible. One example is to deal in a structured manner with the topic of cleaning-in-place (CIP) systems, which are among the biggest water consumers across the company. The sewage pre-treatment plants are to be upgraded to the state of the art and sewage treatment capacities expanded.

Focus: Product-integrated environmental protection at the DMK GROUP

Product-integrated environmental protection (PIUS) is preventive environmental protection which allows environmental pollution to be avoided at source.

PIUS minimises environmental impact across production processes and consisted in the reporting period of projects on heat recovery and on avoiding losses of product via sewage.

PIUS was also praised by the jurors from the certification organisation DQS, which in 2017 honoured DMK in the German Awards for Excellence for its outstanding achievements in environmental protection in the category of Energy Efficiency. A new plant at the Altentreptow site for processing different material flows and for heat recovery with which saves around 4,700 tonnes of CO2 and 25,000 megawatt/hours per year received the award.

Focus: Energy-efficient Production at DMK Baby

DMK Baby manufactures a wide range of baby food products. The DMK production site in Strückhausen was converted from a traditional dairy plant into a modern production site for baby food. During this conversion process, an effective heat recovery system was integrated into the new production processes and the entire production line was optimised from an energy perspective. These measures significantly reduce both the amount of energy used in production and the CO2 emissions with regard to comparable processes. DMK Baby products are manufactured according to the highest production standards, using the latest technology and careful manufacturing processes. The manufacturing processes associated with these products are also energy-efficient. This energy efficiency project received funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.


Milk is a valuable natural resource and the foundation on which our company stands. It is therefore second nature to us to set the highest standards of quality and safety. We give particular priority to designing all intermediate steps in the supply chain responsibly – including those which have no direct connection with agriculture.

Field of action: Value added

The foundation for responsibility in the value chain: lies in increasing the involvement of DMK suppliers in compliance with social and ecological standards. The DMK Code of Conduct is a component part of the company's purchasing terms and therefore forms the basis of collaboration with all suppliers. The Code of Conduct contains social and ecological aspects with which DMK suppliers undertake to comply when they sign the purchasing terms. A whistle-blower system is accessible to business partners and suppliers.

One focal area by 2020 is to link sustainability more closely with value creation. DMK established the basis for this in 2017 in the strategy review. All six business units now work with clear value creation targets. Associated with this is the goal of implementing sustainability concepts for 25 percent of the product range by 2020, which embraces a variety of aspects of sustainability from Meadow Milk and organic and non-GMO milk to regional concepts, for example. 

Field of action: Packaging

Packagings make a major contribution to maintaining the quality and safety of our sensitive products. At the same time, packagings are a significant aspect of the products' sustainability in the perception of consumers and retailers. The goal is to avoid unnecessary food and packaging waste through innovative, environmentally friendly and packaging concepts in line with current trends and to increase the recyclability of the packaging materials. Sustainability Management is working closely with the Packaging Development department on this issue. The goal is to improve sustainability in packaging materials in three projects by the year 2020. 

Fokus: On the way to 100 percent sustainable cocoa, palm oil and wood

DMK has been working on sourcing key basic raw materials from sustainable farming since the publication of the DMK 2020 Strategy in 2013. The focus in past years has been on cocoa, palm oil and wood. Wood is used in composites, in transport packagings or as wooden sticks for ice lollies. DMK processes the other basic raw materials in making desserts and ice cream.

DMK has been a member of UTZ and RSPO, the internationally recognised standards for more sustainable farming, since 2014. DMK used cocoa of which 93 percent is UTZ certified and palm oil of which 93 percent is RSPO certified at all its sites and at wholly owned subsidiaries in 2017. The transition of wood to the FSC or PEFC standards, which ensure sustainable forestry is also progressing. Around 74 percent of all possible material had been switched to FSC, including almost 90 percent of the secondary packaging.

Focus: The Dairy PEF-Project

The European Commission intends to create a uniform base for benchmarking the environmental performance of products and companies in its Single Market for Green Products Initiative. The measurement of the environmental footprint of companies and products is to be standardised on the European market, thereby facilitating the international comparability of products' environmental performance. 

DMK GROUP, in collaboration with other companies, has imlemented the Dairy PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) pilot project specifically for the dairy industry. The company completed an eco-balance for the “MILRAM Benjamin” Gouda in 2016. This analysis revealed that raw milk production has the biggest influence on the eco-balance across all environmental impact categories. In the context of this project, DMK tested various possibilities for communication with consumers with a total of 1,000 people in September 2016. The DMK Group's engagement was highly regarded by the EU, as demonstrated by a quotation from one project manager:

"In the European Dairy PEF Project, a standard method for calculating the environmental footprint in the dairy sector was developed. The DMK GROUP played a crucial role in this. The project could not have succeeded otherwise.“

Hélène Simonin, Director Food, Environment & Health, European Dairy Association (EDA)


Motivation and personal responsibility are as important to the success of a company as high-quality raw materials. That’s why we don't just invest in our products, but also in the satisfaction of our dairy farmers and employees –  e.g. with training and continuing personal development, a diversity of other development measures and a high regard for our elected officers.

Field of action: Employer

It is DMK's goal to be a top employer in the food industry. Focus magazine once more awarded the DMK Group a top position as one of the best employers in Germany in 2017 - for the sixth time running. In particular, employees repeatedly emphasise interesting tasks, solidarity among colleagues, the friendly working atmosphere and the social security-related benefits. Employee satisfaction is also promoted by campaigns to support employees' health and their personal concerns. For example, DMK offers employees psycho-social advice from experts free of charge. A core topic remains the compatibility of work and family life, where DMK provides practical support in childcare and home eldercare amongst other areas. Here, employees are increasingly using the backup service, which can help out at short notice when the regular carer is unavailable. To us, diversity means enabling people of different origins and from all age groups and cultural backgrounds to obtain skilled employment with.

Field of action: Occupational health & safety

A further focal area is occupational health and safety in our factories, which aims to further reduce accident figures. This has proved very successful in recent years. Our goal is to have no more accidents at our sites. The health and safety of all employees is given high priority at DMK. DMK works solely with service providers who undertake to comply with the currently valid framework conditions on safety, environmental protection, fire protection and hygiene. Trained coordinators implement DMK's external company management policy at the sites. DMK gives all external companies contract-related inductions into site-specific risks and rules. Top priority goes to accident avoidance and  the economical use of resources.

Focus: Successful accident prevention

Occupational health and safety is important to us. Together with its employees, DMK is committed to promoting safe and healthy workplaces. In the context of DMK 2020, the number of accidents is to be reduced to zero by 2020. For this purpose, occupational health and safety experts have worked out the key areas where accidents occur. Five working groups analysed the causes of accidents and prescribed measures for preventing accidents in future. The number of SSF accidents (stumbles, slips and falls) was reduced by 15 percent in 2017, days' absence due to this area by as much as 23 percent The accident figures have fallen in precisely those areas which had previously been identified as key areas. The contribution made by managers was particularly important, with their role model function, praise for exemplary conduct by the employees and addressing unsafe actions featuring most prominently. In the year 2018, the focus is on the frequency of accidents when handling machines and tools.


As a regionally organised company and major employer, we have strong links with society and accept our corporate responsibility in accordance with social expectations and developments. We seek dialogue with customers and consumers and support selected research projects on a national and international level. We work hard on social commitment at our sites and help our employees to contribute to voluntary causes.

Field of action: Dialogue

DMK feels committed to its stakeholders. This includes regular dialogue with a wide range of stakeholder groups and the interested public as well as participation in social debates. We have defined eight groups with which we conduct particularly intensive dialogue. DMK holds regular "DMK Vor Ort" ("DMK on site") events and district assemblies to provide information and discussion about relevant topics. The annual stakeholder survey helps in capturing concerns and moods for the further implementation of sustainability management. DMK represents the joint interests of the company and the dairy farmers towards the agricultural industry, for example through the German cooperative dairy industry interest group, known for short as IG milk. With its formation in the spring of 2017, a platform was created which mainly discusses cooperatives' interests and develops strategic developments from the debates.

Field of action: Regional value added

Regional roots play an important role at more than 20 sites where DMK manufactures its products and in the eight large dairy farming regions. As a company, DMK is an important player in these mostly rural areas. The dairy farmers form a central part of rural communities and help to shape them actively. In the future, DMK would like to identify examples of concrete contributions that the company and the dairy farmers make to the regions, taking regional value added statements as a basis.

Focus: Our Scholarship Programme

As a focal point in our dairy competence field of action, the Scholarship Programme aims to promote networking and the exchange of knowledge in the international market. The six-month programme is directed towards non-German students. At the beginning of 2014, four Russian agricultural science students worked on DMK dairy farms and also familiarised themselves with the production and management processes at the factories. The programme continued in 2015 with four students from Russia and Spain.

A continuation of the programme is currently under review. At present, one student from Mauritius has held a scholarship since September 2015 in cooperation with the Jacobs University Bremen. He completed an internship with DMK in the summer of 2016.

Focus: Communicating the importance of agriculture

The origin and the production process of food are becoming increasingly a focus of attention. Retailers and consumers are increasingly also scrutinising the origin of raw milk and want to know under what conditions the milk is produced. The state dairy industry associations are some of the stakeholders who create transparency and are committed to improving the image of the dairy industry among the general public. The milk producers co-finance the state associations by making a contribution. One example is a project of the state dairy industry association in Lower Saxony, which counts DMK among its members. The project "My KuhTube" wants to give consumers and interested parties an insight into everyday life at a farm and make agriculture transparent. The videos of farmers from the region can be seen on YouTube, Facebook and at www.mykuhtube.de/my-kuhtube/. Several DMK farmers also show their farms and their day-to-day work via "My KuhTube".

Everything about this topic

Download Sustainability brochure


Our practices.

Sustainability as a collective task