True commitment has a sustainable effect.
Even in times of Covid, important issues like environmental and climate protection cannot be allowed to fade into the background. On the contrary, they deserve continuous and long-term commitment beyond all current crises. Awareness of this has long since arrived in the midst of society and has fundamentally transformed our values. We, too, as Germany’s largest dairy cooperative, see it as our duty to take responsibility for our actions and actively champion the protection of animals, humans, the climate and the environment. This ethos is also embodied in our “Vision 2030” for the DMK Group. Our sustainability strategy is derived from this and helps us to focus our actions in this area even more.
Sustainability is a cross-departmental task for us. The strategic guidelines are set down at the corporate level, by the Corporate Strategy department. Various departments such as Procurement, Agriculture, Occupational Health & Safety, Energy Management and Quality Management are involved so as to set every relevant lever in motion. These departments work autonomously on the sustainability tasks that arise, because the topics concerned are embedded in their processes and are therefore part of the departments’ day-to-day operations.
For precise coordination of our actions, we divided the DMK Sustainability Strategy 2030 into four important areas: Climate Protection, Biodiversity, Animal Welfare and People. These fields of action prescribe concrete measures with which we aim to facilitate improved sustainability at all DMK sites and on the farms. In doing so, we always keep our sights on high social and political requirements. The goal is to achieve greater sustainability along the entire value chain.
We are moving forward together.
Our vision and our sustainability strategy indicate the areas we can and will address. However, that requires the commitment of every individual in the DMK Group. Because it's clear to us: being “good” is not good enough for us any longer. We want to improve a little every day to move closer to our goals and implement them successfully.
For this reason, we set up the “TIGER – Continuous Improvement” programme in 2020. It will ensure a continuous exchange between the DMK departments in the years to come. That way, we can jointly identify all opportunities to improve our processes and realise the resulting potentials – on every level. We will be guided by our many years of experience and expertise in milk processing and go for a new corporate culture of autonomy and respect. Because this is the only way for us all to make a small contribution to the great task of “sustainability”.
Our commitment at the farms.
It has long been well known that agriculture is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Back in 2013, we therefore started, in collaboration with TÜV Rheinland, to record our eco-balance (life cycle analysis) regularly along the value chain and also defined a clear climate goal as part of our sustainability strategy: by 2030, we want to reduce CO2 emissions by around 15% compared to 2017. We can only be successful in this by taking steps to optimise the entire value chain, from raw milk production through packaging, procurement and energy consumption in the factories to logistics.
The farms play a special role here. They have the major share of responsibility in keeping and caring for the cattle and therefore also for the quality of the milk. Their commitment has a direct impact on the animals’ health, and also on climate and environmental protection. To support them, the DMK Group developed the Milkmaster Programme. It contains a comprehensive concept with several themes and fields of action which gives every individual farm information about the current state of the art in sustainability, indicates possible actions and rewards their implementation with a financial bonus. Since the year 2016, we have paid out more than EUR 110 million to the farmers for their activities in animal welfare. In 2020, the sum came to around EUR 13.4 million, mainly related to important criteria such as the animals’ udder health and lifespan, herd care by a veterinary surgeon and housing with access to pasture.
Sustainability and responsibility for cattle and the environment starts for us with the selection of the feed. This normally consists of around 70% roughage (grass silage, maize silage, grass, hay) and around 30% high-performance feed to boost milk yields (cereals, grain maize, rape or soy meal). In 2020, around 84% of our farmers produced more than half of their feed components themselves or procured them in their local region. More than 14% actually opted to procure feed solely from their own or regional sources. In 2020, they delivered a total of around 3.1 billion kilos of GMO-free milk which is also certified in accordance with the VLOG standard (VLOG is the German acronym for the Association for Non-genetically Modified Food).
DMK purchases RTRS certificates for the volume of milk produced by the cooperative for which the feed is not subject to the VLOG standard. Milkmaster's focus in feed production is on soy meal from certified sources on the basis of the FEFAC Soy Sourcing Guidelines, which are now the established European standard for sustainable feedstuffs and which recognises various standards (RTRS, ProTerra, ISCC). Minimum standards for sustainable soy meal have been defined in the FEFAC Guidelines. However, the overall picture shows that DMK dairy farmers are continuing to reduce the share of soy meal in the diet.
|Feedstuffs used 2019||Share %|
|Farms with only regionally produced feed components (100%) in the total diet||13,9|
|Farms with mainly regionally produced feed components (>50%) in the total diet||83,4|
|Farms with less than half regionally produced feed components (<50%) in the total diet||2,7|
The health and welfare of the cows is naturally something that our farmers take very seriously. Because no one knows better than they do how important animal welfare and the preservation of the animals’ health is to the production of high-quality milk.
The housing system plays a special role here. Around 90% of the volume of milk processed by DMK comes from farms where loose housing is the norm. With this system, the animals can move around freely and therefore live healthier lives. In addition, the DMK Group supports the system of pasture grazing and rewards its use with bonus payments through the Milkmaster Programme. In addition, we offer farmers comprehensive advice on changing their housing systems and we review the options available for implementation together. As a result, more farms have the opportunity to implement this more sustainable form of animal housing despite the fact that it is associated as a rule with greater complexity and higher costs than other systems.
1: Basic evaluation of audit data on housing systems and additional survey
2: Number of cows per farm of the milk producers of Deutsches Milchkontor eG and the contract suppliers of DMK GmbH
In addition to the right housing, animal health has long been a central focus. The Milkmaster Programme therefore provides for comprehensive development on all farms. In addition, all the farms commit to participating in an external quality assurance audit, in the context of which various data are gathered which serve both the farmer and the company as important ratios for planning and implementing measures.
We already presented sweeping changes in the Milkmaster Programme in 2019, followed in the year under review by their practical implementation. The changes were instigated by the farmers themselves, who see Milkmaster as a helpful tool in their work. The changes will make the programme even simpler for them. The main step we took to reach this goal was to reduce the bonus programme’s complexity. In addition, the annual self-assessment by farmers no longer applies as a prerequisite for the Milkmaster bonus.
The audit cycle also changes from the fiscal year 2020 onwards. Announced QM audits will now always be carried out after three or – if the farm attains too few points – after one and a half years. The bonus review no longer depends on DMK’s own audits, but will be conducted by means of the newly developed online platform "myMilk".
The platform is a key factor in further reducing complexity for the farmers. After just one year of development time, it superseded “Webmelker” and combined several functions into one simplified application. By this time, 4,650 farmers are registered with myMilk and therefore have even easier access to important information and functions which help them in their daily work.
Our dedicated work in the factories.
Milk production is only one part of DMK’s sustainability strategy. New potentials for increased sustainability are constantly being identified and realised in milk processing as well. One important element here is energy management in the DMK factories.
Energy management was also reviewed in great depth at all sites in 2020 to make the production and consumption of energy as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. All production sites successfully obtained certification in accordance with ISO 50001, the global standard for systematic energy management, and therefore comply with the highest requirements on handling energy responsibly. We save around 25 million kWh of energy within the DMK Group every year by efficiency measures.
Also, a special honour went to the factory in Edewecht last year. The site won an award from the Deutsche Energie-Agentur dena for its lighthouse project on basis of the measures implemented and planned on site to achieve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. The positive trend therefore continues: Energy consumption has already been reduced by a total of 17% at the DMK sites since 2011.
|Direct energy consumption (kWh)||2020||2019||2018|
|Of which, from non-renewable sources||1.512.049.712||1.459.152.222||1.483.917.412|
|Of which, from renewable sources||14.233.405||1.876.039||14.274.075|
|DMK GmbH incl. all subsidiaries in which DMK holds 75%, excl. DOC Kaas. The basis for the survey of direct energy from non-renewable sources is the energy volumes actually consumed. The basis for the survey of direct energy from renewable sources is the purchase of biomass and the conversion of wood consumption. Biomass at Waren site. The hydroelectricity generated was eliminated due to sale of Rimbeck site.|
The efficient and responsible use of energy will also remain an issue of concern to the DMK Group in the future. As our contribution to the Federal Government’s desired “Energiewende”, DMK has been carrying out research for some years now in the context of the Kopernikus projects supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
In the SynErgie sub-project, we consider possible ways to make energy consumption flexible in the factories, in order to be able to draw more energy from renewable sources in the years to come. For this purpose, we particularly scrutinised the energy-intensive production processes for refining milk and a number of opportunities were derived which will enable us to deal with the natural fluctuations in the supply of wind and solar power. One of the most important tools here is a model calculation which takes these fluctuations into account and adapts the energy consumption in the factories to the supply on the electricity market.
In addition to energy, water is one of the most important resources we work with in the factories. Even for that reason alone, we want to handle it as responsibly as possible. The ISO 14001 certificate is crucial here. It forms the basis of all our environmental management.
Waste water occurs in a dairy company in the various production steps in a very wide variety of forms. For example, waste water arises during production by heating and cooling processes, as exhaust vapour from the milk in reduction processes and in many other factory processes. The daily cleaning and disinfection procedures also result in waste water. Since these waters contain foreign substances, they have to be disposed of in many cases because they cannot simply be returned to the environment. However, this involves substantial transport costs. Added to all this is the fact that we have to address the topic of water shortages in more and more regions nowadays, even in Germany.
Various measures were therefore implemented in the factories in 2020, as in the years before, to make water consumption and waste water discharge and treatment more efficient. The focus has been mainly on the recycling and re-use of RO (reverse osmosis) permeate and exhaust vapour as well as projects to optimise production and cleaning processes.
We are also carrying out research with the Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischen Wasserverband (OOWV) water association as part of the EU initiative “B-WaterSmart”. In a joint effort, a pilot plant is to be built in Edewecht which will purify the exhaust vapour – fine condensates containing impurities, which arise in the process of reducing milk – into drinking water by a safe process. If it can be proved that this ambitious project is technically feasible, it will be used in future at all DMK sites.