Interview: The new Sustainability Manager at KLINGER gets everyone on board
Yusuf Avci takes the position of Sustainability Manager at KLINGER Holding. In our interview, he tells us about the changes he plans to implement regarding sustainability, social responsibility, and transparency.
Mr. Avci, you are intimately familiar with the operational processes at KLINGER, having been with the company since 1992. What are your earliest memories regarding sustainability?
YUSUF AVCI: When I started an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering at KLINGER Fluid Control at the age of 17, I didn’t know much about these issues. But I had noticed from the very beginning that KLINGER cares about the environment, future generations and its staff: It was only logical for us, for example, that gasket materials should be free from asbestos.
Since those days, environmental and sustainability requirements have become ever more stringent. As Sustainability Manager, you play an important role within the entire KLINGER Group. Your task is to harmonize all companies to ensure accountability regarding their environmental and economic footprint. What figures do you use to assess this footprint?
YUSUF: First and foremost, the focus will be on the environmental and energy indicators that each company within the Group must provide. A key issue here is climate protection. We take a close look at the tons of greenhouse gases that each company emits. Based on these figures, we will then have the task of implementing measures to reduce these emissions.
As part of the Green Deal, we are obliged to report our recorded emissions and of the environmental measures we take to the EU. But these facts and figures are also of interest to our industry partners. Why is that?
YUSUF: For many customers, but also financial investors, transparency in environmental indicators has become a key issue. This is often because their supply chains have a major impact on achieving their own climate targets. And also, bidding procedures are increasingly tied to the publication of ESG factors. Bidders who cannot provide these figures won’t be considered as suppliers. So ESG compliance also places companies at a competitive advantage: the more effort you put into environmental, sustainability and social issues, the better your prospects for future business.
About Yusuf Avci: Yusuf Avci was born in 1974 in Mödling, Lower Austria, and started out as an apprentice at KLINGER Fluid Control in 1992.
After completing his apprenticeship and following further training as a mechanical engineer, he held many positions at various levels in the company’s hierarchy in the production and assembly sectors of KLINGER Fluid Control. From 2014 to 2023, he led the company as Production Manager. In September 2023, he moved to KLINGER Holding, where, as Sustainability Manager, he is responsible for the entire Group’s sustainability agendas.
YUSUF: Due to our corporate structure, the ESG issues apply to all subsidiaries of the KLINGER Group. This is because the law requires companies with more than 250 employees and sales of more than 40 million euros to submit annual ESG reports. In other words, even if the ESG-related requirements and regulations apply only to companies based in Europe, all entities belonging to the company must nevertheless comply with the rules – regardless of where in the world they are located.
The KLINGER Group is active in over 60 countries worldwide. How is it possible to bring all of them on board?
YUSUF: Our aim is to present our program to all affected companies in 2024 and to build awareness. This is a challenge inasmuch as time is of the essence: Reporting will be mandatory from 2026, so we will already need the figures for the previous year. This means that 2025 will be the first year that the Group as a whole will have to record its ESG data. We are currently working on exactly how to achieve that. The holding company is developing a framework, with which we aim to get all companies on track in 2024 to start collecting the required data.
You’re not new to chaperoning conversion processes of this kind. As Production Manager at KLINGER Fluid Control, you already played a key role in the introduction of the EMAS environmental management system. What did you learn in those days that now plays into implementing ESG reporting?
YUSUF: In implementing the EMAS certification, we dealt mainly with the areas of waste management and disposal. It wasn’t just for the benefit of the authorities: the company itself was keen to eliminate these often inefficient and environmentally harmful production practices. This also demanded a rethink from our employees, which was at times met with resistance. That’s not surprising, given that resistance to change lies in people’s nature. My approach at the time was to talk to people: Open communication is the only way to change minds and foster mutual understanding.
As well as awareness raising, your role as Sustainability Manager involves conferring a great deal of knowledge: the reporting rules are complex and cover economic issues, such as transparency in financial investments, as well as environmental ones. How do you prepare for this?
YUSUF: Since early September, I have been in training to become a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and Sustainability manager. This training aims to provide a basis and the tools to prepare the ground for and develop or expand a corporate sustainability strategy. This enables the company to contribute to positive social, environmental and economic developments in the medium and long term.
In the field of ESG reporting, I’m supported by my colleague Ines Weikl, who has many years’ experience in accounting and reporting. Ines’s support will help ensure our compliance with the reporting requirements of the CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive) and the EU Taxonomy Regulation.
With our combined expertise and wide-ranging experience, our team covers the entire spectrum of sustainability issues.
Within the Group, you will have to deal with a range of underlying conditions: the production of gasket sheets, which uses chemicals and plastics, follows different laws than the production of valves, where the main raw material is metal. What will your focus be in each area?
YUSUF: In valve production, the circular economy will be our main lever. The aim here is to recycle materials and return them to the production cycle. A further key aspect in this context is refurbishment: We are convinced that with the right expertise, valves can be given a new lease of life. KLINGER valves have always had a reputation for quality and long service life, so we can clearly score with our products’ longevity. With a little effort, decommissioned valves can be restored to working order again. We have already started down this road and want to speed up developments.
What opportunities do you see in sealing technology, where the use of environmentally harmful chemicals is still commonplace?
YUSUF: We have already come a long way at our Gumpoldskirchen site, for example with the introduction of sustainable solvents. With our KLINGERSIL gasket sheets being 14% recyclable, KLINGER Dichtungstechnik makes a significant contribution to reducing the consumption of resources. Our aim is to further optimize these best practices and to identify and establish synergies for the other companies.
Occupational safety is an important part of the social component of the ESG principles. How can working conditions be improved overall?
YUSUF: We keep a close eye on workplace ergonomics, especially in production, where many activities involve lifting and moving components or materials. The goal must always be that our employees don’t have to struggle. Automation and machines to do the heavy lifting can make a big difference here. We also strive to automate material handling to relieve employees from monotonous tasks. These social aspects are also included in ESG reporting.
At KLINGER, we also look out for future generations. You can see this, for example, in our training workshops, where I myself started out as an apprentice at KLINGER Fluid Control. We’ve reintroduced this course of education, complete with internal career opportunities.
One final question: What’s the point?
YUSUF: ESG compliance is an important tool for achieving the EU’s climate goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Europe would then be the first continent to stop emitting greenhouse gases. We at KLINGER want to contribute to this highly ambitious goal by acting sustainably.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What does the term ESG mean?
ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance. It refers to the criteria that companies must meet with regard to environmental, sustainability and social issues. These regulations aim to promote a sustainable economy and mitigate climate change.
What action has KLINGER taken to become more sustainable?
KLINGER has already implemented numerous environmental measures. You can find a selection in the following articles: