Harmony of

Nature & Mankind

A business is any good only if it cares for the conservation of nature and provides a service to man. For Lebensbaum man and nature are key to everything we do. They have featured in our logo since the company was formed. What do we have to say on the topic of nature conservation and what do we do for people? You can read about a few examples here.

Organic farming

The raw materials used by us are, without exception, grown according to the principles of organic farming. The result is that the people who supply us believe and trade in natural cycles. There is practically no waste; everything serves renewed fertility. The focus of this informed type of farming is healthy, nutrient-rich soil.

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Anyone who tills their soil this way has no need for external “help” in the form of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The advantages that result for nature and mankind are of lasting and wide-ranging quality: high-quality food, biodiversity on fields and meadows, minimized nitrogen loss, CO2-trapping through topsoil increase – just to name a few. Anybody who takes sustainability to its logical conclusion will necessarily arrive at the principles of organic farming and the organic food industry.

And that not only applies to Germany or Europe – but, above all, as a model for local production by small farmers of healthy food in countries in Asia and Africa, too. A growing number of organic farmers have recognized this across the world. They have released themselves from the cost-intensive carefree packages of the large agricultural corporations and instead produce stable yields with compost cultivation, healthy soil and adaptable ecosystems.

Consequently, the Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung (Council for Sustainable Development) has defined organic farming as the gold standard of agricultural production. The advisory body of the German federal government thus affirms not only scientific knowledge, but also the requisite direction for developing agriculture with a future.

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Getting to work? By bike!

We absolutely love travelling by subway or by tram – on business trips, that is. Getting to work has to be by a different means, as public transport for us in the countryside is only very basic.

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Those able to do so join car-sharing schemes – but even better is to come by bike. As the lousy north German weather is not for everyone, we motivate our employees every year with a campaign involving the morning bike ride to work. To do this, we took part in the AOK campaign, “Mit dem Rad zur Arbeit” (Take your bike to work). Each kilometre ridden during a three-month period is converted into coffee, tea and spices, and paid out. The person who rode the furthest and most frequently can also look forward to glory, honour and a free meal in the Lebensbaum staff cafeteria. 

We also travel short distances by bike – for example, the barely 400 metres between our logistics centre and the production facility. Three cargo-carrying company bikes enjoy great popularity and are loaded with parcels and small packages. This is something that would provoke a faint smile from our Indian suppliers, however, as they would transport an entire day’s production on these three bikes. We are amazed at this acrobatic feat, but in no way wish to emulate their transporting dexterity for reasons of occupational health and safety.

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Moorland patronage

The Diepholz moorland begins right in front of our doorstep. Some employees take walks through it after lunch to get the body and soul moving again. We want to preserve the harsh, serene beauty of this unique cultural landscape and have therefore assumed patronage of the Diepholz moorland in 2012.

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Not only for the purpose of edifying our employees, but also for reasons of global climate protection. After all, there is hardly any topic that combines the protection of climate and environment as well as preserving moorlands.

For one, they are a vital biosphere for highly specialized plants and animals. In addition climatologists have identified moorlands as tremendous carbon sinks.

However, if the moorlands are drained to develop peat deposits, as has happened in Diepholz in large areas, the stored CO2 escapes into the atmosphere. In the case of the Diepholz moor lowland, there are assumed to be approximately 900,000 tons of CO2 emissions every year. With this rewetting, our objective is that no more carbon dioxide leaks from the Diepholz moorland over the next few years and, in the longer term, that CO2 even gets stored there again. We have budgeted 70,000 euros for this ambitious project for the future, split over three years. The money is urgently required: for rewetting measures, and also for scientific support provided by the Europäisches Fachzentrum Moor und Klima (European Competence Centre for Moor and Climate) that has just been set up.

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The Lebensbaum training campaign

Yes, the shortage of skilled labour is lamentable – but you can either complain about it or simply address the problem. For a long time, we have opted to do the latter. Training is our answer, and we have been doing this for almost 20 years.

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We started out with wholesale and retail salespeople and warehouse specialists; today, it is industrial clerks and warehouse logistics specialists; over time, two more training occupations have arrived on the scene: food engineering specialists and machinery and equipment operators. Furthermore, we offer the option of combined vocational training with a business degree, internships to accompany studies and mentoring for academic theses. In 2009, we set ourselves a target that our proportion of apprentices* should always be over 5%. Not even a year later, we raised the bar even higher as part of our training campaign and set a quota of 10%. We are now considerably above even this target. It was 10.7% in 2010, 13% in 2011, and 12.1% in 2012.

We do not want to go much higher than that at the moment, but we have very consciously committed ourselves to maintaining a minimum of 10%. Why not more? Because we are of the opinion that every apprentice has a right to be provided with reasonable support from the company during their training. In addition to the open ears and doors mentioned earlier and the essential relaying of knowledge regarding work processes and contexts, this also includes regular classes, which alternate fortnightly with product science. In the regular classes, issues pertaining to Lebensbaum are dealt with – from internal processes to questions about what sustainability is. In product science, our product range is explored and knowledge of raw materials and their cultivation and harvesting is consolidated. This program of lessons is supplemented by day trips, during which apprentices get to learn about other companies. This comprehensive support means work – work that our members of staff undertake in addition to their daily tasks. We therefore have to keep on top of this additional workload. Otherwise, in the end, the apprentices will get a raw deal.

Our premise is: train your staff as you want them to be. Often our apprentices stay with us in our company. Some move on and do a degree course, some even go travelling around the world; others simply try out another company.

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Organic Bistro - eating together

What is not undertaken nowadays to promote l’ésprit d’équipe (French), Mannschaftsgeist (German) or team spirit?

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Clambering on tightropes, white-water rafting, parachute jumping – the list could go on forever, and fuels an entire management and motivation industry. Their colourful and shiny activity brochures are a poor attempt at replacing a means of reinforcing community spirit that has been around for thousands of years, but is no longer quite so obvious: sitting down together at mealtimes.

Employees come away from this both physically nourished and spiritually strengthened. As employees from different departments eat together, their conversations give them new perspectives, which can all too easily be forgotten in our times of the complex division of labour.  Our employees will find meat on the menu once a week, and the same goes for fish. “Veggie day” is not just one day for us; we happily do without meat for three days during the week. The selection ranges from vegetable pasta bake to baked potatoes with bell pepper sauerkraut. There is always a salad. Anyone who is vegan will have vegan food cooked for them. The same applies for employees who have a particular allergy or disorder, whether that involves gluten or lactose.

And our subsidizing half of each meal is not entirely altruistic. With the Organic Bistro, our organic staff cafeteria, we are making an important contribution to the well-being of our staff and to the wider success of the routine working day. The result? Satisfaction accompanies a willingness to perform – and that motivation underlies the success of the company.

The fact that providing its employees with a high-quality meal is one of a catalogue of virtues for an organic product pioneer such as Lebensbaum is a story for another day.

 

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VisionForest - where wild animals live again

Forests – they are a whole lot more than just a collection of trees. A forest is a complex ecosystem. Forests protect against soil erosion, regulate the water supply and trap the greenhouse gas CO2. They also house enormous biological diversity – some two-thirds of all animal and plant species on earth call forests their home.

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In order to protect these significant ecosystems, we have been a partner of VisionForest since the project started. In the sparsely populated north of Costa Rica, rainforest is being reforested on cleared land through this project.

Altogether 5,000 trees are being planted here by Lebensbaum. These are indigenous varieties, naturally, because the forest should become what it once was – a habitat for jaguars, anteaters, Military Macaws and ocelots.

But it is also a home to people. And so through sustainable forestry and cultivation, the project should be able to pay for itself in the long term and provide the people living there with nutrition and a secure income. In 50 years, VisionForest will have stored some 84,000 tons of CO2. And we have already been able to detect the first signs of jaguars.

 

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