Within the context of a recently completed Bachelor's thesis at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Heidelberg in the subject of Sustainability Management, concrete proposals for action were developed, with which natureplus can align its operational processes in a more sustainable manner. To this end, the graduate, Nathalie Schadt, carried out a member survey and a competition analysis. The aim was to show the eco-label provider, natureplus e.V., recommendations for action which would promote more sustainable business operations and thereby strengthen the overall trustworthiness of the eco-label.
Satisfaction with the natureplus-Label
The member survey had a high response rate of 34% and can therefore be considered representative. Members from all 8 natureplus divisions responded. Around 38 % of those who responded described themselves as founding members, i.e. have been members for almost 20 years. The high level of identification of members with natureplus was particularly evident in the high level of satisfaction with the natureplus label, with two thirds of those questioned stating that the label was, as it stands, exactly right. However, there were also suggestions for an extension of the label with regard to social sustainability and especially with regard to Circular Economy. The circular economy is seen as an opportunity to achieve greater acceptance for natureplus.
It was striking that all members (as well as the management questioned in parallel) assigned the greatest importance to the topic of climate protection in sustainable building, but when asked what the label stands for in terms of content, climate protection was not mentioned by anyone in the first place. Instead, more than half of those questioned cited health protection or Healthy Building as the most important content of natureplus, followed by sustainability in the selection of resources. There is therefore still much to be done here to sharpen the profile of natureplus.
The most important obstacle to the success of the natureplus-label is seen by the members as the lack of awareness and, above all, the lack of support and requirements in tenders (public procurement) from state institutions. The study makes some interesting suggestions in this respect, which should above all increase transparency within natureplus. The information on the homepage and in the advertising material is criticised as being unclear and difficult to understand.
Satisfaction with the natureplus organisation
The second part of the member survey was concerned with member satisfaction with the natureplus organisation. Here it was shown that the vast majority of them rated the work of the organisation as "good" or "satisfactory", but the number of those who were completely enthusiastic about it still has room for improvement. The exchange of specialist knowledge and the transfer of specialist knowledge are seen as particularly important and valuable. The continuing education seminars and webinars are valued at 70%, even more than the traditional annual specialist congress. At the same time, only about half of the members surveyed actually take advantage of these offers regularly. Here, one will have to think about how the content of these events can be better oriented to the needs of the members.
In contrast, there are currently even greater deficits in the active involvement of members and the promotion of cooperation between members. The most important point of criticism highlighted by some participants is the internal communication, mainly in German, which is seen as unprofessional and an obstacle to free exchange and transparency. The newsletter, as the most important communication element, is still primarily in German. This would not do justice to the demands of a Europe-wide organisation.
Finally, the study proposes the introduction of KPI (key performance indicators) based on the SDG (sustainable development goals) to the management in order to be able to measure and document concrete progress in the identified weaknesses of sustainable corporate management.
Reaction of the management
The survey and analysis results are to be incorporated into the association's strategy development. In a first statement, the management sees its current course confirmed: "The work is both an incentive and confirmation for us. With the new Awarding Guideline 5020, we are also strengthening the profile of natureplus in the area of climate protection by installing the CO2 footprint", says Tilmann Kramolisch, natureplus Managing Director. "In addition, the issue of the Circular Economy was the focus of our recently completed series of web seminars."
With the series of events "natureplus Europe - Healthy Building 2020" now in October, the Association, together with its partner organisations, would like to increasingly offer its information services outside the German-speaking world. The Bachelor's thesis will certainly provide material for discussion within the natureplus board and management for some time to come.