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Sustainability report 2021/2022

From Big
to Small

The Koehler Group and Europe’s largest converter of checkout rolls, the Schades Group, have been working in partnership for decades. The products supplied by Koehler to Schades include kilometer-long rolls of sustainable Blue4est® thermal paper that Schades cuts into small checkout rolls and subsequently supplies to retail outlets, among other customers. In this interview, Marcel Bergmann, CEO of the Schades Group, talks about what makes the partnership with Koehler so successful and the sustainability goals that unite the two companies.

Will paper checkout rolls continue to play an important role in the future?

Marcel Bergmann The high demand from our customers demonstrates that paper checkout rolls remain the most popular choice. Paper receipts boast many advantages over digital ones. On the one hand, full data protection cannot be guaranteed in the case of e-receipts, as providers analyze the purchasing habits of consumers and use this information to provide targeted ads and offers. This is a cause for concern for many people.

On the other hand, a digital receipt does not necessarily have a better carbon footprint than a paper one. An electronic receipt must still be permanently stored on a server somewhere, which is not greenhouse-gas-neutral either. As such, if a paper receipt is produced sustainably and then recycled, it may even end up being more environmentally friendly than its electronic counterpart. These requirements are met by Blue4est® thermal paper from Koehler, which we use at Schades to produce checkout rolls. To sum it up, privacy, sustainability, and simply having a physical copy of the receipt in your hand are all reasons why we think paper receipts will remain relevant in the future.

Why are more and more corporate customers choosing receipts made of Blue4est® thermal paper?

MB In general, our customers are very invested in ensuring that products are sustainable, and till receipts are no exception. In order to function, thermal paper requires a host of chemicals, the recyclability of which is often called into question. For example, the German Environment Agency recommends disposing of till receipts as residual waste. That is why Koehler carried out intensive research and brought out its Blue4est® range that does not require the use of thermal chemicals and can therefore be recycled as normal.

In short, Blue4est® thermal paper stands out from the alternatives on the market thanks to its sustainable and innovative properties.

“Blue4est® thermal paper stands out from the alternatives on the market thanks to its sustainable and innovative properties.”

Marcel BergmannCEO der Schades Group

How are the Schades Group and Koehler Paper working together to make checkout rolls more sustainable?

MB Schades and Koehler are not only pursuing the same sustainability objectives in the area of point-of-sale. Both companies have long been advocates and supporters of sustainably produced paper. That is what makes our partnership so successful.

The Schades Group is continuing to work internally on making receipts even more sustainable than they are today. We now no longer produce checkout rolls in plastic sheaths, but use cardboard ones instead. The next step is to do away with these sheaths altogether. We are taking a similar approach to the packaging of our other products, and are working closely with Koehler on this front. Until recently, we used to wrap our checkout rolls in plastic film, but we are now using flexible packaging paper from Koehler. There is a further benefit to packaging checkout rolls in paper – namely that the packaging line requires less energy than for plastic packaging.

The Schades Group and Koehler Paper are just one part of the value chain for checkout rolls. What are you doing to improve sustainability along the entire chain?

MB We are implementing numerous optimization processes along the supply chain. For example, back in 2018 we stopped buying our paper from Asia and now only source it from Germany and Europe instead. This has significantly reduced delivery distances and therefore carbon emissions. Yet another reason why Koehler is such a great partner: many of our sites are located near to each other.

Another key factor is our work with Koehler on maximizing the length of the jumbo paper rolls. The maximum roll length Koehler used to be able to supply was 12,000 meters; now it is 20,500 meters. This allows us to produce far more checkout rolls per delivery.

What role does environmental management certification play for the Schades Group?

MB We are trying to address our carbon footprint and have had our measures certified by independent auditors. For example, the wood we use to make our paper is derived from responsibly managed forests, which is why we are able to display the FSC® label on our checkout rolls. Schades also meets all of the
ISO 14001 environmental management system certification criteria as well as the BRC Global Packaging Standards criteria, the latter being particularly important for the British market. These various certifications show that we take a holistic approach to sustainability and are taking our commitments to environmental protection seriously.

“The Schades Group and Koehler Paper are pursuing the same sustainability goals, which is what makes our partnership so successful.”

Marcel Bergmann CEO of the Schades Group

What measures is the Schades Group planning to implement in the near future in order to further improve sustainability?

MB Currently, our main focus is on improving the energy efficiency of our production processes. This involves installing photovoltaic systems at our sites and investing in new factories. These factories will be designed so that they can be used to process Koehler’s sustainable products such as its flexible packaging paper as well as Blue4est® thermal paper and its new sibling, Blue4est® Pro thermal labels.

We started this process some years ago now. Like Koehler, we used the pandemic as an opportunity to step up the pace of our sustainable transformation. Once again, this demonstrates the natural affinity between our two companies.

205 km

length of the Koehler Paper jumbo rolls that Schades uses to make smaller checkout rolls

The introduction of longer jumbo rolls has reduced carbon emissions in the supply chain.

No Chemicals
and No Fading

Dr. Timo Stalling, Head of the Research and Analytics Department at Koehler Innovation & Technology, talks about the environmentally friendly and innovative thermal paper Blue4est®.

What makes Blue4est® so special compared to conventional thermal paper?

TS In the case of conventional thermal paper, the print is essentially made visible by a chemical reaction between two components contained in the functional coating of the paper. Blue4est® is different: the pigment is not chemically produced but released by way of a purely physical process. Not only is this more sustainable, since the pigment-producing chemicals typically found in thermal paper are no longer needed, but it also means the print on Blue4est® does not fade like in the case of conventional thermal paper. In addition, Blue4est® is the only thermal paper that is suitable for direct contact with food.

You started developing Blue4est® more than 15 years ago. What were the main challenges?

TS We needed to come up with an alternative, more sustainable concept that still performed just as well as conventional paper. Our customers want good printing results, and they want to be able to keep using the printers that they already have. Finding the right materials for this was no simple task. After that, we had to make our case to customers. First of all, we had to convince them that paper doesn’t necessarily need to be white if it boasts many other desirable and beneficial properties.

The introduction of Blue4est® Pro means that there is now a thermal paper that can be used for labels too. What are you planning next?

TS We developed Blue4est® Pro to be much more resistant to liquids, grease, and oils. We now have an excellent range of paper for till receipts and labels, but we are still always on the lookout for new ways to further optimize our use of resources and input materials while continuing to maximize the performance and sustainability of Blue4est®.

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