The report, which had been drawn up according to international standards, was presented by Hans Haider, Chairman of the VERBUND Board of Management, at a joint press conference with Minister of the Environment Josef Pröll. “This Sustainability Report 2002 and the appointment of a sustainability officer in the company show that with our economic, environmental, and social approach we have the benefit of the present and future generations in mind”, said Mr. Haider.
The Federal Government adopted the Austrian strategy for sustainable development in April 2002. Sustainability was declared a guiding principle of politics. The goal is voluntary sustainability reporting in the Austrian economy by 2010. As Austria’s largest electricity group, VERBUND decided last year to present an annual sustainability report to the public. At the same time Renate Pretscher was appointed sustainability officer of VERBUND.
VERBUND absolutely bears comparison on a global level. For its high share of hydroelectricity (approximately 90%) - the remaining 10 % are generated in non-nuclear thermal power plants - VERBUND uses water, a natural resource, without consuming it. Thus the company has been realizing the idea of sustainability since it was founded in the year 1947. “Over the past 20 years we invested nearly 1.5 billion euros in the environmental area; more than 290 million when we built the Freudenau power plant on the Danube in Vienna alone”, Mr. Haider presented impressive recent examples.
The report in hand shows that the approach of VERBUND is sustainable in economic terms. Last year the fact that the costs of generating hydroelectric power had been decreasing for years as well as comprehensive restructuring measures and tight cost management had led to an all-time high in the company’s results for the year. The economic success, combined with ecological and social responsibility, also strengthened the company’s position in the capital market: The VERBUND share is already posted in a number of sustainability funds, for example the “FTSE4Good share index“.
Generating electricity from hydropower is eco-friendly and helps avoid emissions. Mr. Haider: Electricity supplied by VERBUND makes an important contribution to avoiding CO2 emission in Austria: In the year 2002 alone the amount of the climate-damaging carbon dioxide in Austria would have been 24.7 million tons or about one third higher, if the electricity VERBUND produced from hydropower had been generated in thermal power plants. Moreover, more than fifty percent of VERBUND electricity is TÜV certified as 100 % pure hydroelectricity. The consumer can buy this electricity as “Austrian Hydropower”.
In its role as employer VERBUND is also aware of its social responsibility. The number of employees was reduced by approximately fifty percent since 1994 to approximately 2,800 employees today, but social hardship was avoided due to early retirement schemes, clearing measures, retraining programs and non-replacement of leavers.
To be ready for the liberalized electricity market, staff training was stepped up to ensure a lasting high professional level. In the year 2002 the company spent an average of approx. 700 euros per employee on staff training.
In conclusion Mr. Haider said that sustainability would remain a decisive element of the corporate strategy in the future: “We shall continue to pursue a business policy that respects ecological limits and guarantees efficient use of resources, while at the same time aiming at social fairness und ensuring economic success”.