Our sustainability report

Sustainable at our core

As a family company, we have always adopted a long-term approach and acted to benefit generations to come. We show responsibility to our customers, investors, employees as well as the environment and wider society. We are happy for our actions to be judged against our words. That’s why each year we present a sustainability report that documents our social, economic and ecological activities and records targets as well as trends. We thus make clear commitments and ensure transparent reporting.


Read the sustainability report

Making activities measurable

It is our aspiration, to be measured by our words. That is why we present a sustainability report every year, which documents our social, economic and business commitment and records goals and developments. In this way, we create clear obligations and ensure transparent reporting.

A business model – fully geared towards doing business sustainably

Vision and acting to safeguard the future – the Progroup system is based on this and it all starts with our future-proof products.

The containerboard and corrugated board sheets are shining examples of the circular economy in action. We only ever use recovered paper as the raw material for our papers. Once the corrugated board end product has been used, it can be largely processed through waste separation and easily reused.

Our production processes also follow the concept of a cycle: We produce energy from production residues and waste materials in our waste-to-energy plant in Eisenhüttenstadt (Brandenburg), our water loops are closed on two of the three paper machines, and we recycle corrugated board rejects back into the production cycle as a raw material used for papermaking.

Green Hightech

We have pursued a Greenfield strategy ever since our company was founded: We do not buy existing factories but instead always build our own new production facilities. This allows us to construct highly efficient, flexible facilities that have the very best technology and are way ahead of the market standard.

Our machines are not just highly efficient when it comes to energy and water consumption, but they also enable us to produce paper and corrugated board that is extremely lightweight. Despite less material being used, they are just as stable as conventional products. We call them nextgeneration®. What this means for our customers is a lower transport weight and transport volume. In addition, these products allow us to save raw materials, water and energy during production and have lower CO2 emissions.

Long-standing, close cooperation with customers

We have generally been working with our customers, mostly family-run, small and medium-sized enterprises, for decades. Thanks to closely linked production operations, we can also grow together. With some of our biggest customers, the cooperation goes one step further: We develop complete packaging parks with them. The packaging park I model involves a customer establishing themselves right next to one of our corrugated sheetfeeder plants. With the packaging park II model, we do the reverse and construct a corrugated sheetfeeder plant next to our customer. When we link up with a customer in this way, we build highly efficient corrugated board plants that are very much state-of-the-art when it comes to technology. A plant like this will operate for at least 25 years.

The great ecological benefit of this cooperation is that our corrugated board passes from plant to plant on conveyor belts. This allows us to take traffic off the roads, reduce CO2 emissions and lower logistics costs. However, we still do the majority of our business as a traditional supplier. Our customers benefit from the fact that we make our own paper, which means we can manufacture corrugated board sheets reliably at all times. An added bonus is the high level of automation, maximum standardisation of workflows and the links between our sites and processes. On the one hand we are able to optimally balance out the capacities of our plants, and on the other we can cater for requests even at very short notice.


Committed to the environment

We produce our containerboard from a secondary raw material; the corrugated board end product can be recycled after use. This means our products are excellent examples of the circular economy.

At the same time, the process of papermaking still uses a great deal of energy and water. Our biggest tools for doing business ecologically are therefore technologies which reduce the amount of energy and water required or allow us to reduce the amount of raw materials used in our products.

Lighter and lighter corrugated boards

This is where we come in: We manufacture corrugated boards that are lighter and lighter and yet still satisfy the same technical requirements. Since 2012, we have reduced the average grammage by 1.8 per cent and we aim to reduce it by 3 per cent by 2025, and by 5 per cent by 2030.

As well as having a significantly improved life cycle assessment, our weight-optimised nextboard® corrugated boards also feature a volume that is 15 per cent lower than Progroup's conventional grades of corrugated board. This saves storage and transport costs. nextboard® is noted for its higher compressive strength and edge crush resistance than other products which use the same quantity of raw materials. We manage to produce this special stability thanks to a change in the corrugated board design.

Recycled fibre instead of fresh fibre

We also buy kraftliner for corrugated boards that need to be particularly resilient – this is base paper that is made primarily from fresh fibre and is therefore especially robust. However, it has a much inferior life cycle assessment compared to recycled paper and is more expensive.

In our paper factory in Burg, we already manufacture a type of containerboard from recycled fibre that is just as robust as kraftliner. We call it Proliner K. This means we are already able to replace conventional kraftliner paper in many cases. Our aim is to reduce the fraction of kraftliner used by around 25 per cent in 2025 compared to 2012; by 2030 the saving should be as much as 30 per cent. We will thus reduce the amount of wood we use in our upstream supply chain and achieve a significant energy benefit.

Continuously consume less water

In our paper factories, we utilise water among other things for breaking down recovered paper, but also for cooling and cleaning the facilities. To reduce the level of consumption, we operate closed water cycles on the paper machines in Burg (PM1) and Sandersdorf-Brehna (PM3). We have also integrated a state-of-the-art circulating water treatment plant at PM3. It reduces the amount of fresh water that is used by around 80 per cent compared to similar factories. Impurities that are transferred from the recovered paper into the process water are broken down and converted into biogas. We use this in turn for paper production.

Technologies like these are unique in our industry. They enabled us to reduce our demand for fresh water per tonne of total output by around 37 per cent in 2021 compared to 2012. This means that our target of a reduction of 35 per cent that was originally set for 2025 has already been achieved. By 2030, the intention is that the reduction in the specific amount of fresh water per tonne of total output should be 40 per cent.

Continue reducing CO2 emissions

In Germany, the paper industry is one of the most energy-intensive industries. We optimise our facilities continuously in order to use steam and heat energy even more efficiently – but at the same time we also operate waste-to-energy plants as they make us less reliant on gas.

In Eisenhüttenstadt, we produce roughly 1.2 million tonnes of steam and approx. 130 gigawatt hours of electricity every year. This enables us to supply all the steam the paper machine requires. The amount of electricity produced is equivalent to around 50 per cent of the power that PM2 requires. We are currently building the next power plant in Sandersdorf-Brehna.

By 2025 we will reduce our specific emissions – relative to our total output of containerboard and corrugated board sheets – by 35 per cent. By 2030 we hope to get this to 40 per cent, among other things by utilising the new power plant.

By 2045: Completely carbon-neutral

For an energy-intensive company likes ours, it is another way to become carbon-neutral by 2045. This will only work if in the coming years renewable energy and green hydrogen is made available in sufficient quantities and possibilities such as capturing CO₂ are put in place.

Committed to our employees and society

Having good personnel is crucial to the success of any business. We do everything we can to recruit skilled employees, train them and retain them for the long term. We aspire to be an attractive employer for all employees.

This is why we are very keen to boost equal opportunities. It is because the paper and corrugated board industry in general still has a low proportion of women in the workforce – and we are no different. This is not the way we want things to be. We have set ourselves target quotas for the next few years in order to increase the proportion of women among salaried employees to 50 per cent. The intention is also to gradually fill management positions with more women. We want to achieve a share of 20 per cent by 2030.

Occupational safety as the most important task

One of our most important tasks as an employer is to ensure occupational health and safety at our workplaces. We make both managers and employees aware of the fact that safety needs to be championed every single day. We record all accidents, including non-notifiable ones, report them to line managers right up to the top management and assess them.

To improve occupational safety, we have, among other things, created new training and instruction plans and introduced so-called safety checks.. This enables employees to identify beforehand any potential hazards that may occur during tasks they are due to perform. Thanks to this information, both operational workers and those at more senior levels in the hierarchy are made aware of this at an early stage.

Our aim is to reduce the number of notifiable accidents by 2030 to below five per 1 million hours worked.

A good neighbour at all our sites

We show commitment to charitable causes at all our sites. Our main area of focus is on working with children and young people. The goal is to create lasting partnerships that will benefit the local people over the long term. At the same time, our involvement means that we enhance local networks and the reputation of our company.

Two examples of local projects we support: In Eisenhüttenstadt, we have been working together closely for a number of years with WiWaWunderland e.V. – an association that among other things runs a day centre for young people. We not only support it financially, but also provide it with containerboard and corrugated board for creative activities. This produced a great art exhibition in 2019. In Stryków in Poland – where our two corrugated sheetfeeder plants create one of the largest sites in the world – we have been supporting the local cycling club for two years.

Sustainability report 2021

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