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UEIL Sustainability Survey 2021 – Results

23/09/2021

UEIL Sustainability Survey

Our respondents shared their sustainability journey with us! Find out more about the results of the 2021 Sustainability Survey of UEIL’s Sustainability Committee

Background to the survey

The objectives of the survey were to help UEIL to define a sustainability benchmark for its members, to provide clarity about support needed to increase their sustainability efforts, and to inform stakeholders (including regulators) and the public about the contribution of the lubricants industry to delivering on sustainability objectives. Responses were collected anonymously between 17 May and 18 June 2021. All companies operating in the lubricants supply chain were invited to participate in the survey, regardless of their status within their own sustainability journeys.

Who were the respondents?

Respondents were asked to submit one response on behalf of their company and to indicate in which country their companies was headquartered, which resulted in a total of 189 respondents from 27 countries. The overall response rate to the survey was very positive, around 40-50% providing UEIL with a great picture of sustainability considerations in the lubricants sector.

Most of the respondents said they were working as either CEOs or Directors (65) or Managers (77) but it should be noted that 32 said they identified their role in ‘other’ functions. When it comes to the three countries with the largest number of respondents (Germany, the UK and the US), the trend was similar but with a higher percentage of UK respondents being in the position of CEOs or Directors, which could indicate that sustainability related topics are handled on a higher management level compared to other countries.

In terms of the department that respondents belong to, 62 identified with a Sales and Marketing department and 30 with Research & Development, but it is again worth noting that 62 answered they belonged to ‘other’ departments, with many specifying that they are in “Management” or “Leadership” roles rather than a specific department.

Interestingly, 19 responses came from people operating within a functional group of Sustainability. This suggests that many responding companies consider sustainability important enough to have a dedicated department. The figure may in fact be higher as some respondents to the survey might identify with another function but completed the survey on behalf of their companies which do have a sustainability function.

Most of the respondents were either lubricant marketers (89) or blenders (82), while 52 companies were raw material or component suppliers and 36 defined themselves as support services. In total, 121 responses came from SMEs with less than 250 employees, confirming the highly relevant role of smaller organisations in delivering sustainability objectives in the lubricants sector.

What were respondents’ views on Strategy and Reporting?

Of the 189 respondents, 129 said they had a sustainability strategy. Interestingly, the more employees the organization had, the more likely it was for the company to have a sustainability strategy.

Of the 129 respondents who answered that they had a sustainability strategy, almost all of them (123) said they include environmental objectives in their strategy. Economic and social objectives are also included in a majority (112 and 107 respectively) of the sustainability strategies. However, around a quarter (34) of the sustainability strategies do not report on governance aspects. Of the three major nation’s responses, the UK reports most consistently across the four strategic areas, closely followed by US companies and German companies. Out of those 60 companies which answered they did not have a sustainability strategy, 35 answered that they plan on developing one in the next 1-2 years. Only 6 said they had no such plans.

Compared to most of the companies having a sustainability strategy (129), only a little over a third of respondents (73) reported publishing a sustainability report as well.

Larger companies are more likely to also produce a sustainability report if they have a sustainability strategy. For smaller companies the disparities are bigger with 38 companies with 1-50 employees having said they had a strategy but only 9 of them producing a report currently.

Of the 116 respondents who answered that their company does not have a sustainability report, only around a fifth (22) answered that they have no such plans for the next 1-2 years. Of the 94 remaining companies, 52 plan to produce one in the future but 42 were still unsure.

On the other hand, when asked about the importance of sustainability in their companies, a large majority of respondents (156) would rate sustainability in their company as either very high or high.

Could we see a significant change regarding the number of sustainability reports produced in the future and how could companies be supported?

Brand image and strategy, company ethos and value, regulation or legislation, customer pressure and leadership were identified as the key drivers for implementing a sustainability strategy. In terms of the three countries with the highest number of respondents, societal pressure is higher in Germany than in the UK and US. The importance of legislation is also rated higher in Germany than in the US and UK, perhaps reflecting on the strength or importance of European Union regulations and directives.

What are respondents’ concerns about implementing a sustainability strategy in their companies?

The most common concerns about implementing a sustainability strategy were the lack of standard methods for carbon footprint calculation (96), financial constraints and lack of human resources (88), lack of information from suppliers (86), as well as unclear regulations (62). By contrast, respondents have the least concerns about resistance from employees or no management support with only a few respondents choosing these answers.

More than 90% of respondents agree that the importance of sustainability will increase in the next five years.

Encouragingly, there is a clear willingness within the lubricants industry to collaborate to help organisations in their sustainability strategy development and sustainability reporting, with 36 of 73 companies volunteering to share their sustainability reports through the UEIL website and 38 companies willing to share their sustainability journey as best practice examples.

What is the impact of the results?

The UEIL Sustainability Committee would like to express its gratitude to the 189 companies that participated in the UEIL Sustainability Survey. Their input is invaluable in enabling UEIL to target its resources to best serve its members in their sustainability journeys. UEIL’s two environmental working groups – Carbon Footprint and Energy Efficiency – are working on establishing a harmonized method and guidelines for the calculation of carbon footprint and life cycle assessment. The Society & Economy and the Communications Working Groups are working on identifying sustainability reporting standards and raising public knowledge on sustainability and its integral part in the lubricants industry.

The survey results will feed directly into the objectives of the Sustainability Committee to provide guidance to define, develop and measure sustainability in the European lubricants industry, to address misconceptions on the industry’s sustainability capacities, and to enable it to take part in the ongoing discussions on sustainability at EU and international levels.

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