In his new position, he’s now also responsible for the development of sustainable products and eco-friendly production processes, certifications and positioning of the company along the global obligations that tesa has set for itself.
Interview with Dr. Stefan Röber
Dr. Stefan Röber has been tesa’s Chief Sustainability Officer since April 1, 2021. He holds a Doctorate of Physics, has managed product and technology development for 14 years, and has been with the company for 27.
You have been tesa’s first Chief Sustainability Officer for a year now – in charge of a new department. Looking back, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned?
tesa has been paving the way for a sustainable future for a long time. But by establishing a department dedicated to sustainability, we’re also acknowledging the significance of this responsibility structurally and can now promote these issues more consistently and effectively. Positioning the company with a focus on sustainability is a major challenge for our entire organization. Sustainability affects every division, and we face changes big and small across the board. But more importantly, focusing on increasing sustainability also offers a major economic opportunity to identify even better solutions for our customers. And as complex as the entire topic is, responding to this challenge is a lot of fun.
Which responsibilities have you prioritized over the past several months?
We put a lot of effort into revising and assessing our agenda in 2021 and, as a consequence, will once again significantly increase our level of ambition. We’ve developed an expanded strategy with long-term prospects as well as a plan on how to approach our clearly defined, ambitious goals.
Our efforts to increase sustainability have been well received throughout tesa. Many employees are wholeheartedly committed to the issue and interested in contributing their expertise, ultimately providing our work with a boost of motivation, which we’re exploiting.
We are, of course, paying special attention to our products and production processes, with a particular focus on further reducing the amount of waste we generate, making procurement processes more sustainable and transparent, and developing more products with more sustainable properties. Take, for example, the two recently launched tapes for sustainable packaging: one is the particularly strong adhesive, bio-based PLA base, while the other is a paper-based tape that’s FSC®-certified and especially recycling-friendly.
The significant reduction in emissions at the tesa sites is also worth mentioning. In 2021, we commissioned a large photovoltaic system in Suzhou, China, that has nearly 2,000 solar panels, allowing us to reduce CO2 there by around 900 metric tons annually. We use combined heat and power at four other sites and clean green energy at all sites worldwide.
In addition to your sustainability responsibilities, you’ve also been managing product and technology development for many years. How do you bring these two tasks together?
These two fields of work complement each other wonderfully. tesa’s strength has always been our innovative power – both in product design and the development of pioneering technologies. We have a great deal of expertise when it comes to developing new things – and will continue to focus on that in the future. Sustainability should always be at the heart of future innovations.
Based on existing expertise and with the support of our more than 500 researchers and developers, we’ve already initiated many important steps in developing sustainable products and optimizing production processes. We plan to give it our all in these areas in the future and develop many additional innovations to increase our product sustainability on a continuous basis.
Our experts will get it done, which is something I say with a great deal of confidence and pride.
What would you say are the biggest challenges when it comes to developing sustainable products?
We approach this issue from different directions, as product sustainability requires a variety of approaches. We ensure product sustainability in a variety of ways, such as modifying adhesive compositions and base materials to make our products more eco-friendly. We’re also using more bio-based or recycled raw materials, reducing our use of solvents, and making production processes more energy-efficient. We work closely with our suppliers to develop the most intelligent solutions. After all, they too can make a key contribution to the sustainability of our products – for example, with newly developed, more ecofriendly raw materials.
But we also plan to help our customers make their own products and processes more sustainable with tesa® solutions. And that applies to large swathes of the industrial landscape. I’m thinking of e-mobility, where we as an enabler can help reduce weight and increase heat resistance, for example, with our applications for securing batteries. And then there’s our tesa® Bond & Detach development, which has made it possible for years to replace the rechargeable battery in hundreds of millions of cell phones – because they’re secured with tesa® tape that can be removed again. We work closely with our global customers and exchange information on a continuous basis to develop more and more intelligent solutions for increasing requirements in terms of product characteristics.
… and where are the limits?
To be honest, this is a huge undertaking. It will be many years before we can be satisfied. The highly sophisticated adhesives we use for our different applications cannot simply be replaced with natural materials. We’re at the beginning of a long journey, but tesa has represented innovations for 125 years. So I’m confident that we’ll be able to deliver pioneering work with a focus on sustainability in the future.