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Our Path to Sustainability

Sustainability has been part of our DNA since the company was founded in 1964. Thomas Windischbauer, COO of the Silhouette Group, provides insights into the measures for a greener future in this interview.

Find out more in his video message!

Sustainability is on all our minds. How long has the Silhouette Group been actively committed to it?

Thomas Windischbauer: I can safely say the subject has been firmly rooted in our DNA since the company was founded in 1964. Our production site is located at the heart of a water conservation area, which is why utmost respect for the environment has been part of our corporate strategy from the very outset, as has the “Made in Austria” seal of quality. Our work on sustainability has become increasingly tangible over the years, culminating in our first sustainability report. The report reflects on what we’ve already achieved, as well as increasing our motivation to exceed our achievements. We’ve developed a CSR strategy too that we are now actively driving forward.

What are the key features of this sustainability strategy and how can you guarantee consistent implementation?

Thomas Windischbauer: The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) form the basis of our CSR strategy. Our aim is not just to reduce our impact on the environment, but also to come up with new, creative solutions. Out of the 17 possible fields of action, we’ve chosen 10 that match our sphere of activity. These encompass all three pillars—ecological, social and financial—and are equally distributed.
Sustainability is an integral part of the corporate structure at the Silhouette Group and is upheld by all three brands. CSR is therefore very much a part of my responsibility as the COO. It’s the only way to ensure that the topic is actually part of day-to-day business and is taken into consideration across all areas. We’ve also appointed a CSR Officer to ensure ongoing development of the strategy and its consistent implementation. They coordinate all CSR agendas and monitor successful outcomes.

What are your biggest successes so far?

Thomas Windischbauer: In 2022, we achieved a very special milestone in our CSR strategy: since September 2022, our eyewear production has been carbon-neutral with offsetting. A goal that many companies are setting for 2030. We’re one step ahead of the game here.
In recent years, we’ve been able to halve our carbon emissions too. We achieved this by, for example, generating our own power. We cover around 15% of our energy requirements with the help of solar panel systems. We also treat over 27,000 gallons of water every day, returning it to the production cycle several times, using two of our own wastewater treatment plants. This allows us to save 50% of the fresh water required to produce one pair of eyewear. Not forgetting our company grounds, which contribute to biodiversity at our locations too.
Our efforts haven’t gone unnoticed either: we’re the only European eyewear producer with EMAS certification, and we’re happy for our environmental performance to be visible and subject to scrutiny. EMAS is the European Commission’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. It promotes excellent, systematic environmental practices that far exceed legal requirements.

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Our mission: zero emissions. We make great efforts every day to further reduce our ecological footprint. Both large and small initiatives make a decisive difference.

„Sustainability is an integral part of the Silhouette Group's corporate structure and impacts all three brands. Therefore, CSR is a direct responsibility of mine, as the COO. This ensures that the topic is genuinely integrated into day-to-day operations and considered across all areas."

Thomas Windischbauer, COO Silhouette Group

What role does sustainability play in the company outside of production?

Thomas Windischbauer: In addition to our efforts to reduce carbon emissions in our production process, we’re dedicated to replacing business trips with online meetings. A quarter of our company fleet consists of electric vehicles. We’ve also digitized our returns management process, which saves us from sending round 60,000 packages per year. And all departments throughout the company contribute to avoiding any kind of (material) waste.

How do you involve your employees?

Thomas Windischbauer: Our employees are an important factor in our success, so it’s vital to get them on board. We’ve learned that promoting CSR and then talking about it isn’t enough. We also need to motivate people by encouraging ideas and suggestions for improvements for more sustainable business operations. Even seemingly small measures can often make a big difference. Last year, 200,000 honey bees moved onto our company premises, making a crucial contribution to biodiversity. We also encourage our employees to choose the most environmentally friendly route to work, and we promote carpooling with electric cars.

What initiatives are still planned and what major goals do you have for the future?

Thomas Windischbauer: We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal for the future: carbon-neutral eyewear production by 2027 WITHOUT the need for external offsetting. There’s still a long way to go until then, but we’re not resting on our laurels. Instead, we’re constantly working to reduce our carbon footprint. To achieve this, we’ve set up an internal task force made up of employees from a wide range of departments—people who think outside the box and who will develop strategic implementation plans. This could be anything from improved production processes to structural changes.

How important is sustainability to you outside of the company?

Thomas Windischbauer:For me, it’s about authenticity. Sustainability shouldn’t just be an issue for the conference table; I also want to walk the talk in my private life. Whenever I can, I leave the car behind and take the train instead. I also try to make the most sustainable decisions possible when it comes to consumerism. For example, I consciously go to bricks-and-mortar stores, even if my shopping could be done more conveniently online. As a father of three, it’s particularly important to me to leave future generations a world worth living in.

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