Climate change is one of the greatest challenges that we are currently facing. We at ista take this seriously and make a sustainable contribution to greater climate and environmental protection. We therefore systematically develop innovative products and services which make individual energy and water consumption transparent and, as a consequence, sensitise consumers to active resource conservation.
Contributing with products to greater resource conservation
The transformation of the global energy systems, greater energy efficiency and CO2 savings but also the use of efficient digital technologies are some of the key social and economic issues of our times. Nowadays, modern energy service providers in particular must sustainably combine resource conservation, new technologies and convenience for their users in order to achieve success on the global market. We at ista therefore want to set ever new standards. We are already one of the world’s leading service providers for the consumption-dependent metering and billing of heat, water and ancillary costs and we want to further expand this position in the coming years. This will only be achieved with continual innovation. The latest technical and regulatory trends from 24 ista markets worldwide are therefore systematically taken into account in the continuous development of our product and service portfolio.
We have a clear objective: our customers in the housing industry and their users must benefit as much as possible from our services. The actual savings of energy, water and therefore also costs must be substantial. We therefore offer not only appropriate product and service packages but also different financing options for every specific customer need. Hardware components can be purchased or simply rented from us and additional services provided directly through us, by the customers themselves or by third parties. In this context, we offer various products which are tailored to the different needs and requirements of our customers: our heat cost allocator doprimo 3 ready can be operated in three different service versions: with meter reading directly on the device, outside the apartment or by means of remote reading.
We are committed to minimising the consumption of resources and risks to the environment which the production, use or waste disposal of new offerings could entail. In order to guarantee quality and environmental compatibility, we have introduced a quality management system certified to ISO 9001 at the German locations Gladbeck, Au and Essen (material management and production). We also try to accurately examine in life cycle analyses the relationship between CO2 emissions produced in connection with our devices and future savings. Taking our heat cost allocator doprimo as an example, we were able to prove that consumption-dependent heating cost billing based on the doprimo 3 radio net saves 158 times more CO2 than is produced during the device’s entire life cycle. The CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle were calculated to produce the carbon footprint of the doprimo 3 radio net. The life cycle is 10 years on average and includes the production of raw materials, manufacture, transport, installation, use including preparation of the consumption-dependent heating cost bills as well as disposal or recycling.
Results of our life cycle analysis of the doprimo 3 radio net
Making great strides into the digitised age
In the age of rapidly increasing digitisation, we systematically exploit the latest opportunities to advance the development of sustainable products and services to save scarce resources. We believe our product development efforts give us competitive advantage through product innovation. At ista, innovation comprises, on the one hand, the optimisation and modification of existing products in line with market developments such as the trend towards saving energy. On the other hand, we are committed to developing new products for the energy efficiency sector and to highly efficient, radio-based machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.
With the use of our advanced radio technology, we have already taken a major step towards digital progress, innovation and transparency. Almost all of our products are now equipped with radio, old devices can be simply upgraded using a radio module. Our real estate customers and their tenants therefore no longer need ista service partners visiting their apartments: the heat cost allocators, heat and water meters can be read remotely, thus offering additional savings potential not only as regards the CO2-intensive journeys to and from the properties. With our radio technology, the frequency of information on individual consumption can be very simply increased at a reasonable price. For example, we can now provide transparency of consumption not only once a year in the heating cost bill but also sub-annually on a monthly basis. And it has been proved that greater transparency means lower energy consumption.
With our energy data management system (EDM), we have already converted this sub-annual, monthly consumption information into a marketable product. In the basic version, the EDM is a reasonably priced and sustainable solution with which our customers can retrieve the data of the previous five billing periods and view detailed analyses on an online platform. With the premium version, we also provide further relevant consumption information and analyses on a monthly basis − all digitally, so without using paper and therefore without harming the environment.
With the ista energy app, Initiative Mittelstand award-winner (SME initiative), our customers’ tenants also keep convenient track of their consumption while out of the house. Using this knowledge, they can save costs, valuable resources and CO2 themselves, independently and voluntarily.
With the “Saving Money through Clever Heating“ pilot project, we are demonstrating what potential can be harnessed in Germany with our energy data management system (EDM). Together with the German Energy Agency, the German Tenants’ Association and the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, we have initiated the largest field trial in Europe for sub-annual consumption information. Some 200 private households in Berlin, Essen and Munich receive, in addition to their annual bill, monthly information on their individual energy consumption. They can view their consumption figures on a web portal or by app. Furthermore, they obtain consumption forecasts and can view their consumption in relation to other anonymised households. Based on the evaluation of the first heating period from October 2013 to April 2014, initial interim results show that participating tenants did in fact succeed in reducing their consumption by an average of almost 10%.
Heat Monitor Germany
Together with the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), ista Germany developed the “Heat Monitor Germany” in the reporting period. The aim of this monitoring is to create more transparency of heating energy consumption and costs throughout Germany. Measures for greater energy efficiency in the building sector are therefore to be implemented in future in a more realistic and targeted way. The “Heat Monitor Germany” is based on data on the energy consumption of over three million apartments. Energy-saving measures – especially against the background of the energy-efficient urban and district refurbishment programmes – can, in future, be defined, calculated and implemented in a more targeted manner. In the long term, consumers will therefore also benefit from the index in that actual energy consumption and costs will be the basis for the further implementation of efficiency measures in buildings.
An equally important basis for optimum building efficiency is our energy performance certificate which we offer in two versions. The consumption-based energy performance certificate determines the actual energy consumption per square metre on the basis of the last three heating periods. By contrast, the demand-based energy performance certificate analyses the building envelope, the materials used and the heating system. The result therefore provides an objective picture of the energy quality of the building, irrespective of the behaviour of individual users.
Safety in the home
Safety is also close to our hearts. Our solutions for tenant safety reliably satisfy statutory requirements and help to save lives: ista’s certified smoke alarm devices protect people against unnoticed smoke development. The optional maintenance service ensures that the devices are regularly inspected and operate at all times.
In addition, the ista drinking water analysis offers reliable protection against potential hazards in drinking water. Risks such as legionella or other dangerous germs are therefore reliably identified. Our humidity sensor, which is used in Denmark and Norway and measures both room temperature and air humidity, ensures a healthy room climate.
What happens when products have reached the end of their service life? Do we simply throw them away? No. We ensure proper disposal. Most of ista’s devices are only rented to the customers for their service life and so they remain in our possession. At the end of the product’s life, we can therefore guarantee a maximum recycling rate.
We achieve this together with different partners. For example, the Haus Hall Foundation supports us in Germany. We have already been cooperating with the workshops for the disabled in Ahaus, Coesfeld and Gescher since 2002. Here, the employees ensure that our products are disposed of properly and decommissioned products are dismantled into their individual components: batteries, plastics, metals and waste cables are separated and then recycled, where possible.
Naturally, we also want to know what our customers think about us and how satisfied they are with our products and services. We therefore conduct an international customer survey once a year. In this way, we learn directly how we can further optimise our processes, products and services. In the year 2014 alone, we surveyed roughly 2,750 customers in a total of 11 countries – including Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and France – by telephone interview or an online form. We are always striving to steadily increase the proportion of online surveys as they offer our customers more flexibility. The results are combined in the Customer Retention Index (CRI). On a scale of 1-10, the satisfaction ratings were between 5.4 and 9.1. Most of the 11 countries which participated in the survey achieved scores of between 6.2 and 8.1, which for ista means overall high customer satisfaction. We achieved good results, particularly in the meter reading sector: in most countries our customers gave us 80% or more, confirming that they are very satisfied with our service. It is particularly pleasing that, since the start of the CRI survey in 2011, we have maintained these good scores.
We want to improve in those areas where the results do not meet our high demands on ourselves. One positive example is France: here, ista has been able, over the last four years, to steadily increase the satisfaction of those customers who tended to be sceptical.
The subject of data protection is a particular concern of our customers but also politicians and society in times of data espionage affairs, increasing globalisation and discussions about the “transparent citizen”. Not least of all because of this, we take this subject very seriously. As a service company, we naturally store data on customers and tenants. These include both personal information such as addresses and individual energy consumption figures. In handling these data, we comply strictly with all applicable laws and have included the protection of customer and consumer data in our Code of Conduct. We do not record complex data profiles of consumers – for example, at what time of day which appliance is being used. The data are not passed on to third parties.
The fact that we prioritise the subject of data protection is demonstrated by the appointment of a company data protection officer in all companies of the ista Group in Germany who is registered with the supervisory authority responsible. The data protection officer reports directly to the management.
Moreover, we regularly train our employees on data protection issues. The subject of data protection is ever-present, also when we introduce new processes or review procedures already in place. In the reporting period, there were no complaints as regards infringements of data protection.
We place high demands on our suppliers: here, we do not make any compromises. This is particularly important as most of the products we market are specially manufactured for ista. We also sell devices we have developed ourselves. They are manufactured and subjected to a final inspection at specialised assembly factories according to our precise specifications. ista provides the production equipment and material. Some devices are supplied to ista as semi-finished products for final assembly. Our employees at the Au site perform this final assembly work and ensure a 100% inspection of every single device. The central logistics centre in Gladbeck then dispatches the products to our 24 markets.
It is therefore absolutely essential to comply with the social and ecological minimum standards. They are stipulated in our Supplier Code, which is based on the principles of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for responsible corporate management and on the core conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Child, compulsory or forced labour are expressly forbidden in our Code. We therefore also implement the principles of the Global Compact of the United Nations.
All suppliers must commit to satisfying the requirements of this Supplier Code. Fundamentally, it is the suppliers’ responsibility to ensure the requirements are met. However, in order to support sustainable production at suppliers’, compliance with the Code is checked in regular supplier audits by the Quality Management or Direct Procurement department. We have set up an engineering office in Thailand to support our Asian suppliers. Moreover, we have deployed resident engineers at our two most important Asian suppliers (Electronic Manufacturing Services) to provide support and quality assurance. Infringements of the Supplier Code can be reported to ista’s Corporate Internal Audit and Compliance department. In the reporting period, no formal complaints regarding work practices were submitted.
Picture credits: grasundsterne