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A People Approach to Winning at Circularity

January 25, 2022

OSI Poland's Ostróda facility was awarded first place in the "popularization of circular economy practices" in a contest called "GOZpodarz 2021." When asked how the facility was able to win among some of the largest brand names in the country, OSI’s Environmental Specialist Marcelina Wilczak said it all comes down to the people.

“We have great people here in the Poland office,” said Wilczak. “We start with small ideas and then the entire company gets behind the effort and makes it a reality for everyone.”

The Ostróda facility won the award not for just one major project, but rather a series of smaller, meaningful projects resulting in a large collective as well as a culture dedicated to environmental awareness and individual ownership.

The OSI team in Poland implemented a variety of circularity initiatives, from designing green solutions in the facility’s operations to encouraging and growing sustainability habits in the office. This holistic approach to circularity is the reason why the team on the ground believes they won the award.

“It is important to work on each level, to notice all the fields that can be impacted with action,” said Wilczak. “I like holistic work and implementing as many actions in as many fields as possible with our stakeholders and target beneficiaries.”

A Culture of Sustainability

As a company, OSI conducted a materiality analysis to determine the issues most important to our business. Within environmental stewardship, OSI focuses specifically on conversation and climate change. We work to reduce environmental impact through responsible stewardship of natural resources, from using water sustainably and reducing waste to protecting forests. We address the risk to changing climates by reducing GHG emissions, using energy sustainably and building resilience to a changing environment.

These principles and actions guide our work and sustainability efforts around the world, in our offices and our facilities and through our partnerships throughout the supply chain. The team at OSI Poland, like others across the globe, take these initiatives to heart.

It is important to note that many of these initiatives have taken years and significant resources to come to fruition. In 2019, OSI introduced “Cultivate,” a program in Poland that works with the entire supply chain to drive more sustainable practices across Polish farms.

Designing Circularity into the Facility

These programs and principles provide clear guidance, so meaningful sustainability initiatives can be introduced at the facility. The people at OSI Poland's Ostróda facility have thought about designing circularity into everything in the facility, from the equipment and systems to the people. The facility uses a closed, emission-free recovery system for the waste heat from the cooling system. They use photovoltaic panels and wind turbines to generate approximately 80,000 kWh of energy per year.

LED lighting was installed inside and outside the building, along with motion sensors and automatic dimming and switching off the lights. Electronic water spouts with photocells are also used. For some of the technical installations, they use a modern water treatment system that does not require the use of chemicals. They have reduced their water consumption by 20% and their electricity consumption by 26% since 2014.

They are not just reducing energy and water usage, they have also reduced the weight of cardboard boxes for packing the finished product by 7%, which has generated a savings of approximately 26 tons of cardboard to date. Further actions are currently underway to reduce cardboard waste generated at the product packaging stage. The production process creates a meat byproduct, which is sent to pet food companies.

A Holistic Approach to Circularity

Many of these initiatives would not warrant the award by themselves. They are all part of a larger effort to make impacts in as many areas as possible. For World Environment Day, OSI Poland's Ostróda facility conducted a series of events aimed at deepening the positive relations between people and the natural environment. They hosted annual tree plantings and eco-educational competitions and gave plant sprout cultivation kits to employees’ children to grow seedlings of their own.

The facility also organized a campaign to clean up a local forest and ravine to draw attention to the problem of irrational waste handling, grew awareness about pollinating insects and honey plants and conducted a quiz on ecosystems.

The protection of pollinators is an important element of biodiversity conservation efforts at OSI Poland. In celebration of National Bee Day, leadership organized a workshop on making drinkers from natural, biodegradable and recyclable elements that can be used by insects during droughts. They also organized a campaign to show support and appreciation for local beekeepers and to draw attention to the problem of bee extinction.

Circularity on the Human Level

At OSI Poland, it is equally important to grow sustainable habits in the office as well as in production. That is why they provide access to electronic communication and storage of documentation and encourage employees to cycle to work. The facility collects, organizes and donates plastic bottles to People with Disabilities (OzN). This reduces the space occupied by rubbish as well as the costs of their disposal. People are even educated about sustainable hand washing and are encouraged to use one dose of soap from the dispenser and one dose of a paper towel.

The charitable spirit extends well beyond recycling at OSI Poland. They created a canteen bookcase that acts as an employee book swap. They participated in St. Nicholas Day by donating gifts to local children and collected and donated used blankets, towels and bedding to a local shelter and kennel.

“Yes, we have a modern plant and our environmental solutions are brilliant,” said OSI Poland’s Environment and HR Manager Anna Horbajczuk. “But we also have people taking small actions and making an impact every single day. I think this is the main reason we won the award.”

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