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Living sustainability rather than just talking about it

Sustainability. A very vague term that can mean a lot of things. In this interview Aytac Aktepe tells us exactly what it means for him and his work at thyssenkrupp. As project manager he coordinated a major sustainability and technology project. But the project is just one of many examples that show how thyssenkrupp is developing into a group of companies that stands for sustainable industry and technology. What’s the best way to achieve that? Above all by working together, says Aytac. In conversation he rarely uses the word “I”, preferring to talk about “we” – as you will see in the following interview.

Standing still is moving backwards. Let’s move towards change. Name three ways you are moving towards change at thyssenkrupp.

“People. Machines. Visions. Over the past two and a half years our project management teams have turned innovative ideas into concrete projects. One example is Carbon2Chem: This project combines the skills of numerous employees and our technologies so that in the future we can produce green steel. There are three ways to achieve sustainable production – CO2 avoidance, CO2 utilization and CO2 storage. The latter is prohibited in Germany. That’s why we have focused on the avoidance and above all the utilization of CO2. What’s so special about this project is that we take the carbon from the CO2 generated during steel production and convert it into valuable chemicals. That means we are killing two birds with one stone: firstly there are no climate-damaging emissions from steel production, and secondly we avoid the depletion of fossil fuels, which previously supplied the carbon for production of the chemicals.”

Do you personally try to live sustainably?

“Very much so. I try to avoid waste, and only use my car when I really need to. For many years I used only public transport to get around. At home I use energy-saving bulbs and try to reduce power consumption. These are all just little things, but they can add up to achieve something bigger.”

Where do you see things changing at thyssenkrupp?

“Above all in the ever-growing importance of sustainability. As a company where steel plays such an important part, I find it fascinating and at the same time challenging that thyssenkrupp has committed so strongly to sustainability. Yes, we have a lot to do. But we are working on becoming more environmentally friendly – day for day, together as #GENERATIONTK. What’s more, we are becoming increasingly agile and flexible. We are rethinking old models, hierarchies and ways of working. For example, there’s no longer any need to go into the office for many jobs. Mobile working is being pushed, and that will continue after the coronavirus pandemic. In short: we are completely restructuring ourselves. That is making us increasingly forward-looking and modern.”

Where do you feel thyssenkrupp is frequently underestimated?

“In our corporate culture, definitely. I imagine a lot of people think: thyssenkrupp is an old-established German industrial company where everyone wears suits and ties and a few old men decide what everyone should do. But it’s not like that. thyssenkrupp has lots of employees who are prepared to shape the future. We operate in a modern, open and diverse corporate culture. For example that includes dealing well with mistakes. Accidents can always happen. And that’s not a bad thing because we can learn from them. We have to discuss them openly to encourage good ideas and drive innovation.”