Sustainability at ottonova


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Philipp Buddemeier
An inventory: Sustainability at ottonova

Interview with Founder of Better Earth Philipp Buddemeier

Philipp Buddemeier is the founder and managing director of Better Earth, a management consultancy at the interface of business and sustainability. For over 15 years, Philipp has been uncompromisingly dedicated to the topics of sustainability and impact-oriented corporate management. The ottonova ESG team spoke to him.

Christa: Philipp, we have known each other since our last financing round and through our new lead investor Cadence. How do Better Earth, Cadence and ottonova work together?

Philipp: Better Earth conducts sustainability due diligences for companies in which Cadence wants to invest - as was recently the case with ottonova.

Christa: How does Better Earth define sustainability due diligence?

Philipp: It's about reviewing the sustainability performance of companies. We do this in three dimensions: First, it's about the sustainability contribution of the product or service offered, that is, the impact of that product or service in the world. Secondly, it is about the sustainability performance in relation to aspects that are relevant along the value chain for the provision of this product or service, and thirdly, it is about the organisational maturity of the organisation.

ottonova's contribution to sustainability (products and services) in the world is the difference you make for your customers by existing. Specifically: what do you do better than other health insurance companies - for example, by making it possible to make doctor's appointments more quickly or by encouraging more preventive measures so that your policyholders are healthier than others. In the first aspect, the impact of your products and services, we are ultimately concerned with the actual improvements for your customers, i.e. real, verifiable improvements in health.


The second point is the sustainability performance along the supply chain, i.e. how you provide your insurance services. For example, how sustainable are your servers, how sustainable are your offices, how sustainable is everything you need to offer your products and services.

Finally, the third aspect is about organisational maturity: how capable and equipped are you as an organisation to consistently implement sustainability at the relevant management levels. We look at this from the normative orientation to the strategic orientation to the operational anchoring.

Christa: Due diligence is about the careful examination and analysis of a company, especially with regard to its economic, legal, tax and financial circumstances. Do you also put the three dimensions you just presented to us into measurable figures or how do you go about it?

Philipp: Definitely. What always surprises people when we talk about sustainability due diligence is that we can operationalise and quantify this topic of sustainability, which is difficult to grasp for many, very well through the various assessment dimensions. Specifically, we evaluate 80 indicators on a ten-point scale. In total, the evaluation result is presented from "Sustainable" to "Red Flag". Between "Sustainable" and "Red Flag" lies what we call "Mainstream Plus" and "Mainstream Minus". The companies we look at fit very well into this range.

Christa: With what consequences?

Philipp: The result of the sustainability due diligence is twofold: firstly, the pronouncement of an investment rating from a sustainability perspective, related to your current performance level, and secondly, a proposed development plan to improve your sustainability performance over the next twelve months. In the investment rating, we give an assessment that reflects the four graded rating results: A consistently positive investment rating from a sustainability perspective, with no significant rating qualifications; the second tier is a fundamentally positive investment rating, with an indication of issues to improve. The third is a rather critical assessment and the suggestion to make the investment only under the condition that the investor is willing to accompany the identified need for transformation. The fourth result is a predominantly critical evaluation with the assessment that the acquisition does not seem advisable from a sustainability point of view.

Christa: And how did ottonova do? What do we do well, where do you think there is still room for improvement?

Philipp: We gave an investment rating in the second category, pointing out issues that still need to be addressed and improved.

Christa: Are these bigger issues or are they things that could be quickly implemented as a "quick win"?

Philipp: We see you in the second assessment category in all three assessed areas, your contribution to the world, your value chain performance and your organisational maturity at all three levels. This is basically good, but there are still issues that need to be improved. The topics we propose to you are aimed at improving a fundamentally good starting point. We have derived three main proposals. In terms of your impact in the world, we suggest that you make your contribution much more tangible - for example, by quantifying how much faster people get a doctor's appointment, how much faster you pay out reimbursements, or which preventive services are actually perceived earlier or more purposefully as a direct result of an insurance policy with you.

In terms of organisational maturity, we had questions about the long-term sustainability of your business model, because private health insurance in Germany is always being questioned. We recommend that you quantify your pioneering role in private health insurance from a system perspective. For example, how much can you reduce your costs through the digitalisation of relevant processes and thus contribute to cost reduction in the health care system and motivate more innovation? Provide evidence and justify your contribution quantitatively. Maybe even set yourself targets. Your raison d'être from the point of view of the health system is the improved service to your insured and that of the pioneering company in relation to the system as a whole.

Our second suggestion is to turn your contribution into a communication agenda and to communicate your sustainability contribution in a comprehensible way, especially in external communication. This will strengthen your communication regarding your contribution to your insured and the health system.

Our third suggestion was to improve your internal processes again, keyword capital investment. What sustainability criteria do you use to ensure that the investment also meets your sustainability requirements and demands? In this respect, our suggestion was that you link the capital investment to clear, sustainability-related requirements.

Christa: We are already a big step further with our updated investment strategy.

Philipp: I think that's super strong. The fact that we are making proposals that you are responding to, and in a very short time. We had the result of the sustainability due diligence at the end of September, now it's November*.

Christa: Thank you. Are there any exemplary companies that you have audited that scored in the top category across all dimensions?

Philipp: There are companies that were in the top category in one of the sub-aspects, in "impact in the world" or "sustainability along the supply chain". In the "organisational maturity" category, companies that have been in existence for a long time naturally do well if they are already a few steps ahead in sustainable entrepreneurial management.

Christa: So, we are doing quite well for a young company?

Philipp: For a young company like ottonova, your organisational maturity is absolutely appropriate and good. A company that receives a no-strings-attached investment rating in the "Impact in the World" could, for example, have chosen a social-ecological goal as its core business content as an impact company - like the search engine Ecosia, which plants trees for every search query. Or, for example, a company that has set itself the goal of improving the school education of people with a migration background or making tutoring services accessible to people with learning difficulties. Even if, for example, the renaturation of agricultural land through regenerative agriculture were the main purpose of my company, then I would be in the best possible category in the first evaluation perspective "impact in the world".

If I then also deliver this social-ecological core business content in an exemplary manner in all aspects along the value chain, then I am also exemplary in the second dimension. Let's stay with a company that makes tutoring services more accessible for people with learning difficulties. If I provide my services in a social-ecological exemplary way, i.e. treat my employees particularly fairly and use a cloud platform that is powered by renewable energy, then I am also very good in my value chain performance in our assessment.

Christa: Philipp, now we know where ottonova stands on the issue of sustainability, but we still need some kind of classification. Let's take a personal look at you: you have just published the book "Green Ferry" together with Katharina Beck, financial policy spokeswoman for the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen parliamentary group. The book is about sustainable entrepreneurial action - and islands. Would you like to explain the connections and on which island ottonova is located?

Philipp: The subtitle of the book is: "The ticket to consistently sustainable business". And that is exactly what it is about for us. How can entrepreneurs consistently orient and manage their companies in a sustainable way? We describe this on three levels. For each of these three levels there is an island group in the book: the normative, the strategic and the operative island group. In our experience, a successful sustainability transformation requires coordinated action at these three levels. The normative island group is primarily concerned with the question of why I do what I do as a company or entrepreneur. What is my motivation and how do I also look at the people with whom I want to achieve this together.

The strategic island group contains eight islands, from location to communication. The location assessment is about exactly what we have just done at ottonova. The first station on the strategic island atoll is to determine where you are, namely to find out for yourself as an entrepreneur where you stand. Where am I already good, where do I still need to change? The second island is then to set goals - whether as a climate goal, a biodiversity goal or at the social level, for example, the payment of living wages along the entire supply chain. The other six strategy islands are about innovation, transformation of the existing product and service portfolio, but also about a question such as the legal form.

Finally, on the operational island group, it is all about doing, about acting, about anchoring the goals in daily activities: from purchasing to production to sales, but also in cross-sectional functions such as controlling or HR.

Christa: And has ottonova conquered a permanent place on each island group?

Philipp: In the context of sustainability due diligence, ottonova has literally conquered the island to determine its location - with our support. To stay in book language, we now invite you to move on to the next island, which is about agreeing on social-ecological goals. And if you ever need new motivation or a breather, there is also an affirmation island with a change-trim path and an encouragement café in addition to the three island groups.

Christa: I see. Finally, something personal - why you, why Better Earth?

Philipp: I have been inspired and moved by sustainability since my childhood. In "Green Ferry" we describe the future economy in which entrepreneurial action is possible within planetary boundaries such as climate, biodiversity, fresh water and land use and for the benefit of all people in a profitable way. At the moment, we are consuming 1.7 Earths, and we had already used up our Earth's quota of biological resources for 2022 by the beginning of August. The economy of the future, however, works within planetary boundaries without overusing the Earth's available capacities and thus exploiting and destroying them. I founded Better Earth to support companies on their journey to this future economy. My work always aims to be relevant to the core business. What I always find great is that when companies ask themselves before consistently implementing our proposals, what change will customers notice positively? In ottonova's case, this means: as a customer, I notice that I get top service with above-average health results for me, and at the same time I have a clear conscience and can enjoy the exchange with happy ottonova employees.

Christa: Thank you very much for the interview, Philipp.

*The interview was conducted at the beginning of November 2022.

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„We see ourselves as digital pioneers in private health insurance. In fact, digitalization and sustainability are the topics of the moment. Sustainability has strategic importance for us; we integrate ESG issues into our strategy-building processes; they are part of ottonova's purpose as an organization. Every innovation and process optimization thus takes on an additional dimension and thus has an internal effect on the corporate culture and an external effect on the way we present ourselves to our stakeholders. With our service-oriented healthcare, we meet our customers digitally, mobile, at eye level, and sustainably.“

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Dr. Bernhard Brühl
CEO of ottonova

Why sustainability?

Food accounts for 16 % of our personal CO2 footprint.

Vegetarians cause about 50 % less CO2.

50 %

of CO2 emissions in everyday life are caused by heating and electricity.

20 %

of the CO2 footprint we induce through traffic and travel.

4.5 tons

of the CO2 footprint we emit through consumption and leisure. That is more than 20 % .

What is ESG?

Sustainability is guided by ESG criteria. E stands for Environment, S for Social and G for Governance.

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What emissions are considered in climate accounting?

Total emissions were divided into three categories (scopes):

Scope 1

includes all emissions generated directly by ottonova itself, e.g. by company-owned facilities or vehicle fleets.

Scope 2

lists emissions generated by purchased energy, e.g. electricity, district heating, etc.

Scope 3

includes indirect emissions, e.g. from employees' commutes or purchased services.

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Did you know that... Europe, everyone produces an average of 8.7 tons of CO2 per year. Our emissions correspond to the carbon footprint of 26 Europeans.

Our actions for more environmental protection

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Ramadama on Earth Day

Earth Day has been held annually on April 22 since the 1970s. A day for local environmental projects. We collected litter together on the banks of the Isar River in Munich. Especially plastic packaging, crown caps and cigarette butts filled our 15 garbage bags.

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Together we walked 6,433 km in the RUNuar and planted 1,287 trees. In doing so, we neutralized 28,314 kg of CO2. That is as much as 75 cars emit per year.

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Company Bike

ottonova offers all its employees the opportunity to get the bike of their choice at attractive conditions. No matter whether eBike, racing bike or mountain bike. With a brand new bike, you'll be happy to leave your car at home more often.