Working for the future together with the first carbon neutral kitchen manufacturer- Keller
A conversation with Sjoerd Gombert, Head of Quality & Sustainability at Keller Kitchens
“It is possible to do business sustainably with the right balance between People Planet and Prosperity. In collaboration with various partners, Keller is working hard to deliver change – to use less energy, less material and offering sustainable alternatives without compromising on quality, service, and health and safety. These initiatives don’t just influence; they define the way our company does business”.
Be part of the solution. Not part of the pollution.
Recycling turns things into other things. It’s like magic!
If you change nothing, nothing will change.
The world is changed by your example; not by your opinion – Paulo Coelho.
Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract – sustainable development – and turn it into a reality for all the world’s people.” Kofi Annan.
Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” Edmund Burke.
Keller Kitchens is well known for offering the widest range of colours (2,050 NCS) and finishes in the European kitchen furniture market; along with a vast range of cabinet options, all produced by the most sustainable means possible. The company was the first carbon neutral kitchen manufacturer in 2017. In 2021, the next step, to be a carbon negative manufacturer, was taken. This initiative will extract 150 tonnes of carbon from the air over a five-year period; 150 tonnes is the equivalent carbon output of a normal kitchen manufacturer making 70,000 kitchens. Another step in the company’s eco-journey sees Keller approaching Level 5 on the CSR Performance Ladder.
Based in Bergen op Zoom, Keller boasts one of the largest kitchen factories in Europe; with a surface area of 65,000 m2. Recently, several major investments have been made into the production facility so that the group optimises today’s technology, raises productivity, and remains at the forefront of the industry in terms of sustainability initiatives.
Here we talk to Sjoerd Gombert, Keller’s Head of Quality and Sustainability.
How long have you worked with Keller?
I have been with the parent DKG Group since 2007 having started as an intern in Projects. This role saw me studying lean management; in effect, making processes better and more efficient. It was a great foundation for what I am doing now; heading the Sustainability drive for the only truly sustainable kitchen manufacturer in the world.
What is your background and how did you reach the position of Head of Quality and Sustainability?
I have always been involved in making Keller different – the Dutch differentiation. I am skilled in looking at how processes, across our entire operation, can be improved; and the past decade or so has seen me focussing on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as our golden thread. I headed the project which saw Keller becoming carbon neutral in 2017.
Why is sustainability so important to Keller?
Sustainability should be important to all of us. At Keller, we are looking to reduce our carbon footprint on our own; not through paying for offsets. That should be a goal for everyone. It is not only a moral necessity; it is also a commercial one.
What were some key points in the process of becoming carbon neutral?
Keller’s goal is to adopt technologies and processes which will maintain the company’s status as a world leading force in the sustainable manufacturing of beautiful kitchens.
Here are some key parts of our carbon neutral journey.
- Generating own electricity.
- No more gas.
- About 8,000 huge solar panels on factory roof.
- Most advanced and energy efficient kitchen factory in the world.
- All new 24/7 robotic warehouse for storing and handling off-cuts.
- All packaging used is recycled and recyclable.
- Sourcing all materials from renewable sources – all FSC-certified.
- Most advanced paint plant in the industry. 24/7 x 365 days a year climate controlled.
- All laser edging.
- All factory and office lighting is LED.
- Recycle kitchens from refurbishments.
- All MDF and chipboard used have a lower formaldehyde emission of E0,5 than European requirements (E1).
- The greening of our entire fleet of vehicles – All electric.
- Turning our carbon emissions into local nature in collaboration with Trees for All and Climate Neutral Group
- Investment in sustainability initiatives with various Dutch universities and colleges.Pictured is Keller Kitchens’ factory in the Bergen op Zoom headquarters in the Netherlands.
What are the hopes for Keller in the next five years – the carbon negative journey included?
Becoming carbon negative is an all-encompassing circular process for Keller; from the materials from renewable sources, to recycling old kitchens, and everything in between. Examples include generating electricity about 8,000 solar panels on the factory roof; using technology such as no glue laser edging and water-based lacquering; recyclable packaging; bio-mass heat/energy generation; greening of the entire fleet of vehicles; expanding local nature and more.
Keller has even created what we see as the future of sustainable kitchens with the Circo! project. Circo! includes all kinds of special details, such as the use of fully circular bio-degradable sheet materials used to produce a kitchen that can simply be deconstructed and transformed into new chipboard for another kitchen or something completely different.
Ambitious goals for me and the team include:
- To launch our green sustainable kitchen.
- To link more CSR goals to the 17 sustainable development goals of the UN.
- To have a fully transparent supply chain.
- To operate in true collaboration with the right partners.
- To continue to be a CSR trendsetter.
- To reach CO2 Performance Ladder Level 5 – by reducing CO2 emissions from within our supply chain.
- To expand our sustainable R&D and product circularity reporting.
- To optimise waste management.
- To continue our Carbon Farming Project with ZLTO where we commit to extract 150 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere over five years by forming carbon chains in the soil and improving its fertility and crop output.
Are there any internal actions that Keller employees can take? What can they learn from you and Keller?
My overall message to my colleagues and suppliers, and friends and family, is that it is fun to seek solutions to reach our sustainability goals – at work and at play. Look at what is in front of you and what you do with it! In our new factory, you will walk on metres and metres of sustainable carpet – so why not have that at home if you want soft flooring? Our employees work in a hybrid office model – less travel for them but it is healthy to meet throughout the week! We encourage our team to talk to their customers, suppliers and friends to keep the conversation going – what are you doing? Any tips? Our mantra is that we need to do this together – everyone. Let Keller be your role model but look inwards too.
If I hadn’t been busy loving life at Keller, I would like to have been a sportsman! I love the gym, and skiing, and support the Feyenoord football team at home – and Liverpool in the UK!
When I was younger I loved nothing more than tinkering and working on cars. I wanted to fix the world – and still do!
I’m also a huge BMW fan. It’s beautiful to see how BMW combines recycled materials perfectly with innovation and luxury. That’s the same thing we do: collect old kitchens and turn them into new chipboard.
For further information, please visit www.kellerkitchens.com.