Taking part in the “Green Capital” program

Corporate culture | The “Green Axis” is thyssenkrupp’s contribution to the city of Essen’s 2017 European Green Capital program.

When Jürgen Schomerus gazes around his new garden bed, you can see the pride in his eyes. The site manager from thyssenkrupp Regional Services is working on one of the most unusual and creative projects he’s ever come across in his time at thyssenkrupp: The huge pond at the center of the campus, known as the water axis, is currently the site of an inspired community garden project. The “Green Axis” is thyssenkrupp’s contribution to the city of Essen’s 2017 European Green Capital program.

Community project in preference to sponsorship

The city asked thyssenkrupp as its biggest employer if and how it would take part in the “Green Capital” program. Given the company’s challenging financial situation, thyssenkrupp decided against an expensive sponsorship and instead came up with the idea of a community project which would not only benefit thyssenkrupp’s employees but also highlight our role as good neighbors.

Ahead of the opening of the Green Axis, Schomerus and his team are busy transforming the area at the heart of the campus into a blooming garden. But they won’t be doing all the work. The idea is for thyssenkrupp’s other employees to roll up their sleeves, grab a trowel, and get involved. “We’re leaving a lot of spaces free so that employees can get together, put their ideas into practice and create their own small space in the garden,” says Schomerus.

Labor of love    

A keen gardener, Schomerus is thrilled that he and his team have the privilege of carrying out the project. In just a short time they created a concept that successfully beat off competition from several external firms. “We clearly presented a very good plan,” he says. “And anyway we’re responsible for the maintenance of the entire site, we know our way around. So we were the obvious choice to carry out the project.”

Having so much of the work done in-house not only helps keep costs down but also makes the project a labor of love. The benches for example are being built by apprentices at Steel Europe. And apprentices from the campus are mentoring a school project.

Project has head chef’s seal of approval

In the canteen looking out onto the garden, staff are busy filling the display cabinets with fresh herbs. From the kitchen come the sound of sizzling and the tang of sage and rosemary. Herbs that will soon be found in the new garden. “Our head chef Ingo Kroll came up with the idea of creating the herb garden,” says the head of thyssenkrupp delicate, Bernd Schanné.

Apprentices start a project for everyone to join in

That inspired a project now being feverishly prepared by the kitchen apprentices. Herbs have to be selected, planted and tended. “In conjunction with this we want to offer dishes with these herbs developed by the apprentices themselves,” explains Schanné. “Then later the apprentices can take up position at the herb beds and offer visitors the chance to touch, feel, smell and taste the herbs. It’s a way of opening up a dialogue with our guests.”

 Grüne Achse thyssenkruppBeach volleyball court

People passing by the lawn in front of the canteen shake their heads in wonder. What’s that mountain of sand doing there, some of the employees may well be asking. Christopher Hahmann, Marketing Manager of TUSEM Essen sports club, knows the answer. It’s for a beach volleyball court. At the big sports and family festival on July 22 and 23, it will be the venue for a dodgeball tournament featuring teams made up of professional sportspeople, fans and representatives from several sports clubs.

For Hahmann, it is a question of tradition that TUSEM has taken on the job of organizing the family event. “TUSEM stands for Turn- und Sportverein Essen-Margarethenhöhe (gymnastic and sports club Essen-Margarethenhöhe). Margarethenhöhe is a residential estate originally created by the Margarethe-Krupp Foundation – so there’s a clear link to thyssenkrupp,” he says.

A tournament for fans and professionals

Alongside the dodgeball tournament the clubs will be putting on presentations. And at the same time visitors will be encouraged to join in the fun with activities such as basketball, penalty shooting and target throwing, and a bouncy castle. Fans will have the chance to collect their team’s autographs. The festival is open not just to all thyssenkrupp employees and their families and fans of the clubs: “But to all sports enthusiasts from Essen who feel like dropping by,” says Hahmann.

The beach volleyball court will be available for use before and after the festival too. “It will be nice for employees to be able to burn off a little excess energy here after work,” says Hahmann, who also has good things to say about the rest of the “Green Water Axis” project. “It will provide great new opportunities for school projects and social projects which will see this campus being used in a new way. That fits in well with the Green Capital idea.”

Kids can’t wait to start gardening

Taking a stroll around the building site, children from the Miniapolis daycare center stick their noses through the fence, keen to get a closer look. “Naturally the kids find the building site really exciting,” says the center’s head Claudia Grunwald. “When they finally get to play on the water axis they are going to love it.” For the opening the children from the center have been given their own bed to plant. “They can’t wait to get started,” says Grunwald.

Nothing will end up on the compost heap!

thyssenkrupp gardener Jürgen Schomerus can put to rest any fears that by fall the “Green Water Axis” project will land on the trash heap of history. For him sustainability was always a key priority when developing the concept. “We’ll find a good place for all the plants here at thyssenkrupp,” says Schomerus. “Nothing will end up on the compost heap!” The children will be able to take the planters they filled home with them. The city of Essen will get some of the plants. And the substrate from the pond, huge truck loads of clay, earth and bark mulch, will be used to reclaim the thyssenkrupp waste heap in Herne.

Everyone’s favorite flowers

For now the gardener has to keep digging, to ensure the beds are ready for planting on June 1. And then all thyssenkrupp employees will be able to plant their favorite flowers – or send in seeds or seedlings from further afield for planting. Jürgen Schomerus has his own favorite: verbena, a perennial bearing many small, mostly pale-lilac flowers. “I’ll be planting that myself,” he says. Schomerus is looking forward to adding his own personal touch to the garden. If lots of his thyssenkrupp colleagues join in, the Green Axis community project could become a real garden of diversity.