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Bayer and UNEP Launch Partnership for Youth Environmental Projects

The Bayer Group has become the first private-sector company to partner the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in environmental projects for young people.

Under an agreement signed by Prof. Klaus Töpfer, executive eirector of UNEP, and Werner Wenning, chairman of Bayer's management board, Bayer will provide annual funding of around EUR 1 million and additional nonfinancial support to promote environmental projects for young people in collaboration with UNEP, initially for a three-year period.

"As a research-based enterprise, Bayer traditionally places great emphasis on promoting science education for young people," explained Wenning. "We have therefore been actively involved in environmental programs for young people for many years. Through our international cooperation with UNEP we will be continuing to support specific projects geared to strengthening young people's environmental awareness and improving their knowledge of the environment. This is particularly important in countries where environmental protection is not accorded the same priority as it is in Germany."

Bayer and UNEP have worked together on specific projects in the Asia-Pacific region for many years. Today's cooperation agreement will serve as a basis for them to step up current projects, transfer successful initiatives to other countries and develop ideas for new projects in this field. At the heart of the partnership is the Young Environmental Envoy Program, where young people visit Bayer to learn about sustainable development and various methods of environmental protection. They are expected to pass this knowledge on when they return to their home countries. The activities to be built up over the next few years include a range of other initiatives for children and students, local environment forums and the Environmental Prize for Media, an award for young journalists introduced last year. Cooperation will focus on the Asia-Pacific Region, Latin America and Central Eastern Europe.

Dr. Udo Oels, the member of the Bayer Management Board responsible for Innovation, Technology and the Environment, presented the company's latest Sustainable Development Report. Building on the group's former Environmental Reports, it provides key environmental, safety and health data, supplemented by information on the company's commitment to social projects. The Bayer Sustainable Development Report 2004, which was validated by two independent reviewers, contains data from 444 sites worldwide.

The Bayer Group has made a substantial effort in the field of industrial environmental protection, investing more than EUR 16 billion in the construction and operation of environmental protection facilities over the past 12 years. Despite rising output, the company has managed to reduce emissions and waste significantly through production processes that minimize the use of resources, waste avoidance strategies based on product-integrated environmental protection and the use of optimum waste management technologies.

In the area of greenhouse gas emissions, which could lead to global climate change, Bayer has already exceeded the ambitious targets set by the Kyoto Protocol and the Commission of Enquiry set up by the German government: the goal was to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 25% from the 1990 level by 2005 and by 50% by 2020. So far Bayer has reduced its emissions by more than 60%. "We have achieved this dramatic reduction ahead of schedule by modifying processes, utilizing state-of-the-art technologies, shutting down older facilities and using new power plants fired by gas rather than coal, which makes them more efficient while reducing emissions of harmful substances," reported Dr. Oels.

The Sustainable Development Report also shows that Bayer has made enormous progress in protecting surface waters. Chemical oxygen demand has declined by 80% since 1992. In the same period total water consumption per metric ton of commercial product declined by 40%. By far the highest proportion of water -- about 85% -- is used as cooling water in production processes and is thus not contaminated. Careful treatment of process effluent and sanitary wastewater has reduced contaminant loads by about two-thirds since 1992.

The total volume of solid waste has also declined substantially: since 1992 it has more than halved. Dr. Oels: "That is mainly attributable to improved production methods and recycling processes that minimize residues and allow recovery of valuable raw materials for reprocessing."

The responsible use of natural resources is becoming increasingly important within the context of sustainability. By systematically implementing new energy-saving measures, Bayer has reduced energy consumption by a fifth in recent years.

As well providing an overview of targets that have already been achieved, the new Sustainable Development Report contains an extensive range of targets for the future that Bayer intends to be used as a measure of its performance.

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