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Case study: How Wienerberger promotes employee engagement

With 201 production sites operating in 30 countries, Wienerberger is the worldwide market leader in bricks and the number one producer of clay roof tiles in Europe. Wienerberger uses a variety of communication channels and platforms to inform its employees about corporate targets and strategies  Tweet This!, as well as current developments relating to Wienerberger’s shared values: competence, passion, integrity and respect, customer orientation, entrepreneurship, quality and responsibility.

This case study is based on the 2019 Sustainability Update by Wienerberger published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Wienerberger seeks to further strengthen the values of its corporate culture through continuous communication measures and employee involvement, translating them into practice throughout the Group. In order to promote employee engagement Wienerberger took action to:

  • implement an employee participation programme
  • promote industrial relations

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2019 Sustainability Update Wienerberger identified a range of material issues, such as business ethics and compliance, energy efficiency, employee health and safety, climate action, recyclability, recycling and re-use of products. Among these, promoting employee engagement stands out as a key material issue for Wienerberger.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Wienerberger engages with:

Stakeholder Group
Customers and business partners
Investors, analysts and banks
Local residents and local authorities
Organised interest groups
Research institutions and universities
Media and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Wienerberger carried out an online survey among both internal and external stakeholders, inviting nearly 500 stakeholders to participate – 80% of them external stakeholders.

What actions were taken by Wienerberger to promote employee engagement?

In its 2019 Sustainability Update Wienerberger reports that it took the following actions for promoting employee engagement:

  • Implementing an employee participation programme
  • In 2019, Wienerberger created an opportunity for its employees to become co-owners. As a first step, the employee participation programme was implemented in Austria in a pilot run. All employees having been employed by any of the participating companies under an active civil-law employment contract of at least twelve months were eligible for participation. Employees in Austria were thus offered the opportunity to acquire Wienerberger shares on very attractive terms, via the private foundation managing the programme. In accordance with the legal provisions, the foundation holds the shares in trust for all participating employees and collectively exercises their voting rights as shareholders. The opportunity was taken up by a large number of employees, as the relatively high rate of participation showed. In 2020, the employee participation programme is being rolled out to other countries. In the second round, employees in Austria, Great Britain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic have the chance to become co-owners.
  • Promoting industrial relations
  • Wienerberger employees in Europe as well as in non-European countries are covered by a broad range of provisions, such as laws and regulations, collective bargaining agreements, wage agreements, trade union agreements, works agreements or individual arrangements. The Wienerberger Social Charter, which confirms the company’s commitment to compliance with the relevant conventions and recommendations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), was signed in 2001 by the Managing Board of Wienerberger AG and the chairman of the European Forum, a social partnership body, in Strasbourg. Through this charter, Wienerberger demonstrates its global commitment to the respect of human rights, fair working conditions, payment of adequate remuneration, the avoidance of excessive working hours, permanent employment relationships and respect for the freedom of assembly and the right of employees to engage in collective bargaining. In 2019, about 72% of all Wienerberger employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Additionally, in 2011, the European Works Council was established, as the successor to the European Forum. The goals of the European Works Council are to engage in constructive social dialogue and to facilitate networking among local bodies representing employee interests. Other important objectives of the European Works Council are to improve workplace conditions (protection of employees against hazards, implementation of safety standards) and to protect the health of employees. The European Works Council also strives to ensure fair and just remuneration. Currently, 11 countries are represented on the European Works Council by 34 delegates. The Steering Committee of the European Works Council includes five elected delegates from Austria, France, Poland, Hungary and Great Britain. The European Works Council meets twice a year, and the Steering Committee also holds at least two meetings a year. Moreover, several employee representatives are members of the Supervisory Board of Wienerberger and, as such, are closely involved in the strategic development of the Wienerberger Group. A Group Works Council with employee representatives from all Wienerberger companies was also established in Austria in November 2013. It currently has eight members and meets at least four times a year or more often, if required. Similar structures also exist in other European countries. Employees in North America are represented by their trade union and, in Canada, by a works council.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standard addressed in this case is: Disclosure 407-1 Operations and suppliers in which the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining may be at risk

Disclosure 407-1 Operations and suppliers in which the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining may be at risk corresponds to:


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  • Identify your most important impacts on the Environment, Economy and Society
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1) This case study is based on published information by Wienerberger, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:


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