Three questions about sustainability
We live on a wonderful planet. But it is becoming increasingly clear that resources are limited. In order for us to continue to live well, we will not be able to avoid changing our behavior. It is becoming more and more clear how important sustainable development is. We all have to make sure that products are produced in a climate-neutral and resource-saving way and are recyclable. Companies are thus challenged to think of completely new approaches to make their contribution. Anabel Hengelmann has given some thought to this.
Q: What significance has sustainability had for you to this day?
Anabel Hengelmann: We live in an age in which almost everything is possible and available, on the other hand we are aware that it cannot go on forever. This knowledge is very easy to repress and replace by the idea of new technical developments solving it for us. However, Corona has shown us how fragile everything is, how quickly we can still get into a situation we cannot control. The virus has made visible many grievances that have been there for a long time and has brought back into our consciousness the question of what kind of world we want to live in and what kind of world we want to leave to our grandchildren. Here we are in the middle of the sustainability issue. How can and will we, as consumers and manufacturers, behave so that we no longer live at the expense of the next generation.
Q: What aspects should companies take into account when considering sustainability?
A: For companies, it is primarily about producing goods or services and selling them. It is important to offer what the customers want. Customers are rightly paying increasing attention to how and where products are manufactured. Companies are becoming more and more obliged to produce in a way that conserves resources and saves CO2. Thanks to digitalization, many companies are already able to record the exact origin of raw materials and assign them to the individual product. Everywhere new business ideas are emerging about how we can continue to consume in the future but use fewer resources and emit less CO2. Climate neutral factories are no longer utopias. There are approaches in the consumer goods industry, we can return or resell goods after use. In my view, more and more business models and ideas motivated by the idea of sustainability will also emerge in traditional industry. And not just because of political requirements.
Q: What else is needed for such business models to emerge?
A: For new approaches to solutions, a vision and a strategy are also needed, in other words a long-term plan. Often these approaches do not immediately generate profits. Therefore, in addition to the cooperation of companies with research, there should be a business idea with a focus on the future and a passion for sustainability in the company. Owners, stakeholders and shareholders want to be convinced of the advantages of a long-term orientation. Companies that recognize the trends need courage to implement them, leaders with vision and leadership. In my opinion, the topic holds many new opportunities in addition to renunciation and reduction.