The topic of the environment used to be discussed in the political or know section of newspapers and other media. But the time is over, sustainability, the consequences of climate change, CO₂ neutrality, environmentally friendly and social entrepreneurship – all these are now very important in economic reports, including in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. By the way, reader interest is high – and growing.
There is hardly a company that does not attach great importance to sustainability. However, these matters are not easy, because it is precisely here that the public relations departments and public relations managers of small and large companies want to maintain their interpretative sovereignty. The pressure in reporting is there, and sometimes there is an attempt to influence it – and not just on environmental issues. A position paper from the Young Digital Economy Advisory Board, which is supposed to advise the Federal Minister of the Economy, recently showed what mind games are possible. It has been proposed very seriously that “the press should be disciplined to provide factual, correct and complete information”. The idea has since been withdrawn.
“In the meantime, the last company has also recognized that sustainability has become a selling point,” says Vivien Timmler, editor-in-chief of SZ. But beware, greenwashing is too often to be pitied, we just pretend to be green and we continue as before. There are simply business models – and these are mostly those designed for the masses – that are not sustainable on their own, Timmler explains. “Our job is to critically question everything,” says Silvia Liebrich, editor-in-chief of SZ.
“The reports are always about how seriously companies take the issue of sustainability and how honest they are,” says Michael Kläsgen, who reports on the entire retail industry for SZ. You have to look very carefully. No retail or consumer goods company can ignore the issue of sustainability, for example when it comes to packaging, says Kläsgen, responsible for various initiatives such as the pharmacy chain recycling forum dm. , in which many well-known companies participate, or the entry of the Schwarz group (Lidl, Kaufland) reported in the waste and recycling business.
Penalties, incentives or commitments?
What has to be done? “Lasting change works best where there is social consensus,” Timmler said. Incentive systems would often work better than penalties: “It must be worth it for consumers to behave sustainably. Even voluntary commitments, which are often viewed critically, could sometimes help, says Kläsgen. The volume of plastic bags has declined dramatically since the entire retail industry joined.
But there are still too many forces of persistence, criticizes Liebrich. The economy, as it has hitherto been customary, must be fundamentally challenged. But a lot has changed. Everyone recognized that something had to be done. The pressure is increasing. “We have to change now, otherwise we will be changed,” says Liebrich.