Anyone who thinks that their parrot or kitten is not a problem for the environment is wrong. Barbara Bajorat quickly points out: “A pet is not climate neutral – every living thing that walks on this earth has a CO₂ footprint. More than half of German citizens live with at least one animal, but they consume food that needs to be produced. How to do it in the most ecological way possible?
The subject worries many at the Plan W congress of the SZ. Faced with the climate catastrophe, companies, whether family or listed, must ask themselves how they can become more sustainable and remain competitive. All sectors, technology and fashion companies, industry and also the production of animal feed are concerned.
Bajorat is responsible for the Petcare division of the Mars Group, which most people probably associate with candy bars. But Mars Germany produces well-known brands such as Whiskas, Pedigree and Trill. Overall, the company has as big a CO₂ footprint as the country of Panama, says Bajorat: “It means we have a big responsibility. This can be done justice by a large research and development department working on innovative animal feeds: fish feed made from seaweed, cat food made from insect protein, for example. It is important to reflect the innovation appropriately in the price: “In general, everyone should be able to afford to keep a pet.
Allegations don’t help
Jan Schnellenbach agrees. He is an economist at TU Cottbus and protects consumers. People should definitely think about their consumption. “We have a lot of leverage to make people feel guilty. But I don’t think we should be going in that direction,” says Schnellenbach. “If we blame someone for keeping a cat or buying too many T-shirts, we’re not going to get very far.”
Schnellenbach refers to pandemic data. During containment, there was less consumption and less mobility. This reduced CO₂ emissions. But if these low values were to be maintained, they would still not be sufficient to meet the climate targets set in the Paris Agreement. “Conversely, it means: what waiver should the consumer actually make to permanently reduce the numbers? Rather, the economist sees the solution in incentives for people and sufficiently high CO₂ prices for industry.
The topic also addresses the crucial question of whether humanity still needs something more – is zero growth a solution? Schnellenbach says you can’t afford some things without growth anymore, like Germany’s social and pension systems. Bajorat also doubts: Mars reinvests 90% of its profits in the company, thus allowing a lot of research and development. “If growth declines, the resources for radical ideas may be lacking.”
A shock led to change
Sophie Glusac also sees that it takes big throws to position herself more sustainably. She is a consultant at Kearney and deals with the changing world of the fashion industry. She says it’s still “not on screen how much it contributes to environmental pollution,” and it’s in second place after the industry. “If you consider that the world is getting more prosperous and people can afford more, but the fashion industry continues to rely on fast fashion, that is, rapid change of collections, then solutions such as paper instead of plastic bags are not enough. “
At Tchibo 15 years ago they set out to make their business more sustainable, says Nanda Bergstein, head of corporate responsibility for the Hamburg-based consumer goods group. At the time, he faced a massive negative image campaign due to global criticism of the conditions in textile factories in Bangladesh. “It was a great external shock.” He initiated the change, Bergstein said.
Since then, Tchibo has strived to be more sustainable, for example by making textiles without harmful substances. This is also not a disadvantage: “You can do business in a more sustainable way while being economically prosperous,” says Bergstein. Tchibo has retained the trust of customers. As a result, they do not agree with all that is well intentioned: a concept of taking back textiles has not been accepted by consumers.
Open detailed view
“I am convinced that in several years companies will no longer be able to operate in the market if they do not address these issues,” says Nanda Bergstein, Tchibo.
(Photo: Johannes Simon / SZ)
At the Telefónica mobile phone group, customers have long had the option of returning old devices, in stores, but also by post, explains Valentina Daiber, member of the board of directors. There are also joint environmental projects with the Nabu nature conservation association. Daiber would like more information and appeal to consumers, but overall their message is: “We are not as bad as we think.” Telefónica wants to become climate neutral by 2025.
But Daiber also says that sustainability is a task for society as a whole. “The commitment of young people to Fridays for Future is so important because it has placed the subject at the heart of the social debate and encourages them to get involved,” said the member of the board of directors. He receives no opposition.