Sustainable development in companies: green aspiration, green reality – economy

Environmentally friendly management is important to them – this is what many companies are claiming today. Even oil and chemical companies, whose business models are anything but green per se, are getting involved. But companies also face headwinds if they don’t keep their promises. The most recent example is the Anglo-Dutch group Shell, which a court in The Hague has forced to stricter CO targets.

This begs the question: how green are companies really? Experts estimate that the share of socially and environmentally oriented companies in Germany is currently only around ten percent, although most large companies now publish sustainability reports. The problem with this: “There are no generally applicable standards as to what exactly defines a green business,” says critical growth economist Irmi Seidl, who teaches among other things at the University of Zurich. “There is also hairdressing, with a lot of money and good consulting firms you can achieve impressive results.”

At the SZ Sustainability Summit on Friday, representatives from companies BASF and Baufritz as well as environmental and consumer organizations Greenpeace and Foodwatch led a lively debate on green aspirations and the green reality.

“The whole concept is misleading and presumptuous.”

The agricultural and chemical group BASF was recently criticized for exporting highly toxic pesticides. Saori Dubourg, member of the board of directors in charge of the fields of plant production, food and health as well as the cosmetics and detergents industry, defended the group’s affairs. Such funds are essential in Africa, for example, to avoid massive crop failures. She referred to the group’s sustainability goals and pointed out that ecological crop protection has meanwhile become one of the most important areas of research for the group. The group also attaches great importance to respect for human rights. “We are built on a triad of environment, social impact and economic transformation,” she said.

Thilo Bode, Managing Director of Foodwatch International, strongly criticized BASF’s sustainability model. “The whole concept is misleading and presumptuous,” he replied to the director. The deciding factor for him is business: BASF continues to sell many products that have been shown to be harmful to the environment, climate and biodiversity, Bode said. He also questioned the company’s social commitment and spoke of BASF’s resistance to German supply chain law. Dubourg, on the other hand, felt that BASF did not see the German law as timely. “We support a global supply chain law,” she said. However, that is not yet in sight.

Dagmar Fritz-Kramer, managing partner of Baufritz, a pioneer in the ecological construction of wooden houses, explained what it means to make a company fundamentally sustainable. The renovation started in the 1980s. “That’s when we started to question everything,” she added. All building materials have been checked to determine if they are environmentally friendly and healthy. According to Fritz-Kramer, Baufritz has been working in a climate neutral manner since 2018. She criticizes the lack of ambitious targets for environmental and climate protection in the construction sector, while significant CO₂ savings would be possible in the construction industry. ‘industry.

“A logic of prohibition alone will not help us.

According to Bode, chief executive of Foodwatch, even sustainable business models need to be challenged. “Wood is a renewable raw material, but it can still be scarce,” he said. Martin Kaiser, second managing director of Greenpeace, spoke about the critical state of many forest areas in Germany. “Our forests are overexploited and too compacted.”

There was also a controversial discussion within the group about the force with which politicians should intervene in order to make the economy more sustainable. “Prohibition logic alone will not help us get there,” said the BASF manager. For many businesses, green change also means huge financial transformation. State incentives for innovation are also necessary for this. Greenpeace man Kaiser called for a “clear framework on the part of politics”. Without laws, courts risk having long-term hardship, as the judgment against Shell shows. The oil company appealed the Hague court ruling this week.

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