The German consultant Hachmeister+Partner recently organized its first H+P Sustainability Round Table "Rethinking together” in Munich. Keynote speaker of the event was Christoph Engl, CEO, Oberalp Group, who provided impulses from the world of mountain sports.
Engl is a proven expert who was managing director of Südtirol Marketing Gesellschaft for many years and introduced the umbrella brand Südtirol, among other projects. Today Engl is head of the Oberalp Group, the outdoor apparel and gear specialist from South Tyrol, Italy, that owns brands like Salewa, Dynafit and Lamunt, among others.
He was also one of the keynote speakers at the round table, to which the management consultancy Hachmeister+Partner (H+P) has invited a dozen representatives from industry and commerce, universities and start-ups to network, to discuss and rethink how to approach business together.
Unlike the recently held Textile Wirtschaft Sustainability Summit, this even was primarily about exchanging experiences and bringing different perspectives together. Keynote speeches by Christoph Engl and retailer Marc Ramelow opened the event, and it concluded with a design thinking session on the second day, where participants were asked to develop a new product in two project groups, and think beyond just the product.
Franziska von Becker from H+P liked the image of the lump. So far, however, she preferred to talk about a tree to illustrate the idea of sustainable business. "Originally, the idea of sustainable management comes from forestry. You only take as much out of the forest as you can replant,” she said. Von Becker joined the German consultancy earlier this year; previously, she was a member of Armedangels' management team as chief product officer, and she is expected to help drive the issue of sustainability at H+P.
The ambitious goal of Oberalp Group was to reach Net Zero Emissions by 2030. "We could easily afford climate neutrality as early as next year. But we don't want that. We want to train, and improve in the design of products.”
As responsibly as people in the mountains have always handled stale bread, he said, companies need to think in terms of products, operations, processes and business models. In business models that go beyond just selling products. "Customers don't buy a product. They buy your idea," Engl believes.
The Oberalp Group has launched its first projects primarily not focused on selling products, but on providing services. For instance, it created a care station in the Salewa store in Munich, for example, to repair and, therefore, to ensure that products can last as long as possible.
It has also launched the Alpine Campus. Started as a training concept for Salewa's own employees, it has then become a tour provider for all interested partners.
All these initiatives are certainly more obvious for a mountain sports specialist than for a fashion supplier. Though, how to reconcile the principles of "reduce, reuse, recycle" with the fashion industry is something that representatives of all the companies participating at the workshop - From Betty Barclay to Dr. Bock Industries, from Ahlers to Bültel, from Mac to Seidensticker, from Henschel to Ramelow - were thinking about.
Better than not acting at all for fear of possible greenwashing accusations. "We don't say we're perfect, either. And we have never been confronted with such accusations so far," Ramelow reported. At the same time, he says, he has experienced that some customers do ask whether a product is sustainably produced, but they often don't want to know exactly and in detail about it. Similarly, the interest of the local press in a press event on the achievement of climate neutrality was practically near to zero.
Ramelow also no longer likes to use the term “sustainability”. He prefers to talk about a balance of corporate responsibility with economic profit and ecological and social responsibility. In simpler terms: people, planet and profit - you can't have one without the other. The conflicting goals that go hand in hand with this also become clear again and again in this round. When industry representatives report on complaints from retailers who on the one hand demand CO2-friendly shipping, but then complain about wrinkles in the goods transported horizontally.
They also complain about the excessive cost of more sustainable materials in times of exploding procurement costs, when retailers think about how reducing CO2 becomes part of a profitable business model and when a producer points out that his company naturally depends on further growth to survive in global competition. And also when the representative of the recycling start-up explains to those present why they should not pin all their hopes on recycling.
The need for discussion is immense. And so, this first round is only intended as a prelude to regular meeting so that the circle closes, at least on a small scale.