Metje Rocklage: “Sustainable development in the company pays off, especially in times of crisis”

Professor Rocklage, why should a company be concerned with sustainability?
Sustainability is not only a megatrend, which I can also see from the number of registrations for, for example, our further scientific training to become Sustainable Development Manager (FHM). It is a must. Companies and their supply chains that are not economically, socially and environmentally sustainable will soon face problems.

Why then?
Banks will soon punish unsustainable companies on worse terms or refrain from lending them at all. But even more important is the new EU regulation on sustainability reporting, which will also oblige medium-sized companies to submit a sustainability report from 2024. Small businesses can also be affected as they are part of the supply chains of larger businesses.

It sounds as if the EU is once again regulating too much unnecessarily …
I do not think so. Positioning yourself as a company in a sustainable manner and documenting and controlling it also has many advantages. Sustainable companies find it less difficult to find skilled workers. Today’s young people are often looking for a job that not only brings money, but also matters. In addition, workers may be detained for longer periods.

Why?
Because social sustainability means treating employees reasonably, ensuring their health, job security, adequate income, and family and work compatibility.

Most people only associate sustainable development with climate protection and avoiding waste …
It’s too short-sighted. There is also a social and economic dimension. We only talk about sustainable development when all three dimensions are in harmony. In short: I need to protect the environment, treat my employees well and keep earning money.

What are the other advantages?
The biggest advantage, of course, is that sustainable companies can make a significant contribution to providing our children and grandchildren with a world worth living in. And this ultimately ensures the continuity of the business for generations.

Sounds great, but with today’s energy and material prices, most companies will be happy if they survive the crisis, right?
Sustainable development is especially profitable in times of crisis. How much money can be saved by using renewable energy is huge. Ultimately, it also ensures self-sufficiency against declining fossil fuel markets. There is also an advantage in finding skilled workers.

How do I, as a consumer or business customer, actually recognize sustainability? The word is currently used in marketing in an inflationary fashion.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of greenwashing, i.e. whitening the balance sheets of sustainable development for marketing purposes. I can only warn against it, because it will come out at some point and may destroy the painting. Truly sustainable companies are very transparent and not only are they planting trees somewhere to compensate for reforestation, but they are also making their core business sustainable. That’s where they have the greatest influence to really make a difference. This can be achieved, for example, by reducing material consumption, avoiding certain substances, introducing a circular economy and saving energy.

But there are companies that run quite “dirty” business in an ecological sense. What are they supposed to do?
Each company can position itself sustainably. It doesn’t have to happen overnight either. But they should all be on their way by now.


Facts:

  • The term “sustainability” comes from forestry and is around 300 years old. He states that only as much wood can be extracted from the forest as it will grow back in the foreseeable future.
  • Sustainable corporate action means reconciling economic interests with social and environmental issues.
  • By 2024, all companies in the EU with more than 250 employees, a balance sheet total of EUR 20 million and net sales of EUR 40 million must report on their sustainability efforts – if two of the three criteria apply.
  • There are several reporting standards, including the German Sustainable Development Code (DNK) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

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