B.A.U.M. stands for the ‘German Environmental Management Association’ and is Europe’s largest economic initiative for the environment. The B.A.U.M. network consists of more than 500 member companies from various sectors of all sizes.
Prof. Dr. Maximilian Gege, co-founder and chairman of the board of B.A.U.M. is a financial expert and an environmental pioneer. For many years he has been at the heart of the economy, ensuring German and European industrial and political leaders integrate sustainability into their thinking and deliver ambitious solutions to environmental issues. He also teaches environmental sciences at the University in Luneburg, Germany.
Annual Conference and Environmental Awards 2014
This year’s annual conference and awards ceremony took place in the impressive facilities of the chamber of commerce in Hamburg, Germany on September the 29th and 30th. The title of the conference was “More than efficiency: Challenges and opportunities for companies, consumers and politics” with top-class speakers from economics, science, media and institutions presenting and debating about future developments.
The conference was special as it was also Prof. Gege’s 70th birthday. We had the pleasure to pass on our birthday wishes when we interviewed him for our Cut the Fluff blog. Below you can find his responses.
Cut the Fluff interview with Prof. Dr. Maximilian Gege, Co-founder and chairman of the board of B.A.U.M. e.V.
Q1. – What is your definition of sustainability in one sentence?
Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony. It is the fulfilment of the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Q2. – Who is your sustainability hero and why?
One of the pioneers and outstanding personalities in sustainable business management on a national and international scale is Dr. Michael Otto, current Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the retail and services group, Otto (GmbH & Co. KG). More than 25 years ago he established environmental protection and social responsibility as corporate goals. Rather than just focusing on short-term profits he tried to meet a triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social value creation long before concepts such as ethical consumption and corporate responsibility became buzzwords.
Another outstanding personality is Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Töpfer. In his function as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations he heavily influenced and guided environmental policy formulations on a global scale. During his mandate as the Minister of Environment and Reactor Safety in Germany he introduced ground breaking environmental regulations and laws such as the law on the life-cycle economy and the packaging recycling system “Green dot”. This regulation directly puts into practice what environmental economists have labeled as “marked-based” instruments of environmental policy.
Dr. Michael Otto and Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Töpfer have showed decades of commitment and they fought on different levels for the attempt to make “sustainability” mainstream throughout the years. That is why they are my personal sustainability heroes.
Q3. – If you were running a powerful environmental NGO, which issue would be the focus of your first campaign?
I am in the very lucky position to run an environmental organisation and I have the feeling that we have become quite powerful over the past 30 years. Today we comprise of more than 550 members and public awareness towards ecology and sustainability has risen over the years. We have worked on a number of very successful campaigns for a greener economy throughout Europe.
Q4. – What’s the worst sustainability claim you ever heard?
A very famous German tycoon quite recently remarked that green activities could only be realised once economic numbers were in the black. To my astonishment, a great number of highly qualified entrepreneurs have still not understood that the positive economic results they are asking for require a thorough sustainability strategy.
Q5. – What will get us out of this mess? Miraculous technology, tough regulation or self-flagellation?
I would say a mixture of all three. Corporate responsibility is one of the key points here. One has to maintain the balance between economic, environmental and social issues. Sustainable management offers the possibility for new product solutions and business models.
Q6. – If you could approve a law related to sustainability which would be your first?
I think there is something even more important than to enact new laws in environmental legislation, and that is to change the way we think about sustainable society. Changing mind-sets, rather than implementing new laws is the key for sustainable development in the future.
Q7. – “Sustainable brand” – admirable ambition or ad-man spin?
There is still a lot to do. Especially in the field of brand marketing “sustainability” is often used to ease our bad conscience. A sustainable issue is often named a “green” issue and little is left from its original meaning. However, it is an ambition of B.A.U.M. to change something in this sector.
Q8. – What is your message to the Fortune 500 CEO’s?
A sustainability strategy can only be conveyed in a convincing way if a sustainable approach is taken in all fields: This also includes the use of materials in an ecologically sensible way and the reduction of energy use in production processes and product lifecycles. There is also the need for an intelligent office and health management for employees plus a sustainable mobility management, which includes the careful planning of business trips.
Q9. – What is your favorite sustainability website?
There are several sites that I visit frequently like “sonnenseite.com”, “eco-world.de”, “nachhaltigwirtschaften.net” and the page of the German Council for Sustainable Development “nachhaltigkeitsrat.de”.
Q.10 – And… what is your dirty unsustainable secret?
To be honest, a thing that I struggle with…… is that I like to go to Mallorca on holiday… by plane. Even though I know that short airplane trips cause a relatively large environmental footprint I can’t say “no” to being on holiday and relaxing on that beautiful island.