4 questions to…

Alexander C. Schmidt on Kneipp's sustainability ambitions

In our "4 questions for..." series, we talk to our colleagues who are bringing our sustainability ambitions to life. Today, we are featuring Alexander C. Schmidt, Managing Director Kneipp Group.

How is sustainability integrated at Kneipp?

Sustainability is in Kneipp's DNA. Even our founder Sebastian Kneipp said, "Nature has given us everything we need to stay healthy." At the same time, we know how important the topics of 'the order of life and balance' were to Kneipp. In keeping with this, and as a company bearing his name, our aspiration is to respect nature’s balance and to pursue a sustainable corporate strategy. Sustainability is more than a project; it describes the way we shape our corporate endeavors every day. As early as 2006, for example, we had an Environmental Management System for all Kneipp production sites certified in accordance with ISO 14001, and a cross-departmental task force, which has been shaping our path toward greater sustainability in all corporate processes since as early as 2010. For our decades-long commitment to sustainability, we have once again been designated a "Green Brand". For us, the Green Brand seal represents both an award and a mandate. Because standing still is not an option when it comes to sustainability.

Currently, what are your main challenges and opportunities in the area of sustainability?

The challenges are clearly on the procurement side, and not just due to the current global political developments. Sustainable materials almost always require a financial investment, especially when we introduce them to the market in a pioneering role for our products and packaging, such as the paper-blend caps for our lip care. These challenges also offer immense innovation potential and the opportunity for new partnerships – between us as an established company and agile start-ups whose ideas then receive a boost from us.

Challenges and crisis situations are always a driving force for further development. We are currently experiencing this in a very concrete way in our location project for the expansion of our production areas. We have been working on local CO2 neutrality for some time. The current crisis has accelerated this process so that we would like to achieve this goal as early as 2025.

You have already undertaken a lot of projects: but could you elaborate on a specific, current sustainability project?

We have set ourselves an extremely ambitious goal: By 2025, our packaging should be plastic-free. However, so far there is no single, established alternative to plastic. So, the challenge lies in finding the appropriate, sustainable material for all our products that meets regulatory and quality requirements. One of these materials will be the so-called ‘forewood’, which was developed by the Waiblingen-based start-up Rezemo and has so far only been used for coffee capsules. It consists of wood fibers that accumulate as waste or by-products during wood processing, for example sawdust, as well as binders made from plant starch. So, the material is based 100% on renewable raw materials. Our packaging management team is now working on making this material usable for parts of our packaging – initially for the lids of our jars and glass vials.

What are your next steps?

We are working hard to broaden our sustainability strategy even further and have defined target levels and measures around four areas of action: Process, Product, Planet and People. For example, we want to be CO2 neutral in Scope 1 and 2 by 2030 – without any compensation through certificates. For our products, we have devoted more attention to ingredients in addition to the existing targets around our packaging. We will increase the proportion of raw materials from organic farming and push cooperation with Ecovadis-certified suppliers. These projects exemplify a broad commitment to sustainability that will guide us in the years ahead. On this path, we are working closely with all divisions and the Corporate Sustainability Team at HARTMANN.

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