Learn to Destroy Your Own Business

The core area of my work is Life Cycle Assessment along the supply chain up to the end-of-life. The current debate about sustainability and recycling management – especially in the area of Fast Moving Consumer Goods – is characterized by the substitution of materials or innovation of materials while increasing productivity. In short, the current system is not being questioned and there are convulsive attempts to return materials to the biological or technical cycle. This is a good idea and also a necessity. However, this is only the first step in the right direction. But from my point of view, sustainability means much more.

As an example: The city of Berlin alone could reduce its CO2 emissions from 105,000 tons of CO2 to 17 tons of CO2 per year by eliminating mineral water transports only in this small area. This begs the question, what would happen to industry and supply chains? If the drama of climate change increases, the measures will also become drastic. It is therefore well advised to look at sustainability in processes and to take a closer look at the interaction of supply chain products.

These are the short facts

Now we have generated markets with redundant products that are not really needed. After the war we had a demand economy, which we transformed into a consumer economy. With the effect that we created whole industries with jobs.

If we consistently think in a sustainable and circular way and implement this in exactly the same way, then we will be confronted with a broad cascade effect of destruction of entire industries and with a worldwide mass unemployment. If we see sustainability half-heartedly as a circular economy, we will face a very similar problem in 10-15 years. It will not work without an accompanying transformation of existing industries.

Planning the future for companies should begin with knowing how to destroy them. This requires courage and the realization that a circular economy is point 1 – a prerequisite, but not the panacea, and that in the medium to long term, entire industries will have to bid farewell to the scheme X of productivity and at the same time understand their core asset. At the same time, however, legislation is required here. Regulations are not welcome, but will be a necessity.

Raw materials are too cheap and the taxation of labor too high. This is a cybernetic death spiral. Broad sections of the population cannot afford to buy a valuable FMCG. Must look for inferior food, clothing, furniture. The longevity of goods is an illusion here. The health of the population is an illusion. The health care systems devour infinitely high sums of taxes and duties. The damage to health, however, is mainly caused by inferior products. Labor must be de-taxed and resources made more expensive. People must be able to afford better products. More valuable and more durable.

The legislator must ban products that do not meet these criteria.

Long speech, short sense. All innovations in the industry – at least 75% – take place around the existing capex. The machinery and production must be maintained. 20% is real innovation. And only 5% is disruptive innovation.

But transformation is needed. Sustainability without drastic changes in industries will not work.

And the core of my work is to make the company more sustainable now and then to initiate and accompany the transformation. This does not necessarily mean that we will still be producing packaging in 10-15 years. Maybe it’s something completely different, but change from the core.