My interview with Lara Gößmann | Sustainability Manager at WEPA
by Katharina Radloff | Digital Communications Manager, WEPA
Whether it be from our direct customers or the end consumers – when it comes to our products, ever more attention is being devoted to sustainability. At WEPA, we welcome this wholeheartedly, because sustainability has always been one of our three core values. Sustainability is also a central focus for Lara Gößmann, Lindie Feuler and Jan-Niklas Möller, whose daily work at WEPA directly concerns this important issue.
Katharina Radloff: Hello Lara, could you briefly introduce yourself before we talk about the Sustainable Portfolio Compass? And then you might begin with our reasons for developing the Compass in the first place.
Lara Gößmann: Hi Katharina. Yes, I’ll be glad to. I’m Lara Gößmann and I’ve been part of the Sustainability Team at WEPA since December 2021. I’m in charge of our sustainable hygiene paper portfolio. This is the area where we developed the Sustainable Portfolio Compass.
So – what is that, exactly? We asked ourselves how we could analyse our customers’ hygiene paper portfolio with regard to certain aspects of sustainability. That would let us recognise where there is potential to make their product range more sustainable. To do this, we developed the Sustainable Portfolio Compass.
Now we can sit down with our customers and say: ‘Hey, here’s how your portfolio scores at the moment. We’d like to suggest some improvements. Let’s take a look at how we could change the products to enhance their sustainability.’
Our goal is to make our products as sustainable as possible and to be able to offer our customers the most sustainable options – because sustainability is every bit as important to them as it is to us. With the Compass, we can now systematically evaluate our products with respect to specific sustainability criteria.
Jan-Niklas Möller: Hi everybody. I’m responsible for data management and controlling in the WEPA Sustainability Team.
With the Compass, we can examine the entire life cycle of products and make various criteria comparable so that we can systematically evaluate them. This lets us immediately identify where changes would bring improvements. So, when we see that a product gets a high score – or not such a high score – for its sustainability performance, that tells us where we can work to improve the product. Is it a cellulose product, for example, that could be made on the basis of recycled materials? Can it be produced without bleaching agents? Could changes be made to the packaging?
Lara Gößmann: Our approach classifies the products in four segments. We’ve created a graphic that shows these segments clearly. We assign products with below-average sustainability performance to the Deviator segment. Products that have a solid sustainability standard are grouped in the Observer category. And the products in the Driver segment are those that show above-average sustainability performance – they push us forward and help us to achieve our market ambitions. In the very top category, the Pioneer segment, are products that actually set new standards. We’ve set ourselves a goal: to achieve 60% of our turnover with products from the upper two segments, the Pioneer and Driver segments – by 2025.
Katharina Radloff: That’s exciting! A question that occurs to me: why did you choose to call it a ‘Compass’? When I think of a compass, I think of something that gives me orientation. Is that the idea – that it should give the customers orientation?
Lara Gößmann:Exactly. As you just hinted at, we wanted the name to offer an insight into this rating system. So, yes, it’s called the Sustainable Portfolio Compass because it’s meant to provide orientation to us and to our customers. We can use it to guide us to the goal we’ve set for ourselves, and to show where exactly extra effort needs to be focused to make products that are even better and more sustainable.
Lara Gößmann speaks with Christopher Andrießen, Head of Marketing DACH & Poland in our Consumer business unit. Our ‘mach m!t’ products are in the Driver and Pioneer segments.
Katharina Radloff: Okay. And how do you think that will affect the future of WEPA?
Lara Gößmann: : Well, it’s more and more the case that a sustainable business model is also the only economically successful and robust way of doing business. We’re already at a point now where it all goes hand in hand – ecology, social issues and economic success are closely linked and mutually dependent. Sustainability is increasingly a precondition for achieving business success.
At WEPA, sustainability is in our DNA, so we see ourselves as being in a good position. With the Sustainable Portfolio Compass, we’ve developed an additional tool to help us to position ourselves even better.
We’re pursuing a sustainability strategy and goals that will help give us a robust business model over the long term, in a highly dynamic environment. The Sustainable Portfolio Compass is a valuable tool for us on this path. It’s not the only one, of course – we also have our fibre strategy and our energy strategy, which are strongly interconnected. Like those strategies, the Compass is a building block we can use to consciously position ourselves for the future and keep long-term goals for more sustainability – for ourselves and our customers – in view.
Lindie Feuler: Hello from me, too. I’m responsible for sustainability in the Professional business unit, and I work very closely with the whole Sustainability Team.
Something I’d like to emphasise is the subject of the closed-loop economy, which is also really gaining in importance. And with that, the idea that product components and characteristics that contribute to the closed-loop economy should tend to show strong sustainability performance – which is precisely what our Sustainable Portfolio Compass reflects. Our long-term vision – hopefully within a few years or, at the most, decades – is for our customers and end consumers to stand before shelves entirely full of sustainable hygiene paper products and always be able to make the right choice for the environment.
Developing the Sustainable Portfolio Compass: Lara Gößmann in close cooperation with Jan-Niklas Möller and Lindie Feuler, Manager Sustainability Concepts in the WEPA Professional business unit.
Katharina Radloff: Lara, Lindie and Jan-Niklas, thank you for your time and for this compelling conversation.