Fortunately the number of high-ranking managers and ceos that are actively involved in looking after our planet, the only one we have, and not simply talking about what has to be done is on the increase. However the versatility and consistency of Jochen Zeitz’ commitment is rather unique. Four years ago our author Dörte Welti interviewed him for the first time on his intentions, now she followed up on his progress.
Jochen Zeitz, four years ago we spoke about the fact that in the future companies should in general present an ecological assessment. Here is your statement again on how we should envisage it:
Jochen Zeitz: Up to the point when a product comes onto the market and is ultimately bought and used by the consumer, the manufacturer requires water, uses land, air and produces waste and pollutants such as carbon dioxide (Co2). These elements have to be set at a measurable ratio and transparently measured with a monetary value. Taken together these values give us an ecological assessment, with the same basis for everyone and which can be accounted for at the end of the year, similar to the financial figures. The Environmental Profit & Loss account (EP&L account) in Euros and cents, as it were.
In our conversation four years ago you expressed that it may be possible to introduce a standard that should be legally consolidated as far as possible. What has become of that wish?
There has been progress within the scope of what is possible, but also setbacks, standardization has to take place through political means and at the moment there is little movement in this direction. We also notice in our work that people are incredibly focused on themselves. In general we primarily think of what changes in behaviour or radical measures mean for us, before we think about the rest of the world.
That sounds somewhat disenchanted…
No, not at all, I look to the future and not the past, major cultural changes always take time. Four years ago I said that I hope our generation still experiences companies accepting the responsibility for their actions before the world runs out of air. It is important that we do not wait until something happens, we have to act quickly. Time does not stand still, we have to really live the term “live consciously”, and the environment is changing more and more rapidly. I am still convinced of what I do and how I am doing it. I think that is how something can be achieved, when you act with complete conviction and positive drive, always looking to the future and seeing what is possible.
“NATURE IS OUR CAPITAL, WE JUST HAVE TO MEASURE IT EXACTLY AS WE DO WITH OTHER VALUES IN COMPANIES.”
Do you have to revise your wishes and plans from four years ago?
In part. We have not yet managed to define a uniform standard for the EP&L, which was my hope for 2020. But at least a number of companies submit their own environmental assessment today. There are organisations such as WBCDS* or SDG**, which view and integrate business today as an integral component for the solution of the major problems on planet earth. The climate treaty is also being implemented internationally and even Donald Trump will not be able to change that, as a number of states within the USA continue to consistently follow the right path.
But the ecological assessment is not only a subject for larger companies; it should also be viable for every SME and smaller businesses. Can you explain to us how that can work exactly?
By introducing measurable values both in quality and quantity for the elements, which we all use, regardless of whether we produce shoes, cars or sweets. It’s a good thing that we are thinking of ecological balance at all and that everybody initially acts as they think. In the course of time we can then find out what is important and what is not that important. What could also happen is that a company discovers that production does not work with a new supply chain under ecological conditions. If, for example, I am a manufacturer, who uses too much water at one point, then I have to take this as a starting point to change something. Smaller companies can take the initiative from the experience of larger companies, it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel each time. If it is not measured, in numbers and values, it cannot be managed or may be amended at the wrong point. Then ecological balance remains an abstract term. Nature is our asset, we have to measure it exactly the same as we do other values in the company. It is not enough to love nature, that does not solve the problems we have created.
Why did you stop being an active board member of Kering? It is exactly the kind of luxury brand that can act as a role model and have a pull effect on others and primarily on customers to herald a rethink?
One of the Kering board premises is to have 50:50 parity. If women join, men leave the ship so to speak, the time was up for me and two other colleagues. I hope that others follow in the footsteps of Kering as a forerunner.
And now, with a family – will your scope of activities change?
I will continue to consciously spend every day possible with my family and live as consciously as possible. Processes are accelerating at an incredible pace due to constantly changing technology. And there are more people in the world, who of course bring their own problems into the equation. The cultural shift has not advanced as fast as the technological, there’s still a lot of work to be done. In practical terms that means for me, Segera, the Zeitz MOCAA, The Long Run, the B Team and my diverse board activities in the company and other Not for Profits.
“Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something”, to quote a friend of mine (Johann Ernst Nilson).
I endorse that sentiment. I do as much as possible with the aim of creating a positive contribution in the long term.
There are countless ways to support the institutions and organisations that concern Jochen Zeitz, or at least to follow them. Here is a short selection of the websites that are worth a look:
*WBCDS is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world.
**SDG stands for Sustainable Development Goals.▪
Vision: Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce are the four Cs and cornerstones of the Segera that opened in 2012. Jochen Zeitz is convinced that sustainability is guaranteed when all four Cs are in unison.
JOCHEN ZEITZ – BIOGRAPHY
It is impossible to condense such a fully packed life into a short list. So here are simply some of the publically known, most important stations.
Jochen Zeitz was born in Germany. He studied International Marketing and Finance in Germany, France and the USA, completed his Bachelor in 1986 at the European Business School. At the age of 30 he took over the Puma company as chairman and CEO, the youngest CEO in Germany at the time, and led the sports article company into continued success for 18 years. Subsequently Jochen Zeitz held a position as board member of Kering (parent company of diverse luxury brands such as e.g. Gucci), managed the Sustainability Programme and developed the EP & L, the Environmental Profit & Loss Account. He founded the Zeitz Foundation and the Long Run-Initiative, in 2012 he opened the Segera Retreat in Kenya. In 2013 Jochen Zeitz founded The B Team together with Sir Richard Branson and a number of top-business people from all over the world. He is currently a Board Member of Cranemere and Harley Davidson, the latter has just extended their product range with electrically powered motorbikes. In 2013 the construction of Zeitz MOCAA began, the world’s largest and first museum for contemporary African art in Cape town in South Africa, the opening was at the end of 2017 (Patrons include Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, and the recently deceased Kofi Annan). The list of organisations, which he supports is extremely long, he has written books and won diverse awards. Jochen Zeitz travels a lot, lives with his wife Kate Garwood and kids in Kenya, England and the USA. ▪
Co-Author: Jochen Zeitz wrote this successful book in 2014 with B Team Advisor John Elkington. Publisher: Wiley.
Photos Copyrights: Wianelle Briers, Crookes and Jackson, MOCAA