The working world is becoming greener. Greener in the sense of more sustainable. How will ecological conscience and social and economic responsibility shape the future of work? An approach to a complex topic.
The Corona crisis is currently one of the greatest challenges facing people on this planet. The good news is that it is manageable, even if it will take us a few more weeks or even months, and the pandemic is raging particularly fiercely in some countries - India comes to our mind. But an even bigger mission for us is to find answers to contain the climate crisis. It is arguably already one of humanity's greatest tragedies. Global warming, which is accompanied by a progressive loss of biodiversity, ultimately also threatens social cohesion and democratic achievements.
Neo-Ecology: more than classc “green” Issues
Environmental protection, resource conservation, CO2 savings, corporate social responsibility - the neo-ecology megatrend is shifting the coordinates of the economic system in the direction of a new business ethic. Neo-ecology is not just about the classic "green" issues, but also about the socio-ecological consequences of our actions: once purely moral, social or ecological issues are being economized. Environmental protection, fair working conditions, the fight against corruption, and equal opportunities are increasingly becoming part of the economic lottery. Consumption is taking place under changed premises of ethical-ecological criteria and sustainability.
Examining the environmental impact of decisions
However, we need to think differently - when consuming, when doing business, when working. We have to be willing to think about what may have seemed unthinkable. Change is possible, but it doesn't happen by accident. "I would like us to ask ourselves in all our decision-making processes what environmental impact this decision has," says Timotheus Höttges, setting the direction for Telekom. "For me, sustainability is also a personal attitude."
As it is for Rosica Scheidt. As a "Green Pioneer", the retail specialist has worked hard to ensure that Telekom's commitment to sustainability is also clearly more visible in the stores. For example, the digital screens are to tell of the #GreenMagenta and #GoodMagenta sustainability labels. And with training and courses, store employees will be trained to become #GreenMagenta ambassadors. Every small change is a big step in the right direction. Rosi Scheid is convinced of that.
Think mobility differently
The climate crisis is pushing us to address changes that are already overdue. Yes, it is forcing us to invest in new solutions. For example, it is clear to everyone that the current form of mobility is overstretching the earth's resources. In Germany alone, more than 40 million vehicles form 1.4 million kilometers of traffic jams every year. Commuters spend an average of almost two days in traffic jams, polluting the air and wasting free time and working hours. And Germany is not even among the leaders. In some countries, it takes four times as long.
New concepts for getting around are needed. There will not be a single solution, but rather a collection of possibilities. The approaches to the future of mobility in cities are very diverse, ranging from mobility stations to cable cars, air cabs, autonomous driving, pedelecs and pop-up bikelanes. The focus here is on linking traffic data.
Some of this are still dreams of the future. But the Corona crisis has shown how amazingly fast change can happen. Keyword home office. Yesterday still a long way off for many companies, today already part of everyday life for many - with a positive contribution to the environment through reduced emissions. Another approach: companies, such as Telekom, support people who come to work by bicycle. This not only benefits the environment, but also promotes employee health. On average, according to a study by the University of Frankfurt, bike commuters miss two fewer days of work per year due to illness.
Traveling less and being more environmentally conscious, working in climate-efficient office buildings are important drivers in the green working world. But even the seemingly small things help: After all, if you want to change the world in the long term, you can start with your habits. Do I really need to print out a document, and if so, do I print it out on both sides? Do I shut down the computer at night and on weekends? Do I avoid plastic bottles and paper cups at work? Does it have to be the currywurst or schnitzel in the canteen again?
Zebras don’t want the big deal
Development that is intended to lead to the better in the long term requires repeated assessments, new thinking, insights, corrections, discipline, practice, patience and persistence. Those who strive for sustainability must endure contradictions and conflicting goals. Thus, more and more zebras are joining the many unicorns in the startup scene. Zebras are companies that prefer to grow slowly, but preferably under their own steam and with their own resources. "Our goal is not the fastest possible scalability of the business model, but the greatest possible impact on society," founder Lisa Jaspers recently told BusinessInsider magazine. Jaspers trades fairly produced clothing and home furnishings.
Technology and growth as gamechangers
Peter Schwatrz, head of the U.S. consulting firm Global Business Network, sees things somewhat differently, arguing in favor of technological growth. In his vision, technological change is the gamechanger: "We once thought that the limits to growth were ecological - a question of resources. But the old logic has been turned on its head: The faster you grow, the cleaner it gets. Old technology is replaced by new technology. We need high growth to make the environment cleaner. That's why there are no limits to growth." High-tech not only brings high growth rates, he said, but also works against world poverty. Information, hydrogen and nanotechnology strengthen the small in a global economy. Futurist Schwartz ("The Long Boom") sketches optimistic scenarios for the future on learning journeys: "Our real goal is to change the way people think."
New distribution of power and money
And then there are a number of entrepreneurs who are thinking about a new distribution of power and money in their companies. Like the Berlin start-up "einhorn products," which produces vegan condoms (see also the New Work film co-produced by Deutsche Telekom "There you go. Shaping New Work"). The company has been responsibly owned since 2019. This separates control over the company from the company's assets - in contrast to traditional corporate ownership. The meaning and purpose of a company have the highest priority. "To liberate the economy, we have to liberate ownership," CEO Philip Siefer is combative. There is still no legal form for "Verantwortungseigentum" (responsible ownership) in Germany. Politically, the topic is controversial. Digital entrepreneur Verena Pausder also has sympathies for the model. In her book "Das neue Land," in which she declares New Work to be everyday life and New Leadership to be the norm, she thinks aloud about introducing a "sustainable GmbH". With an "nGmbH", founders would have to commit to doing business in a climate-neutral way and prove it. They would also be obliged to give their employees a share of the profits - at least fifteen percent. In addition, they would have to invest a prescribed annual volume of donations in social causes. The new form of enterprise would be attractive because it would reduce tax and bureaucratic burdens. The state would provide incentives for investors to invest in them. With the nGmbH, says Pausder, we would consequently strengthen a new social understanding of business and at the same time protect our planet.
Other voices see the idea of responsible ownership as a "prime example of socialism" creeping quietly into our economic life. In the meantime, however, everyone can agree on one thing: Continuing as before is not an option - and a lost paradise to which we can return has unfortunately never existed.