Marcus Poellinger on sustainability
"We can change a lot for the better."Marcus Poellinger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BayWa AG since April 2023, on milestones and opportunities for the company in terms of sustainability.
BayWa was founded 100 years ago. How has BayWa managed to be successful in the long term?
Marcus Poellinger: Although BayWa was a stock corporation from the very beginning, it is rooted in the cooperative system and its set of values. This is inherently designed for the long term. Many of the things that we associate with sustainability today can be found in cooperative values. I would mention partnership, solidarity, fairness, and responsibility. This is what we have stood for for 100 years, and it helps a great deal in dealing with one another in a spirit of trust in times of crisis. Both with our customers and with our employees.
What were important milestones in the company's history in developing sustainability at BayWa?
It is almost impossible to single out any one of the many important steps and decisions of a century. Let me try it this way: BayWa has evolved from an agricultural trading company to a partner in agriculture, energy and construction by bringing many innovations to the market. From tractors replacing horses to Agri-PV and satellite technology today. An enormously important step was the entry into renewable energies, from which the Group as a whole benefits.
BayWa r.e. is an important earnings generator, and also has enormous symbolic power. Here we are at the forefront of shaping a climate-friendly future. Last but not least, I would like to mention the internal CO2 price that we introduced across the Group at the beginning of 2023 as part of the climate strategy in order to anchor climate protection even more firmly in our internal processes as well.
What role does sustainability play in the Group's strategy?
Today, it is less possible than ever for a corporate strategy to function without the end-to-end integration of sustainability. On the one hand, because of the requirements of customers, whether private or business, and on the other hand because of the regulatory framework, which is increasingly demanding sustainable business practices. How an employer is positioned in this regard is also playing an increasingly important role in attracting employees. Incidentally, I believe that this doesn't just affect Generation Z.
How are sustainability and climate change changing BayWa's business models?
Since we have been following this path for a long time and out of inner conviction, we do not have to change abruptly. We go with the markets, we go side by side with our customers. I will make sure that we maintain the lead we have over the competition in many areas. Climate change is impacting our business models in various ways, for example in the agricultural sector. Here, for example, we are focusing on innovations with smart farming solutions.
In the construction sector, too, sustainability is both an obligation and a business opportunity for us. No other retailer in Germany has as much data transparency on the environmental footprint of building materials as we do. This enables us to draw up the carbon footprint of a building project for investors and builders in the planning phase and thus help them make a sustainable choice of building products.
Where do you see the greatest challenges in terms of sustainability for BayWa in the future?
And where the greatest potential? Marcus Pöllinger: There is no simple answer to the future challenges. We have seen through the war against Ukraine how quickly supply situations and economic conditions can change. And as a result, attitudes on issues like nuclear power. The path to sustainability is a huge social, political and economic task. In everyday life, this path consists of many small steps.
I also take seriously the small contributions that our customers and we can make together. At the same time, this is where the greatest potential lies: that we convince our customers to become more sustainable in all dimensions with our products and solutions and thus create added value.
Why is it so important for BayWa to drive sustainable transformation?
Every company has to change again and again, including us. Otherwise, others will pass you by. For BayWa, this ongoing development is so important because we offer solutions for basic human needs: Food, housing, energy. We can change a lot for the better, and we want to and will use this leverage.
As the new CEO, what is particularly important to you in terms of sustainability?
Since I have been working for BayWa for 15 years, my attitude and motivation have not changed as a result of my appointment as CEO. I naturally feel the special responsibility that comes with the office, especially for the orientation of the Group in terms of sustainability. I want to live up to this responsibility. We at BayWa will continue to make visible progress on this issue.