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Interview with Friederike von Waldenfels from SustainNOW

"The trade should think circularly"

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Her interests and work areas are diverse: Friederike von Waldenfels is active as a consultant, investor and member of the boards of sustainable companies. In her SustainNOW podcast, she also conducts interviews revolving around the latest solutions for climate protection along the entire value creation chain of the trade. We spoke with her about Green Retail and the future of e-commerce.

Friederike von Waldenfels © SustainNOW

Friederike von Waldenfels (Image: SustainNOW)

Podcast for climate protection solutions

Mrs von Waldenfels, in your SustainNOW podcast you have conversations with founders of startups and scientists on the topic of innovative, sustainable solutions for climate protection. How did you arrive at the idea for this podcast?

The idea behind it originated while attending various courses at ETH Zurich on themes like the carbon dioxide cycle, energy storage systems, circular raw material models and carbon removal technologies. In the process I found out that there are already many technologies and processes that contribute today to reducing greenhouse gases. Nonetheless, the media often only reports on the problem, but too little about the solutions. This motivated me to interview founders and scientists and to focus on solutions.

Circular thinking in the garden trade (Image: Koelnmesse GmbH)

Circular thinking as a business model for the garden trade

Green retail as a Chance

Why do you believe that Green Retail is comparable with the digital revolution of 20 years ago?

In the beginnings of the digital revolution there were many sceptics who didn't believe it possible to sell furniture or even cars online. Online commerce is now a market of billions. It took time to establish the infrastructure and a belief that such things are possible. I see things similarly with the Green Revolution. Many dealers still hesitate to take a bold step. The circle of customers that is willing to pay more for sustainability is currently still modest – especially in times of economic uncertainty.

What chances do you see for companies in Green Retail?

The digital revolution was primarily a revolution of services, of digital services. Amazon may have grown large through online commerce, but it only became truly successful with AWS (cloud services and the marketplace. I see a similar trend for the Green Revolution – commerce should integrate circular thinking into its business models and expand these with services in order to shift profiles more intensively in this direction.

Circular thinking as a business model

You have many years of experience with e-commerce and the development of special interest online stores. In your opinion, how can digital retail be made more sustainable?

E-commerce or retail in general is basically a very long value chain. In order to make it more sustainable, it is important to look at the entire chain and no longer think linearly, but in a cycle. Every step should be carefully examined: what opportunities are there to integrate the circular model? Where can services be created from this? Retail only works if you earn money with it and see sustainability not as a charity, but as an integrated business model. Companies should establish circular thinking and a service mindset throughout the entire value chain. All levels of management must believe that a sustainable vision can also bring sustainable profits.

Friederike von Waldenfels as keynote speaker (Image: SustainNOW)

Friederike von Waldenfels as keynote speaker at „SCORE! – Swiss Conference for Retail and E-Commerce” © SustainNOW

Future of e-commerce

Where do you see e-commerce in the future, especially with regard to sustainability and climate compatibility?

It is my hope that e-commerce will have advanced in ten years. "Most people overestimate what they can achieve in the short term, and underestimate what they can achieve over the long term." According to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the European Climate Law, we must achieve a CO2 reduction of 55 percent by 2030. The law only applies directly to EU trade in emissions, but it is an enormous challenge for all industries. However, sustainability should not be viewed only as a risk factor, but instead as a chance to reposition. The costs for adaptation to increased temperatures and the economic consequences of climate change are much higher than the investments that are necessary now for the reduction of greenhouse gases.