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Alexandra Hildebrandt, DE

Co-Founder ,,Gesichter der Nachhaltigkeit”, College of Applied Management in Erding Business Psychology and Sports Management, Experts in Sustainability and Football at the Institute of Football Management in Erding

What does ‘Sustainable Entrepreneurship’ mean for you personally?

For me, Sustainable Entrepreneurship is a form of long-term business practice which uses its financial and material resources to realise aims serving the essence of humankind, the environment and society. It is the gateway to a worthwhile future, designed by passionate, creative and open-minded pragmatists who mistrust superficial answers to complex problems. But it also comprises imaginative planning and a sense of proportion for what an individual can achieve.

How deeply anchored is this mindset, in your view, in society, but most importantly of all in the heads of entrepreneurs?

Such a way of thinking is firmly anchored wherever an inner motivation exists, and cooperative systems are developed which take account of a social conscience and true humanity as well as creativity, flexibility and diversity. Guidelines for action and books on Sustainable Entrepreneurship can never take away from a person’s responsibility for concrete action, however. Neither is it something you will learn at business schools or from consultants communicating standardised concepts. This issue takes place ‘between the ears’ rather than on the pages of a book; in the heads of passionate doers, people for whom sustainability is not just a project, but a living process, and a life process.

In your opinion, which industries are leading the field when it comes to living Sustainable Entrepreneurship, and which need to work to catch up?

It’s not a challenge to one industry more than another; it’s about the person, and consistent, responsible individualism. The pioneer is always the person who feels himself called to entrepreneurism, and orients his behaviour, in harmony with his own conscience, towards sustainability. Examples of such behaviour include a sense of proportion, credibility, trust, reliability – values which have marked out the model of the honourable trader since the fourteenth century.

You are the co-editor (together with Hauke Schwiezer) of the book “Gesichter der Nachhaltigkeit” (“Faces of Sustainability”), and the co-founder of an initiative of the same name. What role is your book playing in advancing Sustainable Entrepreneurship?

First and foremost, it is about realising that while it is possible for us to be impressed by figures, we will always be readier to take notice of an individual story. The effect of sustainability lies in the power of personalities with their own, unmistakeable face. This is the only way we can truly understand the complexity of a theme which is not an alternative way of living, but the only one possible way. More than anything else, sustainability is an attitude to life and a stance which needs passion if it to become tangible. At the same time, the faces of sustainability stand for the profundity and content that the superficial almost always lack.

How important is it to you that you exemplify sustainable thinking, and to what extent do you do so?

I often say I like to consider things ‘from the end’ nowadays; I don’t mean they should be related to results, or evaluative, but that they should be related to meaning and a quality of life. Then the focus is directed towards what has relevance for us personally, and connected with what gives it meaning. I always make anything that occupies me my personal concern as well. In that way, hope and confidence are never attached to a position or structures that can change from one day to another. There is always an untouchable core outside these which gives your own life “durability”. So it’s about what is durable and stable.

How do you view Germany’s role and position in developing Sustainable Entrepreneurship further?

There are many good approaches, but to really work it needs the major social levers, and these are not yet being used sufficiently. In this case, too, it is the political classes who must once again be placed in wider contexts: it is not enough to restrict yourself to solving current problems. Good politics needs pioneers who are capable of developing visions and considering the future. We are not yet discussing this theme in a sufficiently intense and serious way. It needs framework conditions that lead to the right people doing the right thing, in order to achieve the right results.

Every year, the SEA honours entrepreneurs for extraordinary projects which allow Sustainable Entrepreneurship to be implemented in practice. What convinced you to support this idea?

Because it is more than just an idea. SEA stands for a sustainable social approach, which is also needed, along with the many small ones, to move and achieve something at socio-political level through strong leverage.

In what way can each and every one of us contribute to increasing the importance and value of Sustainable Entrepreneurship?

By doing and embodying something, and by criticising the instrumental and superficial use of terms like ‘sustainability’. The question every single one of us should be asking is: what makes my own action valuable? What is about my action that makes it important for humanity as a whole? Every one of us is in a position to break down major socio-political themes into the local, to commit ourselves outside our own front doors, and show our faces. That also means revealing ourselves, communicating moral concepts, which can then be shared with others for a common cause.

And our final question: what is the most impressive example of Sustainable Entrepreneurship you can remember?

It wouldn’t be fair of me to all the other committed people to pick out examples. What does stay in my memory, however, is the essence connecting all ‘sustainable entrepreneurs’ with one another: self-determined activity and social commitment. Meaning indicates to them the direction and the realisation that the value of life is assessed along the way, and not just upon our arrival at the destination.