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Florian Haslauer, AT

Partner at A.T. Kearney Ges.m.b.H.

What does sustainable entrepreneurship (SE) mean to you personally?

For me, sustainable entrepreneurship means the orientation of entrepreneurial activities and the management of organisations towards sustainable goals. These objectives could involve the conservation of resources or the pursuit of long-term goals instead of short-term optimisation.

How firmly rooted is sustainable entrepreneurship already in people’s thinking and, above all, in the actions of entrepreneurs?

It already exists in certain areas. Still, I do detect a discrepancy between what most people say and what they do. Besides, it’s also a question of affordability, for instance with regard to the consumption of food. As far as business goes, I am convinced that switching to sustainable entrepreneurship must be profitable for companies, otherwise it will not gain widespread acceptance. When Google, SAP and Deutsche Bahn announce that they will be using only renewable energy in the future, they do so expecting that the associated signal effect will influence their customers and employees positively in the long term. These positive effects exceed the additional costs. The result is ‘sustainable business models’, i.e. the change gives the companies business advantages. I believe that sustainable entrepreneurship will be widely adopted if ‘sustainable business models’ can be developed.

Which sectors do you think are doing the most in terms of sustainable entrepreneurship, and which have a lot of catching up to do?

The question for me is, in which sectors can ‘sustainable business models’ already be developed and implemented today, i.e. where are the conditions conducive to gaining economic advantages from sustainability? As far as I can tell, it’s the consumer goods sector and the end customer service sector, for instance, in which such business models are already on the rise. Consumers are aware of the topic and will increasingly favour the products of companies that act sustainably. Those sectors that have a large share of knowledge workers, such as IT service and telecommunications, are also in a good position to implement ‘sustainable business models’, as they stand to gain in terms of recruiting and retaining key employees.

Which initiatives does A.T. Kearney have to promote a sustainable economy? How can a global leader in consulting contribute towards making the economy and society more sustainable?

A.T. Kearney already defined a sustainability strategy in 2007 and was the first global consultancy to make carbon neutrality its goal and also to achieve it in 2010. Every year we calculate our CO2 footprint and implement internal reduction measures. In order to offset our remaining CO2, we invest in CO2 reduction projects that we chose in an extremely elaborate selection process.

The Club of sustainable entrepreneurs – Verein für nachhaltiges Wirtschaften awards the SEA to projects that are outstanding examples of sustainable entrepreneurship. What do you think of this initiative?

I believe it’s extremely important to show examples of how companies can be built up and managed successfully with sustainable business practices. In addition to innovation, qualification and productivity, sustainability is becoming an important success factor for the Austrian and European economy to hold its ground in the face of global competition.

And lastly, a personal question: Which is the most memorable SE project you’ve ever heard of – and why?

We are already handling projects that are directly connected with sustainability for many of our customers. Examples range from a global sustainability strategy for an internationally operating consumer goods company, and the optimisation of logistics and production efficiency with the associated savings in terms of costs, energy consumption and CO2 emissions, through to the development of business models for successful growth e.g. in the area of renewable energy. A specific example that touches on all these points was our support of a globally operating consumer goods company in implementing a sustainability strategy. The goal was to increase the share of renewable energies in the power supply. To this end it was necessary to define the optimal technology and project and/or supply options for the very distinct international locations, so that the highest possible share of renewable energy could be achieved at the lowest possible cost. The solutions comprise both the investment in an own system as well as the development of partnership models with regional providers, which can often deliver energy from local renewable sources at a lower price than would be possible if the company made investments itself.