“We privatize success and socialize environmental costs.”
Dirk Gratzel was the first person to have his eco-balance calculated down to the last cent and wants to completely offset his environmental costs. With his Green.Zero company group, he wants to encourage companies to follow his example. In this interview, he talks about the dilemma of economic success through wear and tear on the environment – and where managers should start withsustainable transformation.
Dirk, you had your own life cycle assessment calculated. What was the result?
I used to travel a lot as an entrepreneur, especially flying, and ate meat regularly. This lifestyle takes its toll, so I had my own personal eco-balance drawn up by the scientists at TU Berlin. This includes CO2 emissions, but also other factors. This is very important, because only the complete life cycle assessment gives you a complete picture of all environmental emissions.
But to stay with the CO2 emissions, because they are very tangible: In my 54 years of life, I caused more than 1100 tons of CO2, which is many times more than the average person should cause if we want to achieve the 2-degree target. That would be only two tons per person per year; in my case, it was more like 24 tons per year.
What did this result do to you?
I realized right away that I couldn‘t carry on like this. I then discussed with environmental organizations like NABU and WWF how I could reduce my footprint. We found 60 measures, from renovating my house to taking the train instead of flying or eating a vegan diet. I now only buy new clothes when I really need them. That‘s how I was able to reduce my footprint to six tons per year – that‘s all I could achieve in our Western consumer society. So I thought: How can I offset the six tons per year – and the thousand before that? That was complex.
I calculated how high my environmental costs would be. There is a European procedure for monetizing environmental emissions, and I came up with the equivalent of 350,000 euros. That‘s how much I would have to invest in renaturation and rebuilding the environment to reduce my footprint to zero. So I realized: it‘s going to be pretty expensive.
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