Learning about lived sustainability

At first the 24 MP participants from Ukraine and Belarus had difficulty imagining that the topic of sustainability would be presented by a company in the business of producing chemical products. But they were simply that much more surprised by what they then learned about sustainability from the firm Dr. Schnell Chemie GmbH in Munich.

The participants learned about the first sign of lived sustainability right at the start of their visit: The fact that the business remains family-run even in its sixth generation, since it was founded in the seventeenth century as Munich Soap Works. Today this medium-sized enterprise is one of the major producers of cleaning products in the B2B sector throughout Germany and Europe.

The managing director Dr. Wolfgang Schnell and his son Dr. Thomas Schnell have taken up the topic of sustainability in all other areas as well. The company was the first in the industry to by certified by EMAS, and it had already completed ISO 14001 certification in 2004. And in social outreach the Munich-based company has shown strong commitment to both the people working there and the wider community.

The employees are one of the main driving forces behind the success of Dr. Schnell Chemie – this is also apparent in the firm’s economic sustainability. The company is aiming at long-term and strong growth instead of rapid expansion and short-term profits. Export manager Ludmila Amikale explained to the MP participants that the company has always been based in Munich and that many of the 260+ employees have already shown nearly 20 years of loyalty to the firm. Olena Kusnezowa from Ukraine, a manager at Ekoplast LLC in Khmelnitsky, was fascinated mostly by the fact that the company went so far as to develop a special hand lotion for its own employees to address skin protection needs.

“The decision to stay in Germany in order to keep quality control levels high (instead of producing in another country to lower costs) inspires my trust in this company. The fact that they have managed to keep a an important customer like Deutsche Bahn for such a long period of time is also evidence that real sustainability has taken root here,” said the MP participant Julia Kovalenko, a manager at Gidroprom Ltd, TMC Nova Tec in Odessa. For over 50 years Dr. Schnell has produced the first environmentally friendly industrial cleaners for Deutsche Bahn. Amikale emphasized the importance of responding to customer needs – because otherwise it would be impossible to maintain such a long business partnership. If, for instance, Deutsche Bahn is outfitted with new trains that have a special paint, the cleaning products will be adapted to minimize any possible damage. This approach impressed the guests from Eastern Europe, and many of them were determined to invest more in their customer and employee relationships following the visit.

A few years ago Dr. Schnell saw how its efforts at maintaining a sustainable company paid off. In 2013 it was voted as the first company from the chemical industry to be ranked among the top three of “Germany’s most sustainable brands”, joining the other winners Rapunzel Organic Foods and Speick Natural Cosmetics.

„Sustainability takes many forms here – an attitude towards the customer, keeping promises, quickly and flexibly responding to customer needs, maintaining production in Germany, careful quality management and much, much more“, is how Oksana Polytska from Style Ltd in the west Ukrainian town of Kalush sums it up.

By Lisa Schäfer
Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria, Westerham