Do you really wear green socks?
ML (laughs): No, certainly not. Someone said that I probably did a few years ago. It might be an appropriate way of visualising our rather unique commitment in terms of green printing, but it's not a statement I choose to make - and by no means a fashion statement.
Where does this commitment come from? Is it a personal touch of yours?
ML: Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time - if not the greatest. The welfare of entire countries depends on whether we can manage to limit the effects of the climate change. Companies have to take responsibility here, otherwise we stand no chance. That's one reason. The other is quite logical: our customers will only act in an environmentally responsible way if we make it easy for them to do so. Only a small minority are prepared to make an effort. Unfortunately, many still put profits before the environment. This is too short-sighted, though. There is a dynamic relationship balance between economy and ecology. And for companies, conserving resources and using energy efficiently are simply a must.
But compensating carbon emissions by planting little trees in Schleswig-Holstein, like you do with Evers-ReForest, isn't that a little romantic?
ML: Little trees? I like that. This business year, we reached 175,000 trees. Bearing in mind that each of these will compensate about 100 kg of CO2 during its lifetime, the number really start to add up. And Schleswig-Holstein has the least forest coverage in Germany, so it is important that we plant wood-land in the region.
But yes, there were also emotional reasons for developing ReForest as we did. On the one hand, we feel committed to the region as a corporate group based in North Germany, so it is only natural that we would want to do something. Furthermore, the general public and our customers find it easier to get on board with an afforestation project that they can see with their own eyes. They can say, 'Look, this is my forest. I planted those trees.' They can go there with their children at the weekend. Actually, that was the original idea of Evers-ReForest: we wanted to plant trees along the B5 in Meldorf, and we were going to give each one a name. However, that really was a bit idealistic.
How did this turn into Evers-ReForest?
ML: In 2009, a customer enquired as to whether we could offer climate-neutral printing. We couldn't, and we still can´t. In fact, nobody can. With the latest state of the art, emissions are inevitable. In this sense, we are 'only' able to compensate CO2. To claim otherwise would just be window dressing.
Anyway, of course we were also able to buy carbon credit certificates back then. And if customers want us to do so, we still offset emissions from production in that way. However, we found the whole system too abstract at the time. We wanted to know exactly what was happening to the money, and we wanted to see how it was turned into a forest. What followed were discussions with the District Office, and the first afforestation contract was signed in March 2010. A month later we planted our first trees in Welmbüttel, north-east of Meldorf.
Was the project a success?
ML: Yes, in every sense. The tree-planting was so well received that we were able to repeat it in more and more areas between Preetz and Hamburg. Crucially, the independent Thünen Institut took over the calculation and verification of CO2 offsetting in April 2010. This created a highly credible basis for environmental information. In 2011, Evers-ReForest then became an independent company.
Today, our compensation programme includes afforestation and forest sponsorship, and it counteracts the impact of a company fleet and events as well as the emissions from printing operations. We also use FrischLuftPost stamps for everyday postage.
What's the outlook?
ML: This year, we have compensated more than 3,500 tonnes of CO2 through Evers-ReForest alone. And it is safe to assume that this figure will continue to grow thanks to simple activities such as FrischLuftPost. But one thing is clear: There is still a lot of room for improvement. And plenty of space for trees.