MBA Sustainability Management: Wolfgang Schötz - My Friend Makumba

2021-08-30 With the Krombacher rainforest project, the marketing expert developed one of the most highly regarded advertising campaigns of the 2000s. Today, the 55-year-old is head of sustainability at the Sauerland brewery. Having reached the top of the career ladder, Wolfgang Schötz is studying the part-time MBA programme Sustainability Management at Leuphana Professional School: "The knowledge is valuable to me. I want to develop myself further and make my contribution."

Wolfgang Schötz ©© privat
Wolfgang Schötz

Walking bent over, not looking into the eyes, throwing himself to the ground in danger to show submissiveness: Wolfgang Schötz actually knows what to do when encountering a silverback in the rainforests of Central Africa. The marketing expert launched the Krombacher Rainforest Project in 2001 and has therefore visited the protected area on the border of Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Congo several times. He often roamed the bush or savannah with local people ("pygmies") and observed animals: parrots in the trees, forest elephants at a waterhole or lowland gorillas in a clearing. The men had often noticed the apes, but never paid attention to them. But on this day everything was different: Makumba, as the villagers had christened the silverback, came up to the group and sat down in the grass only a few metres away from Wolfgang Schötz: "At that moment I forgot all the safety precautions I had learned. Makumba and I looked into each other's eyes for minutes. A muscleman, his head four times bigger than mine. The gorilla knew he was the stronger of the two of us." That encounter was several years ago now: "It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Makumba is my friend," says Wolfgang Schötz.

The finance and marketing graduate looks back on a long, successful career at various breweries, gained experience in sales and climbed higher and higher on the career ladder. The Krombacher rainforest project, however, is probably his biggest PR throw: "At the beginning of the 2000s, the management wanted a campaign that focused on nature. So far, we had worked a lot with box giveaways like mini trucks or bottle openers. Now I planned to establish a non-material giveaway. It was a risk," recalls Wolfgang Schötz. But the calculation worked out: one crate of beer equals one protected square metre of rainforest. To date, the area measures about 100 million square metres. The project is being managed together with the local population. "We were able to win the WWF as a partner. They understood our idea immediately and had no fear of contact with industry," Schötz recalls. Günther Jauch became the face of the campaign: "We needed someone who was credible and could convey our idea. Günther Jauch was perfect. He would have been elected Federal President at that time." The campaign continued until 2008 with other celebrities such as Steffi Graf, Rudi Völler, Ottfried Fischer and Dirk Steffens. According to its own figures, Krombacher has invested 14 million euros in environmental projects to date.

Wolfgang Schötz has made his contribution to this: Having actually reached the top, the then Krombacher marketing director wanted to know it again in 2018. "I was always close to nature, but the rainforest project, the trips to Africa, Indonesia and the encounters there with people and animals raised my awareness. So I mustered all my courage and suggested to the Krombacher management to establish a sustainability management staff position," Schötz recalls. Not only was he able to convince the management, but he also became head of the department: "This is my thing. I burn for the topic of sustainability," says Schötz. Time for another unusual step: Wolfgang Schötz met Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Stefan Schaltegger, Professor of Sustainability Management and Head of the Centre for Sustainability Management (CSM) at Leuphana University Lüneburg. The scientist is also chairman of the Krombacher Sustainability Council: "Professor Schaltegger suggested I study sustainability management at Leuphana."

In the meantime, Schötz will soon begin the third semester of the part-time MBA Sustainability Management: "We also have to develop further as a company and the specialist knowledge I have acquired helps me to argue professionally. Before, I wasn't sure of what I was doing. My studies benefit the company tremendously." For example, he has used his newly acquired knowledge of energy and resource management to initiate photovoltaics at Krombacher: "We can use solar thermal energy to heat brewing water," explains Schötz. In addition, the course is being set for the establishment of biogas and wind energy: "We are currently calculating how we can implement that." The brewery has been climate neutral since spring but wants to push decarbonisation by 2040. In addition, cooperation with NGOs is ongoing, such as drinking water projects in Kenya and Malawi. But sustainable human resources management is also close to Wolfgang Schötz's heart.

For Wolfgang Schötz, studying the MBA Sustainability Management is more than a professional matter: "The knowledge is immensely valuable to me. I want to develop myself further and make my contribution."

Gorilla Makumba ©© WWF
Gorilla Makumba

The MBA Sustainability Management qualifies students to implement sustainability in an entrepreneurial way. The world's first "Green MBA" has been empowering students with knowledge and tools for tomorrow since 2003: with know-how on CSR and sustainability management, innovation management, entrepreneurship as well as soft skills and a strong network. More than 700 students and alumni and numerous practice partners form the largest network on the topic of sustainability management. Interested parties are invited to a Digital Q&A Lunch Break with students on 2 September.

The application deadline for the study start in spring 2022 is 30 September 2021.