Image courtest Bullfrog & Baum
Surrounded by the pastoral woods and lakes of Germany's countryside, Wolf Luedge lives with his wife, six-year-old daughter, and his Labrador retriever. Though his love for the outdoors and a country lifestyle inspires his work, he isn't exactly living like Thoreau. As CEO and managing director of [long-standing] sustainable clothing line Hessnatur, which has recently brought sales to the U.S., Luedge is driven to grow the brand in a responsible manner. To do so, he follows a simple rule of thumb: Who we are and what we wear should be pure, respectful, and authentic. Just what does take to charge up an eco-conscious company? Luedge explains the challenges and rewards.
How did you get into this line of work?
After studying business economics and working with a bank in Frankfurt for several years, I realized that I needed to balance my business life with my beliefs. Authenticity has always been a core value and so I joined Hessnatur.
What was your a-ha moment?
I grew up surrounded by and involved with nature. I was always green—even before I consciously realized it. But when I began working with Hessnatur in 1996, I knew that, for me, ecological commitment was essential
Who is your green hero?
I have two: Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister, and Al Gore. Both have used their positions of prestige and power to make a real difference for the earth.
What is your ultimate green goal?
To create awareness that every single consumer decision we make has an impact on the environment, on the world and its people.
What is your motivation?
My kids. It is their future. So every business decision I make reflects the need to change how we do things and why. I believe this should motivate all of us.
What is most important to you, ecologically speaking?
To save our environment and protect the health of everyone whose lives our company touches.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
To strive for the changes others tell me it is impossible to make.
What is the most rewarding?
To make those changes and see the results.
Of the people you have worked with, who impresses you most?
Heinz Hess, the founder of Hessnatur. He created a business because he wanted his newborn son to have organic clothing. He changed the lives—for the better—of his customers and everyone he worked with.
What green thing do you do everyday?
What do you wish you could do?
Have more influence on the use of capital funds towards sustainable and green projects.
What is your biggest eco-sin?
The flights I need to take. This affects my carbon footprint dramatically.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Change the direction of global companies from profits and shareholder value only, and encourage them to take responsibility for the planet and its people. Essentially, I would redefine the meaning of success.
What is your best green advice?
Develop a relationship with nature. Open your eyes, open your mind, open your heart.