In 2019, soil scientist Prof. Dr. Ingrid Kögel-Knabner (60) from the Technical University of Munich and entrepreneur Reinhard Schneider (51) from Mainz, whose company, Werner & Mertz, is in the laundry detergent and cleaning product industry and is dedicated to comprehensive sustainability at every stage of production, received the German Environmental Prize. The prize is awarded by the German Environmental Foundation (DBU) and has a remuneration of EUR 500,000. During the announcement of the prize winners, DBU General Secretary Alexander Bonde emphasized that they are both “innovators in the field of environmental protection who provide us with the solutions of the future for the enormous ecological challenges of the present. We need fundamental economic, political and technological change processes at all levels in order to find truly sustainable development.” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will award the prize on 27 October 2019 in Mannheim.
A scientist with exceptional talents
“Her excellent research demonstrates the immense significance of soil as a water and nutrient reservoir, a life giver, a pollutant filter and a guarantor of the global food supply. One major milestone are the latest findings on carbon fixation in soil,” said Bonde in his speech recognising the efforts of geo-ecologist Kögel-Knabner, Chair of Soil Science at the TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Freising, Germany. After all, given the fact that plants absorb climate-damaging carbon dioxide from the air, which then ends up in the soil, it is, on the one hand, the largest reservoir of carbon in the world; however, plants also emit greenhouse gases as they decompose. For this reason, soil is incredibly important for climate as well as for preventing climate change. Bonde: “Dr. Kögel-Knabner’s research has provided us with a completely new understanding of the capacity of the soil to absorb and store carbon. More than anything, she has provided us with answers to the question of how soil can be used for long-term carbon storage in order to prevent climate change.”
Breaking new ground as an ‘entrepreneurial pioneer’
“With his comprehensive corporate sustainability strategy and high level of personal dedication, he has paved the way for environmental standards to be established at the highest level across an entire economic sector. He has consistently ensured that green products appeal to the majority of consumers on the mass market, pursues sustainability in all of his corporate decision-making and, in this way, earns the trust of the consumer.” With this statement, DBU General Secretary Alexander Bonde recognised the achievements of Reinhard Schneider, owner of Werner & Metz. With countless initiatives for environmental protection and sustainable development, Schneider has broken new ground as an ‘entrepreneurial pioneer’: consistent recycling of used plastics, for example from household recycling, for new packaging, printing labels in an environmentally- and health-friendly manner, using regional plant oils rather than controversial palm kernel oil or coconut oil from tropical regions for laundry detergent and cleaning products, voluntarily subjecting the company to environmental audits in accordance with the guidelines of the European Union – the approach to sustainability pursued by the company is “visible on a national and international level”, says Bonde.