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In June 2015, during the third year of his papacy, Pope Francis published an encyclical letter on the complex subject of the environment and its development. Entitled “Laudato si' – On the Care for our Common Home”, it takes a close look at environmental protection, climate change and the depletion of our planet’s natural resources. In his encyclical, the Pope also laments the social injustices caused by the thoughtless way people handle natural resources. With this in mind, 60 well-known family business owners were invited by the BDE [Federal Association of the German Waste Management Industry] to attend a special conference in Rome at the beginning of September. With the help of the FBN [Family Business Network] and the Malteser Charity, the BDE hosted the Roman Forum to discuss with the Pope and other dignitaries about the responsibility of companies to further sustainability and resource conservation. Norbert Rethmann, honorary chairman of the supervisory board of the RETHMANN Group, and Herwart Wilms, REMONDIS managing director, travelled to the Vatican on behalf of REMONDIS.
A private audience with the Pope: Norbert Rethmann, Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the RETHMANN Group
This event shone the spotlight on Pope Francis’ concern for our environment and was held on 01 September, the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation”. Right from the start of his papacy, Pope Francis has been urging us to treat our planet’s resources more responsibly and to distribute them fairly among the world’s population. The participants echoed this plea and all agreed that – for the good of mankind – sustainable production processes and a truly circular economy were needed to break the link between economic growth and the consumption of natural resources.
“We welcome Pope Francis’ warnings and appeal to the international community. It is vital that people recognise how important recycling is for conserving natural resources and curbing climate change.”
Peter Kurth, BDE-President
Being a family-run recycling business, REMONDIS is well aware that its business activities involve work that affects many generations and that priority must be put on finding pioneering ideas to ensure future generations also have sufficient supplies of natural resources. “Just looking at the current and future problems caused by waste packaging makes it clear how important it is to increase recycling rates. We are doing everything in our power to achieve this. In line with our motto: Whatever people put together – should be able to be taken apart again,” explained Herwart Wilms, underlining REMONDIS’ call for packaging to be designed so that preferably all the materials can be recovered, recycled and reused.
Besides a podium discussion, there were also a number of talks on the programme which were held by high-calibre speakers. These included, for example, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Archbishop Dr Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, and Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Dr Georg Gänswein, as well as the President of the EU Parliament, Antonio Tajani, Prof. Martin Faulstich from the Clausthal University of Technology and the President of the European Ethics Commission, Prof. Christiane Woopen.
Sustainable designs that enable products to be recycled are an important way to protect our “common home”.
The highlight of the Forum was a private audience with Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina. In his address, he praised the initiative of the companies and called on all those participating to increase their efforts to create recycling structures and ensure natural resources were fairly distributed around the globe. During the event, the companies also presented three key projects to the head of the Catholic Church. Organised jointly by the firms, these projects have an international focus and aim to improve local living conditions.
Norbert Rethmann wrote a letter to the Pope in response to his “Laudato si’” encyclical and gladly accepted Pope Francis’ invitation to meet and discuss it with him. Read the letter* hier
*only in German, Italian and Spanish
The World Day of Prayer was not the only reason for holding this event. Earth Overshoot Day, which fell on 01 August this year, also warns that humans are consuming too many raw materials. At the moment, we need 1.7 planets to meet our annual demand for raw materials – and this figure will continue to rise. The latest report published by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) takes a detailed look at global warming. If emissions remain as they are and do not increase – a fairly optimistic assumption – then global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C can be found here
In contrast, sustainable production processes and recycling reduce carbon emissions and help to curb climate change. And so, spurred on by their visit to Rome, the companies will now work on their projects to promote the circular economy and to break the link between economic growth and the consumption of natural resources – for the good of mankind and our common home.