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Mr. Axel Schweitzer
CEO OF ALBA GROUP PLC & CO. KG

 

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WITH A LIKEABLE, ELEGANT, JOVIAL AND ABOVE ALL, WELL-EDUCATED NATURE, ALBA GROUP’S CEO IS INTERVIEWED BY LA ZAGALETA LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE’S EDITOR, IGNACIO PÉREZ DÍAZ. PERHAPS ONE OF GERMANY’S GREATEST SUCCESS STORIES, ALBA IS CHARACTERISED AND SUSTAINED BY A RICH FAMILY TRADITION AND A WILLINGNESS TO FAVOUR THE LESS FORTUNATE.

The ALBA Group turnover is currently around 2.7 billion Euros – a long way to come since your father founded the company some 40 years ago. Can you tell us about Alba’s evolution and give our readers a general overview of Alba’s company activity?

Since 1968 when our parents started ALBA in the western part of Berlin – back then still a divided city – the company has grown enormously, from the first beginnings as a conventional private waste management company, via numerous investments in recycling facilities, to today’s ALBA Group, one of the ten biggest recycling services and raw materials providing groups in the world. My brother Eric and I head the ALBA Group jointly and we are proud that, with all success, we have stayed a family business focused on market-based flexibility, achievement, and the interests and needs of our customers. In the ALBA Group we span the whole spectrum of environmental services and supply (secondary) raw materials for industry. Our capabilities include waste management consulting, licensing for packaging in what we call the dual system market, providing reliable waste management solutions and advanced sorting technology, innovative logistics and product development, and supplying secondary resources the world over.

SUSTAINABILITY

Germany doesn’t count on many natural resources, and in fact, imports the majority of its primary energy.Thus, waste is an important resource. How does Alba position itself in matters of sustainability as a winning business model?

As part of the green technologies, we, the recycling industry, belong to Europe’s growth sector, and sooner or later we will be an important supplier of raw materials to industry in Europe. Waste recycling already substitutes about €12 billion worth of raw material imports by German industry a year. That means the secondary resources sector already supplies about 14 percent of raw materials consumed in Germany.At the same time, the waste management and recycling industry makes a major contribution to climate protection. The sector accounts for no less than a quarter of Germany’s carbon dioxide reductions over the last 15 years. The total amount saved is 56 million tonnes CO2- equivalent.Through our activities alone, we at the ALBA Group save more than 6.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. That’s nearly one percent of the 765 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that Germany emits each year. Our most important task for the future will be returning the biggest possible quantity of resources to the production cycle, developing new sources of raw material, and improving resource efficiency. Global consumption is growing, and with it, waste The official team photo of Alba Berlin. volumes and demand for resources.This demand has to be met, and that is where we see our task.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Alba’s commitment to the development of youth is also evident, not just through Alba Berlin, but through KINDerLEBEN. Can you tell us about this association, and how you promote social responsibility among your employees?

A few years ago when my father visited the Berlin Charité Hospital and saw children there with cancer, he decided there and then that he wanted to do something for them.With other helpers he founded a Friends of the Hospital association in 1997. The association created a research centre that studies the causes and therapy of cancer in children. Each year, some 2,000 children and adolescents in Germany fall ill with cancer and about 500 to 600 young patients die of the disease.We would like to reduce these sad statistics.The ALBA Group helps wherever possible, and for my brother and I, supporting KINDerLEBEN is a project close to our hearts. Once a year we organise a benefit gala with the entire proceeds going to KINDerLEBEN.We have collected over €2 million in donations in this way since 2001.We attach great importance to ensuring that all donations go in full to projects to help the children, and the members of the association consequently also give their time free of charge. The ALBA Group’s workforce is wholeheartedly behind the KINDerLEBEN project and supports it each year with donations and special collection campaigns.Their dedication is exemplary and certainly cannot be taken for granted.

TEAM PHILOSOPHY – ALBA BERLIN

When it comes to Alba Berlin, Alba Group jumped into the picture in the early 1990s at a critical moment for the team, financially speaking. Now in its second decade as the principal supporter, what has Alba Group learned from its collaboration, and how do the core values of sports (team building, perseverance and motivation) reflect upon the day- to-day operations of the company?

The working relationship between the ALBA Group and the ALBA BERLIN basketball team is very close, emotionally. After winning eight German basketball championships and six successes in the German Bundesliga basketball cup,ALBA is one of the most successful basketball clubs in Germany’s history – something we are very proud of. Basketball is a personal passion of mine, so it is a special pleasure for me to serve as Chairman of the ALBA BERLIN Supervisory Board and to work there as part of an outstanding team for the success of the ‘ALBAtrosses’. What we can learn most of all from sport for everyday working life in industry is to accept setbacks and stand up for ourselves. We learn how to deal with mistakes, to quickly get over them, always to keep going and never to give up.Things go amiss in basketball just as in working life.We cannot cease to believe in ourselves because of them.We must be prepared only to give our all and once in a while to push ourselves to our personal limits. Ultimately, all these things are important if we want to reach the top – whether on the basketball court or the market.There too, setbacks sometimes happen and need to be analysed so we can learn for the future. Success will come again all the more quickly as a result.

INDUSTRY TRENDS & FUTURE

The rapid growth of the Chinese economy has created demand for a lot of metal, and Alba has dedicated much effort to introducing its services in this particular market. How do you foresee China’s development in the near future in terms of waste management, and what would you say are the major challenges for foreign companies trying to develop a presence onsite?
China is an attractive market on several counts. The extreme growth generates large demand for resources. This goes hand in hand with a growing waste problem as consumption rises. Diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the People’s Republic of China go back as far as 1972. Since then, economic relations between the two countries have developed at a breathtaking pace to become a great success story. Trade between Germany and China totalled €145 billion in 2011 and is still rising.The Chinese waste management sector, too, is growing rapidly. China is one of the world’s most population-rich countries, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and not least, the country with the biggest volumes of municipal solid waste. Experts project a 150 percent increase in residential waste by 2030 compared with today’s levels.This is a huge challenge that can only be mastered with experience and absolute know-how.The ALBA Group’s strengths are called for here. Only at the beginning of February, the ALBA Group was part of a government delegation that accompanied Chancellor Merkel to China. Central topics of the encounter for the ALBA Group included exchange on bilateral environmental cooperation, substantial cooperation on key environmental policy issues, and the creation of Sino-German environmental forums that bring together representatives in both countries from policymaking, research and industry. The greatest challenge concerning cooperation with China is, without question, that of removing barriers and taking into account the needs of the other side. The aim is to find, develop and promote common ground.In many cases,Chinese enterprises have a different focus than German and European firms.Without any doubt, an important aspect in this regard is mutual dialogue.

Axel Schweitzer

   

 

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