WHU General

SensAbility Shows How to “Invest, Innovate, and Inspire”

Student-led SensAbility hosts event to discuss how venture capital and legislation impact sustainability

[Translate to English:] Venture Capital als Chance für eine grüne Zukunft
Dr. Antje Eckel und Dr. Jin-Kyu Jung in a discussion panel at the SensAbility conference.

Over a decade removed from its founding, the initiative SensAbility, run by students of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, continues to push the conversation forward. Aiming to “inspire, innovate, and inspire,” the 11th annual WHU Impact Summit, held in a hybrid format on April 1 at the town hall in Vallendar, placed considerable focus on the future of sustainable business and hosted an impressive roster of keynote speeches, social events, and panels. As evinced by their own ethos, SensAbility always considers how active companies can make decisions that positively impact the greater good without sacrificing their own financial security.

In a joint presentation, KarstenLöffler (Managing Director at the Green and Sustainable Finance Cluster Germany), Danijel Višević (Founding Partner of World Fund), and Sabine Kaiser (Impact Investor at RWTH Innovation) aimed the spotlight at the role of impact investing in this arena. Višević noted that the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria (i.e., the factors that allow for proper insight into how sustainable a business truly is) are imperative and not merely “nice to have.” A company that has lived up to the expectations prescribed by these criteria will have also developed a culture of success that touches all aspects of their business: happier employees, higher quality products, and a greater financial benefit.

Fridtjof Detzner knows this all too well. After having great success with his website builder Jimdo, Detzner is now Co-Founder of Planet A Ventures, an organization dedicated to supporting sustainable start-ups. The company came to be after Detzner went abroad and bore witness to unsafe working conditions, child labor, concerning amounts of landfill, and the desperation that some people feel when they have no way out of their current living situations. The way he sees things, today’s global systems need a complete overhaul from the ground up to combat these problems. With the stakes higher than ever, he noted that efforts in the world of venture capital could be routed in such a way that everybody’s quality of life could be improved: “Tomorrow’s economy is based on what we are doing today.” The WHU Sustainability Circle bolstered this argument, commenting that “businesses are the strongest and fastest drivers of change.”

Fridtjof Detzner, co-founder of Planet A Ventures, at the SensAbility conference.

Later in the conference, Jan Dzulko, Founder and CEO of Everphone, noted his own company’s struggles with sustainability. Speaking of the measures they have taken to improve, Dzulko advocated a “reduce, reuse, recycle” mentality. In our digitally connect society, how do we strike a balance between maintaining our way of life without simultaneously harming where we live? For Everphone, that means compensating for their CO2 expenditures, running their operation on green electricity, incentivizing the long-term use of any product, and building the right partnerships to ensure such goals are obtainable.

These and similar sentiments were continually echoed in the words of other guest speakers at the conference: Among them, Eveline Lemke (Founder of ThinkingCircular and former Minister of Economics, Climate Protection, Energy and Regional Planning) believes that the economy will, indeed, become circular, i.e., conscious of the waste it produces. Dr. Antje Eckel (Founder of Dr. Eckel), Dr. Jin-Kyu Jung (Economist at the Federal Ministry for Economics), and Frank Henke (Senior Vice President at Adidas), speaking of the German Lieferkettengesetz (Supply Chain Act), placed emphasis on the significant role played by legal and governmental intervention.

For SensAbility, Europe’s largest student-led initiative on sustainability, the goal is clear: How can business be conducted such that the world is not harmed? And, to that same effect, how can sustainability be achieved such that business is not harmed? The speakers in attendance broke the topic down, debated, and analyzed the potential outcomes from several angles. To ensure future success, everyone needs to take a long and hard look at the systems currently in place, revise those suitable, and discard any that only cause damage and reap no benefit. That balance between profit and social good has always been and will continue to be the goal of SensAbility.

To learn more about SensAbility and their efforts, please visit their official page here.