Alnatura founder Rehn: “Are the green ant between the paving stones”

Alnatura founder Rehn

“Are the green ant between cobblestones”

Götz Rehn has not only built up an organic supermarket chain with Alnatura since the 1980s. As an anthroposophist, he also creates a unique ecosystem, a network of organic farmers, producers and suppliers. For Germany’s model entrepreneur, less is more. He wants to “rethink the economy”.

Götz Rehn is an entrepreneur who has very different messages than other companies and founders, and has been for decades. He puts meaning before profit, people are the focus, less is more. For years he has been calling for “rethinking the economy” and changing directions. At the same time he showed with Alnatura that one can be successful with such principles of sustainability. In the organic segment, Rehn has built a hidden champion who has recently grown by 20 percent and cracked a billion in sales. Alnatura has 142 stores in 67 cities, 1,300 of its own products, plus trading partners in 14 countries and 12,800 branches.

Götz Rehn, founder and managing director of Alnatura

(Photo: picture alliance / dpa)

He is cautious about the negotiations so far at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The results “are within limits,” he says in the podcast “Zero Hour“We just make the big mistake of overloading the earth.” His message: more speed. He sees agriculture as an often underestimated lever. “Today, 50 percent of the earth’s bio-capacities are only needed for food,” says Rehn A large part of it falls on the “excessive consumption of meat.” “I am not a fan of the fact that we no longer eat meat, but it is always a question of proportion,” says Rehn. More ecological agriculture would build up humus, which in turn binds CO2 “And you have clean groundwater.” So far, however, too few farmers have converted, in 2019 it was 90,000 hectares in Germany.

Rehn is not interested in profit when it comes to growth; 1.5 to two percent is sufficient. “We prefer to pass the money on to customers at low prices.” Alnatura had repeatedly cut prices in recent years and pays all employees 13 euros. Now, however, Rehn also expects price increases due to the increased transport and raw material costs.

When Rehn founded Alnatura in 1984, many thought he was an idealist. “When I presented the ideas, everyone said: It will never work,” recalls the entrepreneur. He has proven otherwise. Nevertheless, Rehn sometimes feels like “a little green ant between the cobblestones” that constantly has to be careful not to be crushed by “the big animals”. Because the German food market is “tough and competitive”.

For him it is “the job of business to promote human development”. He described himself in the podcast as a “business doctor” who shows that other types of business are possible. Not success, but people are the measure of all things.

A few years ago, Alnatura built a new headquarters in Darmstadt on former US military premises, which was awarded the German Sustainability Prize. The walls of the campus are made of rammed earth with geothermal wall heating, the fresh air is sucked in from the adjacent forest, the water comes from a 1000 cubic meter rainwater cistern. There are also herb gardens, a bicycle parking garage, charging points for e-bikes and cars, a Waldorf kindergarten – and an open-air theater where the apprentices play theater.

Listen in the new episode of “The Zero Hour”:

  • How anthroposophy influenced Rehn’s worldview
  • What role dm founder Götz Werner played in the early days of Alnatura
  • All details about the Alnatura campus

You can find all episodes directly at Audio Now, Apple or Spotify or via Google.

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