CEO at FINNZ GmbH
At the end of last year, we sat down with Martin Lauer, founder, and CEO of FINNZ GmbH, a German moving company located in the south of the country. During our chat we talked about how his passion for sustainability and the moving industry come together, his methods of making an impact on the environment, and recommendations he has for his peers in the industry!
Sure! My name is Martin and I have been working in the removal industry for over 20 years now. It all started with an internship in a moving company in Mainz. 17 years ago, I moved to Munich where I lead the local office for Schmid & Kahlert. In April 2020 I founded my own moving company, FINNZ GmbH in Munich, and have been running it ever since.
Basically, my wife and I had this idea for many years already to work on something that would contribute to saving the environment. Obviously, I am very attached to the moving industry, so last year I decided to found my own environmentally friendly moving company. I want to prove to the whole industry that it is possible to be sustainability-orientated while working in logistics.
It’s not just the big things that need change. You can also start with many small things if you put your mind to it, which then leads to large changes for the whole environment. When founding our company, the basic idea was, of course, that we are a moving company, but we thought about it “backwards”: thinking of the environment first. It is from that point we moved unto the moving industry, not the other way around.
There are three major parts that cause environmental strain in our industry. Number one is the packaging material used during every move that produces a lot of trash. Number two is obviously the gas used by the trucks running every day. And number three is everything contributing to your administrative processes and offices.
So, what we did is list everything we do and rethink it from the beginning: what are the major things we can change?
1. One factor we focused on straight from the beginning was to turn single-use goods into reusable goods. We invested in environmentally friendly alternatives for materials such as bubble wrap and carton moving boxes, which get thrown away after one or two uses. We bought 1000 recycled plastic boxes which we can use 100-200 times. Currently, we have not disposed of any of them yet. Regarding the bubble wrap, my sister (who is a fashion designer) created a “sock-like wrapping” for furniture. We only have 30 of them, but at least we can use those during local moves for 5-6 pieces of furniture. The other things are still wrapped in bubble wrap. It is a work in progress, and we do not have all the answers, but it’s a start. It gets people involved and we get really positive feedback.
2. The second point is the daily things, such as the administrational stuff in the office. For example, we have a soda stream in the office, reusable cups, and no trash cans. Yes, we are an office without a trash can. It may seem drastic or confronting, but it makes everybody realize: just because you throw your trash in a trash can, it doesn't mean that the trash just vanishes. Don’t get fooled by “out of sight out of mind”. Employees in the company have to take their trash back home with them, and this creates awareness of how much waste you produce. It’s a small step, but it starts a process in everybody’s mind.
3. Thirdly, for the trucks and their gas use, there is no real solution at this point for us. I don’t think electric trucks are the solution, at least not yet. As compensation, we have implemented that for each move we do, we plant a tree. The customer gets a certificate from us after their move, that we’ve planted a tree in their name. There are several benefits here: the customers are happy; we give a little bit back to the environment and it’s a positive last point of communication with our client. The customers absolutely love it and spread the word to their network about these environmental websites.
The biggest obstacle really is how to maintain the same price while doing something good for the environment. Almost nobody is really willing to pay more, especially when working with corporate accounts. When moving private people, which we rarely do, I'm pretty sure there are a lot more people willing to say “OK, I'm paying €30-50 more if it's for a good cause”, but providing service for corporations, these decisions often run through their accounting department, so there is a smaller chance of raising your prices with that kind of structure.
However, an investment at the beginning (reusable moving boxes cost around 12 times more than a normal one) will pay itself off after a couple of months. Our boxes paid themselves off within 3 months and they will last around 2 years and not just 2 weeks. So, you do not always have to pay more to be environmentally friendly. Also, these reusable boxes start discussions, and communication is key for sales. You can always calculate the immaterial effect that it generates for your sales part.
We do not do a lot of private moves but have a focus on corporate moves; mostly mid-sized companies between 200-300 employees. Reactions towards sustainability are really different. Recently, and unfortunately, we did not win a large corporate contract, as the client chose a different moving company because they were cheaper (1.8%), even though we explained the environmental aspects and impact thoroughly. It was sad to see such a large corporation not care about the environmental benefits. Often, family-owned, middle-class companies react very positively and are willing to pay a bit more for environmental benefits. When there is no large board involved it is easier to build a closer relationship. I do believe that private customers are also willing to pay a bit more and are a potential target group.
As I briefly mentioned before, I do not really believe in the idea of e-mobility, at least not in its current state. The amount of lithium needed for all the batteries create different problems on the other side of the earth, exploiting resources in an unsustainable manner. E-mobility can be part of the solution, but it is not the complete solution in my opinion.
Looking at the Internet as technology, any company can easily neutralize the polluting emissions of their trucks by planting trees via these tree-planting websites. I am sure they exist in pretty much every country, and it is the easiest thing to do.
Also, I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel completely to save the environment. For example, you could use some of the millions invested in e-mobility to tell private people "If you use Uber instead of using your own car, then you get X€ tax reduction”, and by doing this we could reduce pollution from cars for example by X%. Suddenly, only half the amount cars than before would be on the streets. It is more about changing behavior instead of only investing millions in new technologies.
I truly believe that the boss must lead by example and really own the changes, otherwise it will not be possible to change the entire company culture. The leader acts as a role model for the employees.
Let’s take the garbage issue as an example. It’s really powerful to confront people, for example, by removing all garbage cans for a month. This not only creates a lot of discussions but also introduces awareness. Discussions spread the word and, looking at the domino effect, this brings about awareness among the employees’ families and friends, so a group of completely different people outside the company are exposed to ideas of sustainability.
Also, I do not think that using the fact that you don't have a big enough profit margin in the industry, and that you don't have the money to tackle such a topic, is valid. I say this because you don't necessarily become more expensive just because you become more sustainable. The bubble wrap alternatives and regulated plastic boxes are more profitable than the disposable pack material in the long run. I will even go so far as to say that you can save money with it.
As for the last tip, I think ingrained habits, such as buying company Christmas gifts for your partners, can be optimized. Donate the money: the added value for everyone is much higher than that for a bottle of scotch.
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