SUSTAINABILITY BECOMES THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE
At the first UN summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, more than 180 nations signed the guiding principle of sustainable development. Only a few months later, in the spring of 1993, Sabine Braun and Renate Volk founded the consulting firm akzente in Munich, Germany. Its objective: to build a bridge between business and society, and to support them in providing transparency and bringing about transformation.
GLOBALIZATION TAKES ITS TOLL
Globalization gained momentum, fueling fear all around the world. In 1999, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan initiated the Global Compact in Davos to give the world a humane face. On behalf of the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU), akzente experimented with ways of implementing sustainability in companies and published a guideline for this purpose.
EU HOLDS COMPANIES ACCOUNTABLE
With the EU Green Paper, corporate social responsibility became part of the political equation. Shortly after the corruption scandal at Siemens, akzente helped the company expand its sustainability reporting. Numerous other scandals proved just how important a new awareness for governance and compliance was.
THE WAKE-UP CALLS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
In the spring of 2008, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out an urgent warning about climate change. Even the German tabloid BILD published an extensive report. In the fall of the same year, the collapse of the Lehman Brothers Bank triggered a global financial crisis. Sustainability gained a new meaning. At the time, akzente became involved in reporting, consulting and communication projects for Commerzbank, HypoVereinsbank and the KfW Banking Group.
SUSTAINABILITY GOES MAINSTREAM
The collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh pushed forward discussions about working conditions along supply chains. In Germany, the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles (Textilbündnis) and the German National Action Plan for Human Rights (NAP) were established. The European CSR guidelines obliged companies to become more transparent. akzente gained more and more B2C companies as its clients. In 2014, we developed a guideline for implementing the German Sustainability Codex in medium-sized companies.
THE FUTURE NEEDS AKZENTE
For our 25th anniversary, we’ve set our sights on the future. The opening of our Berlin office is bolstering the network linking the world of politics, associations and NGOs. Our 30-strong Munich-based team is more powerful than ever. In just ten weeks, akzente created the most comprehensive study on implementing the CSR reporting obligation on behalf of the German Global Compact Network and ecosense.
Sabine Braun Managing Partner
Dr. Thomas Melde Managing Partner
Jane Ehlers Partner
Thomas Wagner Partner
Philipp Dahl Partner
Hendrikje Lehmann Director HR
Philipp Hofmann Director Digitalization
Lisa Reichensperger Creative Director
Benno Kahrens Director Customer Solutions
Elisabeth Senger Senior Consultant
Johannes Ulbrich Senior Consultant
Verena Lorenz Senior Consultant
Paul Rieger Senior Editor
Karolina Krauss Senior Consultant
Dr. Axel Klein Senior Editor
Katharina Schmid Senior Consultant
Sylvia Hofer-Jendros Senior Expert
Alice Gumppenberg Senior Expert
Paula Wäcker Senior Consultant
Thomas Loew Senior Expert
Annabel Schickner Senior Consultant
Franziska Grünewald Consultant
Carl Nettekoven Consultant
Michelle Carstens Editor
Julian Zöschinger Consultant
Sabrina Fröhlich Consultant
Matthias Franz Editor
Simone Grill Consultant
Luzia Hellwig Consultant
Lorena Adelmann Consultant
Frederike Kouker Editor
Heike Steiner Editor
Johanna Graf Consultant
Johannes Fleischmann Editor
Thomas Tuchel Consultant
Kathrin Krüger Consultant
Phillip Käding Consultant
Clara Jensen Consultant
Silvia Liebermann Editor
Katrin Müller Consultant
Frederik Kauling Consultant
Felix Püplichhuisen Analyst and Consultant
Felix Oelhaf Consultant
Jessica Schallock Editor
David Arndt Consultant
Lisa Cöster Consultant
Pauline Vernimb Consultant
Julia Frank Consultant
Katharina Müller Consultant
Uta Trost Accounting & HR
Brigitte Rataj Office Manager
Daniel Schwarz Art Director
The farmer's daughter from the Black Forest was drawn to Munich for her studies. She earned her master's degree in communication sciences, German language and literature, and market and advertising psychology at LMU. Since writing is in her blood, she worked for several years as a journalist and author on environmental and business topics, including for FAZ, Wirtschaftswoche and Heyne-Verlag. In 1993, she founded akzente to bridge the gap between business and society. Sabine has been an active member of the advisory board of the Lokale Agenda München and has been a member of the board of future e.V. since 1995. She inspires young people as a lecturer in the master's program "Sustainable Marketing and Leadership" at the Fresenius Univer-sity of Applied Sciences in Munich. Her book recommendations are much sought after gaining popularity beyond akzente.
Thomas Melde first encountered the concept of sustainable development during his studies of political science, law and sociology in Leipzig and Paris. His first professional experiences took him to the German Foreign Office and the UNESCO, where he witnessed the founding of the UN Global Compact. Since then, Thomas has been fascinated by the question of how to make business more sustainable, which led to him working in political consulting and at the BMW Group before joining akzente in 2007. At the same time, he completed his doctorate in political theory and management at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Thomas is active in various scientific sustainability networks and as a lecturer at the University of St. Gallen. Whenever his time allows, he explores the European jazz scene and enjoys Sabine’s book recommendations.
Jane Ehlers is originally from the island of Rügen and feels at home in Berlin. After inspirational years in Munich, the communication scientist launched our Berlin office in 2018. Before that, she had spent a long time at akzente in Munich – after internships at PR agencies and working as a student trainee at Munich Re. Her interest in sustainable development had already been sparked by her involvement with the Heinrich Böll Foundation before graduating. In Berlin, Jane Ehlers wants to work on building bridges between business and politics and on strengthening akzente's political monitoring.
As an amateur musician, Thomas Wagner knows how important it is for all instruments to work together harmoniously – an experience he brings to client projects and team development. After studying sociology at the LMU in Munich, he initially worked in corporate development for an energy supplier and in sustainability-related social research. Thomas deepened his know-how with a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business from the University of Cambridge orchestrating sustainability in companies in a custom-fit manner.
Philipp Dahl has not only sharpened his knowledge but also his senses during his studies and work stays in London, Beijing, and Brussels. He loves good food and that on all continents. After graduating in International Management from the University of London, he worked in strategy at AUDI and as a project manager in the field of alternative drives for Daimler – experiences that he brings to akzente in many projects with clients in the automotive industry. As Director at akzente, Philipp is also concerned with developing new consulting solutions.
Hendrikje Lehmann appreciates being able to work with many different companies and people in consulting. Even more so when it is aimed at sustainability. Hendrikje studied sociology and economics in Jena and New Orleans, Lousiana, and worked at Z_punkt, a consultancy specializing in corporate foresight, before joining akzente. Contributing to organizational development and the future viability of companies through transparency is her key concern. She underpinned this with a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business from the University of Cambridge.
Philipp Hofmann studied philosophy in Munich and then Business Ethics and CSR Management in Zittau. In between, Philipp worked in technology companies and was managing director of a company for optician software. At akzente, his responsibilities include the development of IT solutions that are used internally and by customers. His daily incentive: to make digititalization usable for sustainable development.
As a trained communication designer with roles in design and PR agencies, Lisa Reichensperger has the tools of her trade and expertise in communication. To be able to use both profitably for shaping social developments, she also studied Management of Social Innovations in Munich. Now, with her flair for design, Lisa drives sustainability communication at akzente and makes complex content easy to understand.
Benno Kahrens is at home all over the world: He studied international business and management in the Netherlands and France and graduated with an MBA in sustainable business from the University of Vermont in the USA. He worked at Apple Inc. in Cork, Ireland, and at Société Générale S.A. in Paris. At akzente, he inspires clients to rethink and develop sustainability with creative charts and inspiring workshops.
Elisabeth Senger's commitment to sustainability is driven by her love of nature. After studying science of communication at the University of Bamberg, she first worked in corporate communications and in the sustainability department at BayWa AG. At akzente, Elisabeth also works on agricultural and trade topics. Her goal in sustainability communication is to raise people's awareness of quality of life so that they act more consciously.
He loves to travel around the world with his backpack: Johannes Ulbrich studied economics in Mainz and San Diego, Califorinia, and earned his master's degree in environmental and sustainability management in Krems, Austria. He gained initial experience in sustainability management at Deutsche Post DHL and Diaverum. At akzente, he particularly enjoys addressing the right topics in stakeholder surveys.
Verena Lorenz became interested in sustainability communication while studying communication science and management in Erfurt and Leipzig. She expanded her understanding of sustainability with a semester abroad in environmental and social economics. At akzente, she supports companies in target group-oriented and transparent communication and is happy to find fellow campaigners for her commitment against food waste.
Paul Rieger is a man of words. He conceptualizes and writes sustainability reports and brochures. Born in Munich, Paul learned the tools of the trade during his journalism studies in Bremen and Manipal, India. He honed his editorial skills in the newsroom of Radio Bremen and as a trainee at UmweltBank AG in Nuremberg.
The Munich native enjoys the change of perspectives - in the mountains and in exchanges with stakeholders: At akzente, Karolina Krauss wants to help shape the dialogue for a sustainable transformation along the UN SDGs. To this end, she studied political science, economics and social innovations in Munich, Germany and Bergen, Norway, and gained practical experience in the NGO sector in Brussels, at the Goethe Institute and working with startups in the Impact Hub's international innovation network.
As a musicologist with a doctorate, Axel Klein knows all about harmonies and dissonances. This intuition also helps him strike the right note as an editor. After professional stations in Cologne, Bonn and Frankfurt, among others at Pleon and the Asian Development Bank, Axel has been creating reports, brochures and magazines for clients from all industries in the Frankfurt akzente office since 2007 and is engaged in Sustainable Finance.
Katharina Schmid comes from the beautiful Chiemgau region and, after studying European Studies in Hamburg, she earned a master's degree in International Business & Sustainability. Internships at Deutsche Telekom, KPMG and BASF have confirmed her commitment to ensuring that companies report more transparently and act more sustainably in the future. And where else could she pursue these concerns better than at akzente.
As a vegetarian in Upper Bavaria during the 1980s, Sylvia Hofer-Jendros learned at a young age to mediate between different worlds. After studying philosophy in Munich, Sylvia worked for twelve years in the advertising industry, where she was able to test and professionalize her understanding of ethics in communication – most recently at Serviceplan Group. Now, she uses her know-how for target group-oriented sustainability communication at akzente.
Alice Gumppenberg lived in China for more than six years, working as Head of CSR Asia for Kaufland. Prior to that, the lawyer specialized in human rights, worked in a consultancy, at the Austrian Foreign Ministry in Beijing and at the UNODC in Vienna. After completing an international executive MBA at the ESCP Business School in Berlin, the Austrian native joined the akzente team in Berlin and is committed to sustainable supply chains. Her concern: linking transparency, efficiency, and innovation to drive sustainable economic action. Her voice can be heard on the #Impact podcast.
Born in Munich, she studied Business Administration & Economics in Passau and Buenos Aires and then specialized with a master’s degree in Sustainable Marketing and Leadership. After three years as a strategy consultant in a creative agency, Paula knew how to move from complex tasks to innovative approaches. At akzente, she can now combine this with her passion for sustainability.
Even 30 years ago, Thomas Loew was convinced that successful environmental protection required knowledge of business. After completing a banking apprenticeship, he studied business administration in Mannheim and Berlin and then spent ten years conducting research at the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) until he founded the Institute for Sustainability in Berlin in 2005. After numerous joint policy consulting projects with our founder Sabine Braun, he now brings his knowledge and experience entirely to akzente.
After study visits to Sweden, France and the Netherlands, Annabel Schickner is delighted to have joined our Berlin team. The environmental and sustainability scientist gained her first experience at the German Council for Sustainable Development and the Society for International Cooperation. Her goal at akzente: To drive sustainable change in society with sustainability communication that is tailored to target groups. She draws inspiration for this from poetry slams.
As the daughter of a winemaker, Franziska knows how important sustainable action is. Fascinated by the field of tension between business and society, she chose a course of study that took her from an interdisciplinary bachelor's degree between sociology, politics, and economics at Lake Constance, through posts in Denmark and Amsterdam, to business school in Lisbon. After gaining experience at BASF and BMW, Franziska now combines these perspectives as a consultant at akzente.
The broad range of his study and work stays (including Shanghai, Washington, D.C., Mexico City) helped Carl to look at the world with an open mind and made him conscious of the diverse perspectives of sustainability. He sees the common denominator and most important lever in finance and the capital market. Trained in M&A and strategy consulting at KPMG and holding an M. Sc. in Sustainable Finance, at akzente, he focuses on effectively establishing sustainability in corporate strategies.
From the south coast of Australia via London to Munich: Michelle, our specialist for English-language editorial work, has come a long way. After studying international politics and German at the University of South Australia, she worked in the travel industry, for non-profit organizations, and for many years, as an editor at Business Spotlight magazine. At akzente, she can now combine her enthusiasm for sustainability with writing.
Julian learned about the interactions between human activities and natural resources while studying geography. He then completed a master's degree in environmental engineering in Munich, Germany, and Medellín, Colombia. After initial positions in municipal sustainability consulting and technology development, he now wants to drive systemic transformations in companies with akzente.
Successful sustainability communication needs a strategic foundation. That's why Sabrina is driving forward the networking of strategy and communication in companies. In doing so, the passionate diver likes to get to the bottom of things. During her studies in communication and social science, she dealt with the question of the "purpose" of companies. At JungvonMatt, she accompanied clients in vision and identity processes. She has already managed national advertising budgets and advised on employer branding, brand management and communication.
Since his civil duty in Costa Rica, Matthias Franz has been fascinated by the big picture. His studies showed him how versatile business can be: first political science and economics in Münster, then cultural studies in Passau. Matthias then completed a traineeship at the BMW Group, where he also contributed to the sustainability report. Now he gives sustainable business a voice at akzente – and uses his in various choirs.
What particularly excites Simone Grill is working with people who give sustainability a face and a voice in businesses. She studied Cultural Economics and International Business in Passau, then Växjö, Sweden, and Nuremberg. She gained her first practical experience at the Austrian Cultural Forum in Prague and in CR management at the Otto Group. As a triathlete, Simone has endurance and goal orientation – core prerequisites for her consulting career.
Sustainability is a matter close to Luzia’s heart. As early as her bachelor's degree, she studied sustainable management in Berlin, where she gained practical experience in sustainable start-ups. She then moved to Munich, where she completed her master's degree in Sustainable Resource Management and worked at KPMG. What she appreciates about her new home is its proximity to the mountains and the fact that she can quickly get to Italy to cultivate the language.
Two things are particularly important to her: sustainability and communication. At akzente, Lorena combines both in an advisory capacity. Even during her studies, she campaigned for a rethink in business with the university group sneep. The communication scientist gained her first professional experience in media, PR, start-up and sustainability consulting. In the evening, she uses her paintbrush to express her surplus creativity.
Frederike Kouker has moved from the rough seas to Munich. Born in Bremen, she studied applied media science and communications management in Ilmenau, Hanover and Karlstad, Sweden, before joining the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Environment, where she was responsible for internal and external communications. With her writing, Frederike wants to make sustainability tangible and anchor it in the minds of readers.
Taking a close look, clearly pointing out what's going on and using it to make a difference: That's what Heike does best – also at akzente. She learned the journalistic trade at the Munich daily tz. And, as an experienced department head at magazines like Freundin, she knows how to keep things under control. Heike benefits from this in her extensive reporting projects at akzente – and with her two daughters.
Human rights are the issue close to Johanna Graf's heart. During her studies, she gained initial experience with Misereor and Amnesty International. After completing her master's degree in sustainable corporate management at the University of Ulm, she joined akzente. Here, she supports companies in sustainability and respecting human rights – and, Johanna enriches the Christmas parties with her ukulele.
Johannes Fleischmann experienced rapid economic growth and the associated sustainability problems at first hand: After studying sociology, philosophy and German studies in Jena, abroad, Johannes’ teaching and research positions had taken him to South Korea and China. Back in Germany, he worked for the magazine "Forum Nachhaltig Wirtschaften" and the software company verso before joining akzente. Besides his commitment to maximum transparency in reporting during work hours, he looks for circular economy solutions for China in his leisure time.
Be it a DNK report, claim or sustainability positioning: Thomas has already figured out a thing or two. His path led him from the WPP Group, a virtual reality start-up and a branding agency to akzente. The expert for sustainable brand strategies works at the intersection of strategy and communications to anchor sustainability in corporate culture. The difference a good story makes is something the climate activist, musician and songwriter knows from experience.
As a trained business economist specializing in accounting, Kathrin is passionate about the integration of financial and non-financial reporting and complex data collection processes. After studying in Münster, Toronto and Sydney and internships at BMW, Ernst & Young and the Generali Future Fonds, she is happy to guide companies on their way to sustainability at akzente - and about running in Munich’s English Garden.
Phillip Käding likes things to be complex: the more intertwined the connections, the better. That's why political philosophy and American football are his hobbies in private life. After studying political science at Lake Constance and in Mexico as well as development economics in London, Phillip arrived at akzente's Berlin office and works on sustainability strategies and stakeholder relations. Experience at the UN and in the NGO sector helped him in his endeavor.
Clara Jensen spent the first twenty years of her life in Copenhagen. She discovered her interest in sustainability linked to consulting through her involvement with the social consultancy 180 Degrees Consulting. Clara studied Business Administration & Sociology and International Marketing & Management in Rotterdam and Copenhagen and completed internships at Nestlé and Nexio Projects. In Munich, she remains commited to her bicycle.
After studying journalism, Silvia Liebermann worked as an editor at Bloomberg TV in London. When she moved to New Zealand, she realized her heart's desire and added a postgraduate degree in Environmental Management. Prior to joining akzente, Silvie worked as a freelance journalist with a focus on sustainability for various media and was editorial director for the magazine Cosmia at Bio Verlag.
If you enjoy spending time in nature as much as Katrin does, environmental protection must be important to you. Therefore, the Austrian native with Malaysian roots is now working at akzente, where she can also follow her passion for diversity. After earning a bachelor's degree in Transcultural Communication and a master's degree in Corporate Communications & Digital Media, she gained experience at a PR agency, a digital strategy consultancy and a sustainability consultancy.
As a trained gardener and a studied industrial engineer, Frederik Kauling wants to implement sustainability in companies. Prior to joining akzente, Frederik worked at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research on quantifying the effects of entrepreneurial action. He supplemented his studies at the KIT in Karlsruhe, with exchanges to Budapest, Hungary, and Lyon, France, with an accompanying course in sustainable development. He gained experience during internships at Deutsche Bahn and EnBW.
Felix sammelte nach dem Studium von Philosophy and Economics an der Universität Bayreuth Erfahrungen im Controlling von Hille & Müller und in der Nachhaltigkeitskommunikation der BMW Group. Als Experte für Reporting, Ratings und Frameworks arbeitete er einige Jahre bei akzente in München, bevor er der Liebe wegen nach Barcelona zog. Seine analytischen Fähigkeiten und seine guten Kontakte zur Global Reporting Initiative setzt er ein, um neue Anforderungen rasch aufzugreifen und in die Arbeit von akzente zu integrieren.
Having grown up at Lake Constance, Felix Oelhaf moved to Munich, the “northernmost city in Italy.” He studied business ethics and plural economics at the universities of Vechta and Siegen. With his prior positions at Deutsche Postbank and the asset manager Flossbach von Storch, Felix knows about the impact of ESG criteria in the financial sector. In his new home, he follows his passion for culinary arts and dolce vita.
Jessica Schallock was already able to gain experience in business as the daughter of a restaurateur. Her studies in communications and politics took the native Westphalian to Munich, Venice, Italiy, and Seattle, Washington. She developed her know-how in corporate communications and marketing at the Münchner Kammerspiele, at startups and in higher education. At IESE Business School, she earned a certificate in sustainable business management in 2016. At akzente, she loves to put complex concepts into simple words.
The claim to get to the bottom of things characterizes David: He is a trained nurse and studied sociology, psychology and philosophy in Vienna, Berlin and Munich. David remains committed to teaching, research, and science to this day. For him, a sustainable society needs sound knowledge as well as critical reflection and the courage to rethink. In his free time, you can find him on a fast bike or camping in the countryside.
Lisa experienced the need for global change while backpacking. She studied International Business as well as Corporate Social Responsibility, Marketing and Innovation, and became involved in the university group sneep for the sustainable transformation of the economy. She gained experience at environmental protection organizations, communication agencies, and at a social start-up. Her most important learning: sustainability communication can be bold, creative – and fun.
Pauline Vernimb studied economics in Friedrichshafen and socio-ecological economics in Vienna, Austria. She learned how sustainability can be integrated into corporate processes during various internships in consulting firms and while working as a student trainee for Munich Re. For Pauline, mindfulness is not only part of her program when dealing with resources: In her private life, she gives yoga classes.
Julia Frank had set out to become a journalist, but after studying history in Mainz and Dijon, France, she decided to concentrate on communications consulting. Julia gained her first professional experience at the international PR agency Hill + Knowlton Strategies with clients from the automotive, food and pharmaceutical industries. She turned her interest in sustainability into a career by joining akzente - and moved from Mainz to Munich to do so.
Katharina Müller has an urge for the topic of sustainable supply chains. She studied business administration in Münster and Medellín, Colombia, and subsequently, completed a master's degree in International Business and Sustainability in Hamburg. She gained her first practical experience during internships at various consultancies and at Deutsche Bahn. Katharina is part of akzente's Berlin team and hopes to travel to farflung places between projects.
As a trained tax specialist, Uta likes to solve puzzles and loves numbers. During her studies in business psychology, she expanded her knowledge in human resources, and, in her free time, she campaigned for human rights at Amnesty International. After working in various tax firms, she can now combine accounting and HR at akzente. A passionate DIY enthusiast, she rolls up her sleeves in her spare time and turns around processes at akzente.
Brigitte Rataj trained as a master tailor in Munich. But she quickly realized that her true talent was organizing. Helping to set up a start-up confirmed her decision. Now Brigitte Rataj manages our offices and supports the team in keeping their minds free from administration so that they can focus on customers.
After studying philosophy, Daniel Schwarz went on to study design at the Munich Academy for the Graphic Arts. Having gained experience in various agencies, Daniel went into business for himself as a product and graphic designer and founded the design office Artelier Grafik & Design together with Gudrun Eckstein in 1994. Since then, he has been closely cooperating with akzente working in the same office with us since 2002. Daniel designs a multitude of publications without ever diminishing his drive for sustainability.
Collaboration with our partners is what makes us strong. We successfully carry out many of our projects hand in hand with fors.earth and sustainable AG. Their expertise stems from the fields of strategic and organizational development, management systems, climate protection end emissions trade, among other areas.
Our agency partnerships ensure a lasting impression, above all with loveto, artelier and 3st. We collaborate with them to give striking visibility to our sustainability efforts. The process has always been smooth, as we look back on the long and successful collaborations we’ve shared.
We’re closely networked with many ministries, authorities, organizations, institutions, associations, universities and experts. We’re also involved in the development of sustainability standards—which is why we tend to enter the picture quite quickly and can always assess what’s important and what’s on the horizon.