Werner & Mertz Group: pioneer in championing a functional circular economy

Dec 29, 2023

Established in 1971, Werner & Mertz, a family-owned company, specializes in providing cutting-edge hygiene solutions for professional cleaning to commercial customers. Supported by a highly skilled and motivated team, the company stands as a beacon of unwavering commitment to sustainability through its renowned brands. Strategically, Werner & Mertz has embraced a comprehensive and forward-looking sustainability strategy, incorporating environmentally compatible and biodegradable ingredients in their cleaning products, complemented by innovative and recyclable packaging. Setting a benchmark for the industry, the entire Werner & Mertz Group operates as a pioneer in championing a functional circular economy. We spoke to Immo Sander, Head of Packaging Development at Werner & Mertz.

What motivated your company to adopt the Cradle to Cradle approach, and how is this approach integrated into your business strategy?

The motivation to embrace the Cradle to Cradle approach stems from our commitment to living the principles of a sustainable circular economy throughout the entire value chain. All elements must be considered: from the use of renewable energies in the production process, our efficient in-house water treatment, to holistically sustainable ingredients in formulations, and packaging made from recyclates (sourced from the Yellow Bag). We aspire to be pioneers and leaders, providing inspiration beyond our market segment with our innovations and commitment.

Which products from Werner & Mertz are designed according to the Cradle to Cradle principles, and can you provide examples of the materials and production processes used within the C2C approach?

In addition to numerous formulations for both B2C and B2B consumers, we have developed packaging such as the fully recyclable monomaterial stand-up pouch and the new trigger (spray head) based on C2C design principles. Furthermore, sustainable printing ink systems with C2C certifications have been created. EPEA Switzerland has accompanied us from the beginning in defining sustainable materials and manufacturing processes.

What measures does Werner & Mertz take to promote a closed-loop circular economy?

We establish project teams and working groups, organize expert discussions, and collaborate with stakeholders to influence political decisions in Europe.

To what extent does your company emphasize transparency regarding the origin of materials and production processes?

Transparency and openness are crucial to us – genuine communication is essential for building customer trust and trust within the industry.

How does Werner & Mertz foster continuous innovation in the field of sustainable products and processes?

We engage in ongoing conversations with experts and stakeholders, encouraging them to accompany us on our sustainable journey and embrace the C2C approach. This collaborative effort generates new ideas and projects intended to benefit partners and the entire industry, fostering innovation on a broad scale.

How does your company raise awareness among customers for the Cradle to Cradle philosophy?

We communicate and raise awareness among our trade partners and end consumers. We explain the importance of the C2C approach and why our products are holistically sustainable. For example, in 2012, Werner & Mertz founded the Frosch initiative, demonstrating that closed-loop handling of plastic is sensible, possible, and necessary, while also educating about the significance of Cradle to Cradle.

How important are partnerships in supporting the implementation of sustainable business practices?

True innovations arise only in partnerships on an equal footing. Without longstanding partnerships with Alpla, EPEA Switzerland, Mondi Consumer Products, and Zeller Plastik Deutschland, our success would not be as significant.

What challenges has your company experienced in implementing the Cradle to Cradle approach, and what has been learned from them?

A major challenge lies in obtaining data from all suppliers and their upstream suppliers within the supply chain. While the ingredients for cleaning product formulations are transparent, this openness is lacking in the field of plastic packaging. Polymer manufacturers are reluctant to disclose their formulations, making objective evaluation difficult for C2C experts. We strive to inform protagonists about our intentions in a timely manner, educate them, and build conviction.

What is Werner & Mertz’s vision for Cradle to Cradle in the coming years? Are there specific goals or projects the company aims for in the sustainability domain?

C2C is deeply embedded in our company philosophy and strategy. New developments are inconceivable without the C2C approach. While we can’t discuss specific plans today, stay tuned for surprises!

What advice would you give to other companies interested in implementing Cradle to Cradle principles? What role do customers and society at large play in promoting sustainable business practices?

I advise every company to engage in the C2C community, absorb the spirit, and participate in discussions that hold crucial importance for the “clean” material cycles of our future. Expert advice is available from professionals such as Mr. Albin Kälin from EPEA Switzerland.

The interview was conducted by Business Upper Austria.