Episode 3: Tristan A. Foerster, Managing Director of ClimatePartner

Klimaschutz. Tristan Foerster, ClimatePartner

The pandemic affects our grandparents. Climate change affects our grandchildren

About: Tristan A. Foerster

After holding many responsible positions in different industries, ranging from business consultancy to finance and digital services, in early 2010, Tristan A. Foerster decided to significantly help fashion the success of ClimatePartner as their co-CEO.

ClimatePartner bietet Klimaschutzlösungen, mit denen Unternehmen ihre CO2-Emissionen berechnen und reduzieren, Klimaschutzstrategien umsetzen und die unvermeidbaren Emissionen durch Klimaschutzprojekte ausgleichen können.

Tristan Foerster has traveled a lot during his career. He likes traveling. He also stresses that he “virtually draws energy from contact with other people.” Due to the company’s many offices and their clients’ expressed interest in meeting with a decision-maker during contract negations, Mr. Foerster still travels regularly. During the pandemic, however, many clients have concluded that travel isn’t quite as important anymore.

ClimatePartner values climate-friendly travel as an internal priority. During our conversation, Mr. Foerster emphasizes the merits of traveling by train, “as long as it doesn’t take more than 5 hours”. In addition to that, Tristan Foerster usually plans his itinerary so that he can attend several meetings. However, if it cannot be avoided, employees travel by airplane, as well. Emissions caused by those trips that cannot be avoided are compensated through the support of carbon offset projects.


The progression of an entire industry over time: “Children have changed the world!”

Frimeso:  Who are your clients, and how widespread is the general consciousness to take on climate action in businesses? Has the mindset concerning this changed over time?

Foerster: We provide custom solutions for over 3.000 business clients in more than 30 countries at this time. We have an enormous spectrum of clients. Among them are retailers and freelancers to major corporations. We provide custom solutions for over 3.000 business clients in more than 30 countries at this time. We have an enormous spectrum of clients. Among them are retailers and freelancers to major corporations.

When I first started my work, it was mostly middle-class family businesses that positively and actively contribute to protect the climate. Those clients put an emphasis on economic and social sustainability.

We could convince more and more companies that you can achieve a competitive advantage by taking on climate action through the years. You can broaden your target audience by outwardly conveying social values such as protecting the environment and climate in addition to sales and profits.

Two trends have helped to put climate action on the companies’ agenda once and for all: On the one hand, since 2018, businesses have to file “non-financial reporting” containing their carbon footprint, according to the EU directive a sustainability report of sorts. Even though this regulation only affects big companies that had usually already generated those types of reports before 2018, those companies approached their suppliers to ask about their carbon footprint as well, to round out their report. Consequently, we also work with a lot of small and medium-sized businesses.

On the other hand, when a 16-year-old girl named Greta Thunberg took to the streets in 2018 and started the “Fridays for Future” movement, this influenced the overall mindset regarding climate change and protecting our climate once more. Often, the decision-makers are parents who further discuss this topic at home, in a private context, with their children on strike from school. Children have changed the world. And this has resonated with no less than executives.


Climate-neutral business travel by way of entrepreneurial involvement in carbon offset projects

Frimeso: How can a company ensure climate-neutral travels? What are some projects to compensate emissions in this context?

Foerster: Let’s discuss the meaning of the term “climate-neutral” first. We can’t do anything without causing CO2 emissions. For a company providing services, business travel is the most significant cause of CO2 emissions, making up about 60 to 80% of the grand total.

Being climate-neutral doesn’t mean doing something “free of CO2“. Instead, it implies that first I know how much CO2 I am causing by doing something, and then do my best to keep that emission as small as possible. Those emissions that I cannot avoid, I compensate through carbon offset projects established in developing and emerging countries. Those are actually projected to aid development that, while helping to reduce CO2 emissions locally, at the same time improve life for people there. So climate-neutrality is created by way of balancing generated and prevented CO2 emissions.

Frimeso: How exactly do you work with your clients to develop a concept that enables climate-neutral travel?

Foerster:  Three steps: evaluation, avoiding emissions, and compensation

First, we engage in evaluation with our clients. Using our tool, we call up business travel data and then calculate the companies’ CO2 emissions. The best way to save emissions, of course, is to not generate them in the first place. Thus, we subsequently work out a concept to prevent emissions. Many business trips are necessary and can’t simply be cut out. This part is mostly about how the trip is conducted. The remaining amount of emissions at the end can be compensated with so-called carbon offset projects.

Frimeso: Can you name some specific examples for what a project like that is typically like? Does ClimatePartner also develop such projects?

Foerster:  Some examples are projects to protect forests, where we plant trees that can absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. We also organize projects for prevention, like the usage of clean cooking supplies. Generally speaking, development aid is complex. Facilitating access to clean water for people in cooperation with our partners prevents the emission of CO2 on the one hand. On the other, it allows people to take time to pursue orderly work. Because without that drinking water, people often have no other choice but to boil the water with wood they have spent the whole day collecting.

At this time, ClimatePartner offers about 100 active projects. Beyond that, we have access to about 3.000 other projects. We also develop our own propositions with our partners now. Companies can also aim for their own projects.

Frimeso: Who creates those criteria, audits them, and certifies those projects as approved projects?

Foerster: Some NGOs are specialized in defining criteria to determine what a carbon offset project actually is. Adherence to that criteria is then ensured by specific control frameworks.

There are four basic principles:

1) A project has to ensure a permanent reduction of CO2 emissions.

2) A project has to be made feasible through additional financing in the first place. It would make no sense to additionally fund a project that is already profitable.

3) The same certificate cannot be used for two different companies. In this context, the projects cannot be established in industrialized countries in Europe because those are already under the obligation to reduce or prevent emissions by law.

4) Carbon offset projects are regularly audited and certified by independent third-party bodies, typically by an auditor contracted by TÜV, SGS, or others. This ensures that those reductions have actually taken place retrospectively.


“It can be emotional to see how those projects improve people’s lives for the better.”

Frimeso: Are there any projects that are particularly close to your heart?

Foerster: That’s hard to say. Projects are often distinct and personal. Fates depend on them. It can be emotional to see how those projects improve people’s lives for the better. Let’s use the run-of-the-river power plants that we are building in the Congo as an example. No more than 3% of the population had access to electricity until now. Remote areas now having access to electricity, thanks to the new power plants, don’t just create jobs. All of a sudden, people have light at night. There are new possibilities that alter the lives of many people. The same project also supports the Virunga Nationalpark, where the last wild mountain gorillas dwell.

When it comes to forest protection projects, we involve the population to protect and retain forests rather than deforested for a quick buck. We teach those people to practice forestry and thus use the forest to generate income, such as cultivating Brazil nuts in Brazil. People can, in turn, live off of that. They become part of the project. That way, forests aren’t lumbered for a change.

I personally am a fan of protecting forests and projects involving reforestation because it’s a natural way to restore or secure an ecosystem.


The label “Climate-neutral business travel” For more external transparency

Frimeso: ClimatePartner also certifies “climate-neutral business travel” using a label. How does that work?

Foerster: At the end of the process, the company receives a label that indicates climate-neutral business travel specifically. This label also contains an ID that shows the amount of CO2 calculated and which carbon offset project was used to compensate for that. This conveys the transparency of balance to the outside.

Frimeso: There are travel management companies amongst your clients?

Foerster:  That’s right. We do work with travel management companies and companies in travel expense accounting, who can offer their respective customers climate-neutral business travel.


Climate action in times of the COVID pandemic

Frimeso: The COVID pandemic undoubtedly has had positive effects on released CO2 emissions, although all of us are looking forward to finally be on the road again. To what extent has the COVID pandemic affected ClimatePartner? Has the interest in climate action stayed unchanged?

Foerster: ClimatePartner is doing very well because the topic is increasingly becoming key and relevant, and more and more companies want to act on it. The demand for climate action even increased during the pandemic. Some industries are greatly affected by it and are not looking into sustainability topics at this stage because they simply have other things to do. This involves the travel and food sectors and the hotel industry. On the other hand, however, many consumer goods companies are strategically repositioning themselves concerning climate change.

The pandemic shows us that such topics cannot be tackled by one country or company alone. It’s a worldwide topic that we have to face and solve together. It’s a similar story with climate action. It’s a problem that is already showing its consequences, which will only worsen if we do not act on it. We won’t be able to tackle it alone; we’ll have to tackle it together. The pandemic affects our grandparents. Climate change affects our grandchildren. People are starting to become aware of that.

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Episode 4 – Josef Rankl, the Social Media Consultant

Social Media Berater, Josef Rankl


The growing impact of social media on the longevity economy 

About Josef Rankl, the social media consultant :

The social media consultant mastering two particular languages: the one of the digital natives and the one of the “elder” generation.

Josef Rankl, works as business consultant for approximately 10 years now. Earlier in his career, he gained first-hand marketing experiences in various leadership positions, mainly within large publishing and mail-order companies as well as other larger corporations. During this time, he witnessed and also participated actively in the beginnings of social media, learning how to develop and implement social media strategies in its very early days and and in an autodidact manner. Mind you that these were the times when everything was new, and no external support was available. Today, he is working as a successful social media consultant with companies from all sorts of industries. He also shares his knowledge as speaker and social media industry-influencer on various platforms.

The social media consultant speaks two languages: the one of the digital natives and the one of the “elder” generation. His customers appreciate this since many c-level associates of companies do have little direct contact with social media but understand, nevertheless, that their companies will not get around a viable social media strategy in the long run.

What does it take to be a successful social media manager? According to Rankl, a successful social media manager has to be versatile like a swiss army knife. Besides marketing knowledge, there is also the need to employ skills from many different areas.

His projects usually start with a strategic outlook. A concise definition of the target audience is invaluable for a successful social media presence. This leads a company almost automatically to the right platform. The next steps is to identify and develop the topics a company would like to address and adapt it to the most suitable format for the particular platform. Rankl higlights how a successful social media presence affects almost all areas of a company, such as its workflows, culture, and organization. This requires a certain awareness and sensitivity around social media on all levels of the organization.   

Brief overview over the most significant platforms:

To get started, we ask Josef Rankl to describe the most significant platforms in just a few words:

Twitter? ‘ Relevance

‘LinkedIn / Xing?’ Traditional business marketing, social selling, social recruiting, employer branding 

‚Facebook?‘- Reach  

Instagram? ‘ Primarily emotive visual Imagery. Creative pool. Ideas. This platform has evolved. It now combines various functions all under one roof.

‚Pinterest? ‘ Imagery that pleases the audience. Main function: being a traffic machine for online-shops that target mainly women. 

‚Snapchat? ‘ You can cover most with Instagram. Snapchat is growing essentially in the US. 

‚Tiktok?‘ Micro Video Content (MVC). Very creative. Target group.: youth.

‚Clubhouse? ‘ – Focus: the spoken word. All those who love podcasts will love Clubhouse.


“I publish what creates added value for my followers.”

Frimeso: How do you decide whether or not to publish something? Have you established criteria for yourself?

Rankl: I post what creates added value for my customers and followers. My vow is: I provide relevant information on social media through my channels. The presentation may vary depending on the channel. 

Frimeso: Do you have a favorite platform?

Rankl: I like them all, but if I had to choose one, it would actually have to be Facebook. Facebook is still the biggest platform with the broadest outreach, a great set of features, and advertising opportunities. Thus, many companies use Facebook because there, they can advertise most effectively and get through to their target audience. Instagram is also fun. LinkedIn is getting more and more popular now. If you want to convey your offer through dancing on Tiktok, that’s great and exotic. But you don’t always know where you end up. You can get immersed in a hype, like with Clubhouse now. Snapchat made a comeback, and it’s not clear if it’s working out again. Google Plus is over. But Facebook is here to stay.   

Frimeso:  How do you rank your own blog or website in terms of social media marketing? 

The core of social media marketing is almost always the company’s own website. Activity on there spreads concentrically. In 95% of all cases, the strategic goal is to generate traffic for your own website or blog. That’s where the offers are that bring in the money.


“Older people’s pasts are analog: Nothing much can go wrong!”

Frimeso:  Exceptions prove the rule, but often, older people struggle with their own social media presence. Why is that? 

Rankl:  Surely, there were reservations at first. For example, 10 years ago, those horror stories of overrun private birthday parties came up after young people posted theirs. There are always stories about being addicted to social media. Documentaries, such as the recently released The Social Dilemma „on Netflix, vividly highlight the issues.

Of course, there also are disadvantages. That’s only normal, though. Because when you use a tool as powerful as social media, there will always be pros and cons. You have to feel it out. I always manage to comfort older people by saying, ‘Our past is analog, so nothing much can go wrong.’ Teenagers are at risk of posting a lot that doesn’t belong on social media. A 16-year-old doesn’t know yet that they will become a lawyer or mayor. They don’t realize that they will have a digital past that they might regret later. That doesn’t happen to us who are older.


“Most people know their way around social media without realizing it!”

Frimeso: What advice do you have for older potential newcomers? Do you have any tips for a successful approach?

Rankl: Even before we start working together, I sometimes propose to older entrepreneurs that it would be sensible to first have a look around the social media world from home and take in the vibe: ‘Talk to your kids. They can help you.’

You see, there are different levels of activity on social media: I can check it out first and see what’s actually being posted. Next, I can ‘start commenting and work my way up. Maybe after that, I’ll even dare to create a post.

There are only a few basic principles to keep in mind: ‘Don’t post what you wouldn’t put on your school’s or city hall’s bulletin board. Always comment factually, which is not always self-evident for many given the supposed anonymity’. 

It’s also advisable to start with one channel. When you begin to know your way around one channel, you can start browsing the others. The basic principles of sharing, posting, and commenting are the same everywhere. 

However, most people know their way around social media already without realizing it: Nowadays, more and more older people enjoy talking to their grandchildren via video chat. More than 60 million people use WhatsApp in Germany. That’s social media, too.

Frimeso: Is social media marketing harder for companies traditionally servicing an older clientele? For example, I’m thinking cruise companies, resort hotels or care products for elderly people, etc.

Rankl: Companies working with older target groups have a more challenging time than companies with very young target groups. Nevertheless, those companies can’t get past social media. Older people get more and more competent. More and more older people roam social networks. Consider Facebook: People under 30 are abandoning it. However, the outreach is still there because older people are swarming Facebook. There, the average age is relatively high already.

Let’s also take Instagram, attracting more than 20 million active users in Germany. Those aren’t all teenagers, by far. There are insanely successful accounts there, like Schokoladenjahre. Fashion for those over 50, Fitness for those over 40, etc. The content does exist and is well received. Especially for cruises, you can find a lot of relevant target groups on social media. Using emotions and images for topics like that works well.

These companies ought to start working on social media strategies now. There is no way around it, and it is only a matter of time before corporate competence for social media is fully developed among older people. 


Influencer Marketing: A good investment for many companies

Frimeso: Influencer Marketing is becoming increasingly important. What do you think of this development? 

Rankl: I work on both sides of influencer marketing: On one side, I advise influencers. On the other, I develop influencer marketing with my clients.  

Influencer marketing is an essential, effective, and very affordable marketing tool. I define influencer marketing as follows: An influencer is a trusted, well-known and popular personality with digital outreach.

A layperson will have images of young women on Instagram popping into their heads. But that is only a fraction of influencer marketing. For example, I myself am listed on Brands and Sensations as a micro-influencer in the marketing section on Twitter. Athletes with a digital presence are experts. If they start offering training tips, they are influencers. These are people who have exceptional experience, credibility and make people believe that they know what they’re doing. If these people have a media presence, they become relevant for social media marketing.

Influencer marketing is worthwhile for many companies. Fashionable women on Instagram create good content and get 100.000 or 200.00 followers. This makes posts for a fashion brand for 5.000€ to 10.000€ a bargain, considering that they would have to hire a fashion photographer and models otherwise. Such a fashion shoot usually takes one to two days and preferably will be carried out in Cape Town for the best possible weather. After all, advertisements still have to be placed in glossy magazines. If you add it all up and think about how easy it is for a good fashion influencer to reach customers via Instagram, you very quickly get a sense of how attractive that is. 

Social media presence for self-employment

Frimeso: There are more and more self-employed people. There are also many people who, in addition to their active career, want to assume a task or commit themselves to a very specific cause. Is it often difficult to distinguish between a professional and a personal account?

Rankl: There’s a Solomonic answer for that: For people like me, who are the product just as much as the consultant, it’s the name. If it’s not me who is the product, it can be the brand that better represents the product. 

Peeking into the crystal ball: the impact of social media will continue to grow

Frimeso: What role will social media play in the future?

Rankl: Social media will continue to play a major role in the future. Access to information, combined with the social aspect, is simply a powerful force. In fact, it will become even more critical. Last year, for the first time, people under 30 watched more moving images on the Internet than on conventional television. In the past, this kind of development was noticeable with print media. Today, there seems to be the same trend with tv. The radio is migrating to podcasts. Media use overall is moving into social media more and more. There is cinema advertising, ads in the weeklies, and billboards. But that’s diminishing. Promotional letters, and the Ikea catalog, in a way the bible of merchandise catalogs, has just been discontinued. All these are signs that it’s going in one direction. 


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