A black and white picture of Wildling Shoes founder and CEO Anna Yona. She is in the picture from head to waist, wearing a dark T-shirt and dark trousers, her gestures and facial expressions signaling agitation.

German Sustainability Award - what the fox? - a commentary by Anna Yona

On Friday, 02 December 2022, Wildling was awarded the German Sustainability Award 2023 for companies in the transformation field "Supply Chain". Since 2008, the German Sustainability Award (Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitspreis, DNP for short) has honoured companies and individuals who align their business model sustainably and make contributions to change and transformation.

The award ceremony in Düsseldorf will be remembered by founder and managing director Anna Yona not only with gratitude for the recognition, but also with astonishment at the lack of consistency at the event.

Statement by Anna Yona on the DNP award

"Naturally, it fills us with joy and gratitude to have been awarded the 15th German Sustainability Award for the quality and transparency of our supply chain. It is recognition at the highest level for the transformative potential of our efforts, for a great deal of time, money heart and soul that goes into these issues every day through the work of our team. And it is truly (and unfortunately) not easy to find solutions where for decades the wrong criteria have been relied on and change has been disregarded.

At the same time, it fills me with a certain dejection to know that our company stands out among others. Because it would be preferable if our actions and our mindset were not worth mentioning, but simply a matter of course: Taking responsibility for ecological and social issues, focusing on urgent challenges and, last but not least, cooperating and encouraging each other that, despite the scale of the current hurdles, we can make it if we tackle them together.

Presenting of the German Sustainability Award, Anna Yona on stage with two people in black suits, is stretching one leg up to chin level, at her foot a bright red Wildling Shoes minimal shoe.

Image: Niels Lange | Wildling Shoes 


And ideally, the German Sustainability Award would be just that - a platform that puts sustainable action at the centre of attention. A platform that presents successful solutions and connects players whose attention is focused on joint, collaborative transformation. A platform that encourages by presenting companies that have already gone part of the way, and that paves the way. Which, as the host of the largest and most attention-grabbing sustainability award, with all its bombastic power of combined influence, money and relationships, places the topic of sustainability as an indispensable part of the public discourse.

And bombastic it truly was - an outstanding array of celebrities, elegance and stage show. There is no question about the commitment, networking, organisational talent and diligence that have made such an event possible for many years. The work of the many people behind the scenes is in no way to be diminished here. There was only one thing it was not: an event that seriously focuses on sustainability, a place that generates connection, an evening that featured discussion of one thing above all - how we can transform our society as quickly as possible in order to tackle the really big challenges of our time together.

Instead, there was little space that evening for the solutions exemplified by the winners (about 15 seconds of video per company). There were a few humorous questions for the winners - those who came on stage late in the evening had to solicit the attention of the audience. There was lots of music and lots of wine. There was stage time for sponsors and verbal slips. Eckart von Hirschhausen at least managed to include a statement on climate change in his laudation for Michael Patrick Kelly.

But even after the stage program, the serious discussions about the assumed common denominator did not really get off the ground. During the talk about circular economy (finally!) the cleavage of my neighbour was extensively gazed at. I myself, instead of a discussion of the possibilities for collaboration, was complimented on my appearance (certainly intended to be kind, but that just wasn't the topic at that moment). A well-known German confectionery manufacturer delighted the midnight crowd with a cookie display, where two young women packaged as candy were offering sweets in front of lascivious promotional videos. What the fox, DNP?

The whole event seemed somehow to have fallen out of time. It was about entertainment, about money and relationships, about amusing sponsors and patting each other on the back. But sustainability and transformation were only peripherally addressed.

Yet the German Sustainability Award could be so much more: With all the expertise and know-how in the team, it would be easy to make the award more contemporary and more appropriate to the topic. It would be important to give the actual subject focus much more space. To select sponsors with attitude. To have a much more diverse team curate, design and present the content. Opening the stage for people who bring new perspectives. Observing each other as men and putting each other in their place.

More seriousness for the topic, more diversity, less pomp and more substantiveness instead. Then, in the future, the DNP could play the transformative role its reputation obligates it to."


For questions about the commentary or the press release regarding it, the team may be contacted by email to presse@wildling.shoes.

Cover image: Sandra Dienemann | Wildling Shoes