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CDU State Secretary Thomas Bareiß and CDU Member of the Landtag Willi Stächele visit Koehler plant in Kehl. Koehler Paper Group is on the right track with innovation and sustainability. Strong medium-sized companies are innovation Drivers.
Koehler on the right track with innovation and sustainability
“The innovative power and sustainable commitment of Koehler are impressive,” said State Secretary Thomas Bareiß after a plant visit and presentation by Koehler Group CEO Kai Furler. Together with Willi Stächele, Member of the Landtag (regional state parliament), Thomas Bareiß had just taken an in-depth look at the Oberkirch-based paper manufacturer’s operations.
Stächele has been close to the company for many decades. As the former mayor of Oberkirch, where Koehler has its headquarters, he has been able to follow the company’s successful development closely. The construction of the new paper machine and coating machine is the next chapter in this story. These have just entered into commission and will play an important part in the company’s orientation towards sustainable business and action.
Sustainability: Part of the Company Strategy
In a short company presentation, CEO Kai Furler, representing the family business’ eighth generation, explained the company’s strategy, which has focused consistently on sustainability for several years. He focused not only on the paper side of the business, but also on innovations, renewable energy and the new business areas that Koehler is tapping into. The new production line 8 plays an important role here.
The area of flexible packaging paper is of particularly great importance and is a driver for the company’s large-scale investment at the Kehl site. Koehler is beginning to produce this type of paper and is developing barrier paper, which, once functional coatings are applied, can be used as coverings in packaging instead of plastics. “The advantage of these papers is that they can be recycled as waste paper,” says Furler. This is not the case for the composite material that is currently in use.
Paper: The Classic Raw Material for Recycling
Furler, Bareiß and Stächele agreed that paper plays an important role in closing material cycles. Pa-per has always been considered a material that is particularly suited to multiple recycling and there are effective and efficient recycling systems for paper in most European countries. Around 75 per-cent of overall paper consumption is recycled in Germany alone.
Papers that are based on recycled waste paper fiber have an additional environmental benefit and are used to good purpose where 100 percent virgin fiber content is not required (i.e. applications not having direct contact with foodstuffs). Furthermore, paper production uses an unlimited source of renewable raw material that does not compete with the acreage used in food production.
SMEs Are the Backbone of the German Economy
The energy sector is particularly near and dear to Bareiß, as he is the energy expert for the CDU’s Bundestag caucus. The 44-year-old CDU member’s constituency is in Zollernalb-Sigmaringen. He has been a member of the federal executive board of the CDU since 2018. He considers SMEs to be very important for the German economy. “The energy transition will only succeed together with SMEs,” he says. “However, we must not overburden SMEs excessively, but rather proceed with caution.”
Stächele, Member of the Landtag, is also firmly anchored in the region. Born in Baden, the former Landtag President and Finance Minister of Baden-Württemberg has been committed to his constituency in Kehl for 25 years. No wonder then, that he considers the global leader Koehler a very important employer and innovator. “It’s a pleasure to meet with the long-established company Koehler. Not only is corporate history being written here, but the future is being shaped as well,” was Stächele’s compliment to CEO Furler on the Group activities.
During the visit, it became clear that politicians have gained a strong and highly innovative partner in Koehler in return for their efforts, but it also became clear that SMEs need political support in return. After all, SMEs form the backbone of the German economy.