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We tell the future

At the end of 2023, there were around 185 million mobile subscriptions in Germany (source: Statista). WEtell is the only mobile communications provider that consistently lives and promotes the issues of climate protection and sustainability.
Photo: WEtell GmbH

Mr Schmucker, most Germans have at least one mobile phone contract – there are plenty of offers. What was the motivation behind WEtell?

The answer lies in our founding principles. We are not a mobile communications provider per se; in fact, we come from the field of sustainability, specifically from solar cell development and research. In other words, we are sustainability people through and through. That’s the driving force within us. Technological development has been in our pockets for decades. Socio-economic and emotional issues prevent us from taking this step towards a true sustainability transformation. In the search for a suitable lever, it became clear to us that communication is a very important point in achieving this. We are moving forward boldly and loudly, showing that mobile communication can also be implemented in a way that won’t cause problems for our grandchildren. What we sell are values, not mobile contracts.

WEtell and WALA are united by the fact that their corporate cultures place people at the centre. They consistently focus on the way we communicate with each other. What’s so special about that?

Fundamentally, everyone wants to love and be loved. That is the core of our existence. It may sound like a platitude at first. But we will not manage the great transformational tasks in our society through technological development alone; in the end we’ll do it out of love for nature and people. We want to create a service for people that they really want to use. And we achieve this by treating our customers in the same way that we would actually want to be treated.

To what extent has being a member of the Stiftung Verantwortungseigentum [Steward-Ownership Foundation] helped you to achieve this level of appreciation?

Once we got to know the concept, it was immediately clear to us that we would take the step into steward-ownership. The key issue here is learning to let go. The idea behind letting WEtell become independent, continuing to provide support, but perhaps being able to control less and own less. This letting go and surrendering WEtell to itself also has an awful lot to do with love and appreciation. Equally, it’s about love and appreciation for myself, because I realised that it’s not the possession, the control, that makes the connection strong. It’s the act of supporting, it’s the common ground, it’s the symbiotic relationship, and that’s actually much, much bigger.

Andreas Schmucker is managing director and co-founder of WEtell GmbH. Together with his co-founders, he has turned the company into a steward-owned business.
Photo: WEtell GmbH

Nevertheless, the issue of steward-ownership poses challenges for many companies, especially start-ups. What obstacles did you encounter? Where do you see weaknesses?

Specifically in terms of implementation, because there is no legal certainty or clarity. Many things are only theoretically solvable from a legal point of view because they have never been before any court. This is a challenge, as we now have to face an entrepreneurial risk with this workaround, with this crutch. However, we were convinced by the concept right from the start. We’re really glad that we still had all the shares in the possession of our founding team at the time of the transition to steward-ownership, because that meant there were no investors to convince.

In the Stiftung Verantwortungseigentum, start-ups like yourselves come together with more established companies like WALA and work together to promote the issue. What potential do you see in this alliance of values?

There’s a tremendous strength behind it. Again, it’s all about communicating on an equal footing. We were able to experience this intensively at the beginning of our journey: we were given guidance at many stages by companies such as the Elektrizitätswerke Schönau [Schönau Power Stations], Green Planet Energy and Alnatura. They told us frankly: we don’t know if you’ll get this thing going, but we’re convinced by your idea and so now we’re giving you free advertising space in our media. That’s what made it possible for us to get this level of attention in the first place. Now we’ve got to a position where we can give something back and talk to other companies on an equal footing. We share our experiences openly with the community. We all have the same goal; we just approach it differently. We don’t really see each other as competitors – more as companions along the way.

Another thing we have in common, because for us, too, it’s all about sharing knowledge: the procurement of raw materials. WALA’s subsidiary naturamus is a pioneer in this respect, supporting their suppliers around the world not only on the road towards organic farming, but also on their way to economic independence. Is our society on the right track when it comes to doing business sustainably?

Yes, but above all, we need more pressure in the business sector. There are fat, powerful, dusty old lobbies there, telling us an eternal lie – about consumption that is unsustainable or otherwise infinitely expensive. But consumption is awesome. Positive examples are needed. Positive dynamics are needed. We don’t stand there and shame and condemn them; instead we run on ahead and show that it is possible after all. And it makes you want to do it. It is economically viable and it works. This is precisely why I really want to motivate everyone to set out on this path.