Consistent Responsibility
Those who process plastics should also be committed to the sustainable and responsible use of this modern-day material. The Röchling entrepreneurial family adheres to this view and has now focused its non-profit foundation fully on the issue of plastics and the environment. The Röchling Foundation provides support around the world for the search for solutions to what is an urgent global challenge.

The Röchling family founded the Röchling Foundation in 1990. The goal of the foundation was and remains to combine all activities undertaken by the family of entrepreneurs to fulfill its social responsibility in a single charitable organization. To guarantee continuous work to support the common good, the family assigned shares in the company to the foundation.

The Röchling Foundation operates using the legal form of a German “GmbH” (a type of limited liability company) and is recognized by the responsible financial authorities as a not-for-profit entity. It operates completely independently from the companies of the Röchling Group in legal and organizational terms. Nevertheless, it can be considered to play an important role in the efforts by the company shareholders in the area of sustainability.

From Sponsor to Change Manager
Whereas the Röchling Foundation was previously involved in various fields of activity as a sponsor of the sciences and civil society, its focus since 2015 has been increasingly on the future challenge of plastics and the environment. Since the start of 2018, it has concentrated exclusively on this area.

At the same time, the Röchling Foundation has been steadily moving away from its role as a pure funding body. It now sees its role much more as a manager of change that brings together the relevant stakeholders from the fields of science, civil society, government, and business in order to develop collective solutions to the global problem of environmental pollution caused by plastics. It fosters cooperation.

The Röchling Foundation firmly believes that global and highly complex challenges cannot be solved by individual measures and disparate projects. Joined-up thinking and coordinated actions across organizational and sectoral boundaries are required.

Collective Action Requires Transparency
One current contribution in this area is the study entitled “POLYPROBLEM – Challenges, Actors, and Perspectives.” Not a day goes by without media reports about spectacular concepts for cleaning up the oceans, initiatives for a life without plastic, new insights into microplastics or planned legis­lation aimed at reducing single-use plastics. What has been missing up to now is a holistic view of this complex topic. How do the various courses of action relate to each other? What interventions are ­realistic? And what are the resulting priorities?

In partnership with the leading consulting firm Beyond Philanthropy, the Röchling Foundation has conducted a thorough analysis of the complex subject area of plastics and the environment. The core of the extensive research comprises interviews with national and international experts. The recommended actions derived from these interviews also clarify a critical finding: a global and cross-sectoral agenda to solve the problem is not in sight. This is in stark contrast to the media attention that the topic is currently undergoing.

Promoting What Really Works
In recognition of this insight when it comes to choosing its funding projects, the Röchling Foundation focuses systematically on a networked approach by the respective cooperation partners.

In the area of scientific research, for instance, the Röchling Foundation supports a program of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, a world-wide leading institute of marine research. The program involves Master’s students from several countries, who are conducting joint research to determine whether marine organisms filter microplastics in the water in a different way to naturally occurring sediments.

In Spain, the Röchling Foundation supports bio­logist Dr. Federica Bertocchini in her research into the supposed ability of wax moth larvae to break down certain plastics. Moreover, a research team largely funded by the Röchling Foundation at Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany, is working to develop an eco-certification for plastics used in industrial facilities. And together with the Fraunhofer Institute in Darmstadt, Germany, the Röchling Foundation is developing a platform made up of research institutes, industrial companies, and users on which solutions to enable the enhancement of recycled material can be jointly developed.

In the area of education for sustainable development, the Röchling Foundation is cooperating with Berlin-based foundation Stiftung Bildung, which advocates education and charitable participation. The foundation organized a competition for elementary schools throughout Germany. With financial support from the Röchling Foundation, schoolchildren can put their own ideas for respon­sible use of plastics into action in their schools.

One particularly striking activity by the Röchling Foundation is the collaboration with the globally active environmental organization One Earth, One Ocean. With financial support from the ­Röchling Foundation, the organization developed and tested a vessel for collecting plastic waste called the “SeeKuh” (manatee). Unlike the largely utopian-­sounding concepts for maritime waste collection on the high seas, the “SeeKuh” is designed to operate close to the banks outside river estuaries in order to capture the plastic waste before it disperses in the open sea.

The Röchling Foundation is currently financing the design phase for the next stage of the program: the “SeeElefant” (elephant seal). This involves converting marine plastic into oil on specially converted ships – and consequently clarifying no less a question than whether plastic waste in the sea could also be considered a valuable raw material in the future.

In India’s Ganges Delta, the Röchling Foundation is working with international NGO SOCEO on a model of the waste industry that can support the impoverished local population while at the same time significantly reducing the entry of plastic into the environment.

These are just a few examples that collectively show how the Röchling Foundation is fully focused on the global challenge and is attempting to ­combine good solutions with a chain of effects.

The Röchling entrepreneurial family regards the concentrated deployment of the Röchling Foundation to promote responsible and sustainable use of plastic as a means of supplementing the efforts of the Röchling Group to conduct business along sustainable lines.

As a provider of products made of technical plastics for industry and technology, the Röchling companies do not manufacture any products that can enter the environment in an uncontrolled manner. This makes the family of entrepreneurs even more determined to use its expertise and resources to contribute actively to preserving the natural foundations of life.