European Business: Mr. Tripp, your company is celebrating 25 years of belonging to Kao Corporation this year, isn’t it?
Herbert Tripp: Yes, our company was acquired by Kao in 1992. Since then, we have more than doubled our revenues and made significant profit. We are on a clear growth path as we have a well-balanced portfolio of commodities and special chemicals which are not only in high demand but also environmentally friendly and produced in a sustainable way.
European Business: Could you give us an overview over your product range?
Herbert Tripp: We manufacture a wide range of chemical products including surfactants for consumer applications such as personal care products or household cleaners, surfactants for technical applications ranging from road additives and corrosion inhibitors to metalworking, and various oleochemicals which are mainly used as intermediate products in other applications. We have many commodities that do the work in the final product.
European Business: To what extent are these chemicals sustainable?
Herbert Tripp: Many of our products, especially the surfactants are produced with natural fats and oils as raw materials. We use palm kernel oil and coconut oil from plantations in Asia, and we are constantly developing new sustainable raw materials, such as oils from non-edible plants. We are aware of our responsibility for human health and the environment and are strongly committed to delivering products that help consumers around the world enrich their everyday lives, in harmony with nature.
European Business: Kao has repeatedly been named one of the world’s most ethical companies. This recognition does not relate only to enriching the lives of people outside but also to improving that of the people inside, does it?
Herbert Tripp: That’s absolutely right. People are most important. You can change the name of a company, but you can’t easily change the people who are at the heart of every trusting relationship with the customer. We give everyone the possibility to grow and develop. Digital transformation is changing many jobs, but we are encouraging all employees to consider this an opportunity rather than a threat, as a chance to qualify for more significant positions in the company. It’s all about making digitalization an opportunity topic instead of a frightening one. We know this means change, and no one, including me, really likes change. But if we don’t accept change as a positive development, someone else will change the circumstances for us, and this is not our ambition.
European Business: If you could approach politics with a request, what would your wish be?
Herbert Tripp: I would like to live in a society where everyone can make a living from a regular five day job and support a family and be able to pay for appropriate accommodation. All people should have the feeling that their daily effort helps them grow and develop as a person.
European Business: What could entrepreneurs like you contribute to improve the situation?
Herbert Tripp: When the first male managers came and asked for parental leave, we told them this would be difficult in an executive position. But we sat down and found a way without causing harm to the company. People can also work from their home office. It’s only a question of flexibility and creativity.
European Business: Apart from your strong focus on supporting people in enriching their lives – outside and inside Kao – what are your main competitive strengths?
Herbert Tripp: We are very flexible in supplying raw materials to a wide array of markets, from cosmetics and construction chemistry to professional cleaning and technical applications. We offer the highest quality products and excellent customer service. In many cases, we develop new products in close cooperation with the customer. All of this would not be possible without the people behind these processes.