The 6th European Family Business Summit

The 6th European Family Business Summit took place from the 19th to the 20th of November in Madrid. Over 200 family business entrepreneurs from 20 European countries attended the event to discuss the sustainability challenge and the role of family business in this context.

In the first keynote of the day, Manuel Valls, underlined the fact that Europe, as an idea, represents values, and principles of peace, solidarity, social justice, single market, small and large companies, prosperity, protection. He made an impassioned speech on how family businesses can continue to promote these values through its continued commitment to the communities and regions of Europe.

In the first panel, entitled “Sustainability: A matter of urgency”, the audience was treated to a lively debate between three leading family business leaders. The panel included, Founder and President of Ecoalf, Javier Goyeneche noted that he founded his clothing company by exclusively using recycled waste. Javier noted that he bases the company’s strategy on the ethical conviction that businesses should grow not only respecting the environment but also doing something to take care of the planet. Ingrid Faber, CEO of Faber Halbertsma Group, explained how her family businesses has been transformed to become truly circular. She noted that every aspect of the company is now planned in such a way that encompasses the ideas of sustainability and circularity. Alfonso Líbano, CSR Chairman, Coca-Cola European Partners, noted that the company has implemented a comprehensive sustainability action plan that has already borne significant results.

The main highlight of the 2019 Summit was the interview of Marijke Mars, Member of the Board, Mars Inc by Demetrio Carceller. Marijke spoke at the length about what measures the Mars company are putting into place to ensure that the family business has positive impact on society and the planet. Marijke noted that purpose and principle, which are the main drivers of her company, are not new concepts. Since 1947, the company has always been driven by values which seek to have a positive impact on all societal stakeholders. Mrs Mars noted that the company has sought to use the advantages that come from being a private company. In addition, Marijke noted that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now form an integral part of the company’s strategy.

The topics of innovation and tradition in the family business were addressed by Jens Fiege, Managing Shareholder, Fiege Logistik Group and Jean-Nicolas D’Hondt, CEO of Pollet. There was a consensus that family businesses are still unfortunately seen as being hampered by tradition. In fact, both speakers noted that innovation forms, not only an integral part of their strategy, but of the companies’ values.

In his first public address, the New Chairman of EFB, Udo Vetter, acknowledged that the world economy is going through a tough period. But, he remarked that there seems to be a renewed sense of optimism around the concept of Europe. He stated that family businesses in Europe fully support a Europe of values, as values form the basis of our companies. Mr Vetter noted additionally that, in the context of a challenging economic outlook, family companies will need the best conditions they can find around the globe to successfully operate for the long-term.

The closing keynote of the 2019 EFB Summit was delivered by Pedro Sanchez, President elect of the Spanish Government. In his address, Mr Sanchez argued that, following many years of political uncertainty, Spain needed a period of stability. He noted that many necessary reforms would need to be enacted to prepare Spain for the future. This can only be achieved through consensus and compromise, he said. Mr Sanchez noted that his government would be committed to preparing the Spanish economy for the green transition, which he argued could bring huge economic potential for the country and its citizens.