January 26th, 2024

whu family business summit

Embark on a journey with us as we delve into the timeless essence of family businesses, exploring the delicate balance between tradition and sustainability. This year, our summit unveils a special focus on sustainability, delving into how family businesses can seamlessly intertwine their rich heritage with forward-thinking practices for a harmonious and enduring future.

Join us on January 26th, 2024, to engage in thought-provoking discussions, gain insights from industry leaders, and discover innovative strategies that redefine the intersection of tradition and sustainability in the context of family businesses.

Our Speakers


Reinhard Schneider – Owner and Managing Director of the family business Werner & Mertz

Reinhard Schneider is a distinguished German business administrator and the Managing Director of Werner & Mertz, a renowned Mainz-based family company recognized for its Frosch brand. A graduate in business administration with a focus on sales and commerce from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, Schneider assumed a pivotal role in the company’s leadership, serving on the supervisory board since 1992 and becoming Chairman of the Board of Management in 2000.

As the driving force behind Werner & Mertz’s sustainability strategy, Schneider has championed ecological initiatives, from designing eco-friendly company buildings to promoting the use of European-sourced vegetable oils in cleaning agents through the “Local Surfactants” initiative. Notably, his commitment extends to reducing plastic waste and CO2 emissions, evidenced by the establishment of the Recyclat Initiative in 2012, where he collaborates with industry partners to increase the use of recycled plastic in packaging production.

Beyond his corporate contributions, Schneider actively engages in political and public advocacy for environmental causes, supporting measures such as the introduction of a tax on new plastics. Holder of the German Environmental Prize 2019, Schneider continues to inspire the business community towards greater commitment to climate and environmental protection.

Wilhelm Mauß - Managing Director at Lorenz GmbH & Co. KG

Wilhelm Mauß serves as the Managing Director of Lorenz GmbH & Co. KG, a leading manufacturer of residential, commercial, and industrial water meters, along with corresponding communication technology and services. With meters installed in millions of households across Germany and Europe, Lorenz devices facilitate the operation and monitoring of public utility networks and play a key role in industrial facility control.

After a distinguished twelve-year military career, reaching the rank of Captain and Battery Commander, Mauß transitioned to the private sector in 1994. Armed with degrees in mechanical and industrial engineering, he excelled at a global testing machines leader in Ulm, progressing from Sales Manager to Asia Managing Director in 2000, stationed in Singapore.

Returning to Germany in 2003, Mauß assumed the Managing Director role at Lorenz GmbH & Co. KG. Under his leadership, the company tripled in revenue and workforce, earning accolades for research, development, resource efficiency, and corporate responsibility. Notable recognitions include the EU-funded MOVECO Innovation Award for “Circular Economy Product of the Year 2019” and distinctions like the “Ethics in Business” seal, VR Innovation Award, and active participation in government initiatives such as “100 Companies for Resource Efficiency” and “100 Places for Industry 4.0.” In 2019, he joined the expert circle of the “Connected Infrastructure” cluster in the Water Dialogue of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Andrea Gerlitz - Scholarship holder of the WIFU Foundation/ Research Fellow Chair of Management of Family Businesses

Andrea Gerlitz, a dedicated scholar under the auspices of the WIFU Foundation since October 2021, is carving out an impactful research journey centered around the theme of “Corporate Sustainability in Family Firms.” Her dedication to this critical facet of business management extends beyond academic exploration.

During her Master’s studies at Witten/Herdecke University, specializing in Family Business Management, Andrea authored a practical guide offering valuable insights into crafting sustainability strategies tailored for family businesses. This guide, born out of her academic endeavors, stands testament to Andrea’s commitment to bridging the theoretical with the practical in fostering sustainability.

Actively contributing to the WIFU working group “Sustainability in Family Firms,” Andrea collaborates with fellow researchers and professionals who share her passion for weaving sustainability seamlessly into the fabric of family-owned enterprises.

A proud alumna of Witten/Herdecke University, Andrea Gerlitz’s academic journey culminated in her Master’s thesis, a comprehensive exploration of the intricate relationship between sustainability and family businesses. This research illuminates the challenges, opportunities, and best practices for family firms seeking to embrace sustainable business practices.

Andrea is preparing to share her insights with us. Her upcoming talk titled ” Research Talk – Corporate Sustainability in Family Firms” promises to be a captivating exploration of the delicate balance between tradition, family values and the urgent need for sustainable business practices.


Franziska und Philippa Weig - Shareholders in the 4th generation of the WEIG Group

Join us for an insightful workshop hosted by Philippa and Franziska Weig, both fourth-generation shareholders of the WEIG Group. The family-run, internationally operating company is active in the production and processing of cardboard and plasterboard from recycled materials with production sites in Germany and Paraguay. In the business units – Packaging, Karton, and Recycling – WEIG operates along its products’ integrated value chain, thereby manifesting its clear commitment to sustainability and resource conservation through the circular use of essential input factors. Established in 1931, WEIG looks back at a long and successful history of transgenerational succession.

Philippa Weig, a Bucerius Law School graduate, completed her legal education as a fully qualified lawyer. Her legal background and her expertise in corporate governance and corporate law, drawn from both personal experience and her current and former research and publication projects, equip her to provide valuable perspectives on the subject.

Franziska Weig holds a master’s degree in both finance and philosophy and currently works in financial deal advisory. Her distinctive background adds a fresh and insightful dimension to the discussion of transgenerational sustainability in family businesses.

As the WEIG Group represents a legacy in the cardboard industry, the workshop will look at the company’s commitment to sustainability through the lens of transgenerational responsibility and company succession. In the workshop, “Transgenerationality as a dimension of sustainability in family businesses”, explore the perspective of family businesses towards intergenerational responsibility and succession and gain first-hand experience in an interactive exchange on why and how family businesses transcend generations.

Attending Guests

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Anne Katarina Heider

Dr. Anne K. Heider has been Co-Director of the Witten Institute for Family Business (WIFU) since 2020 and has headed the research area “Family Entrepreneurship and Innovation” since September 2022. In her teaching, research and consulting activities, she focuses on innovation behaviour, design thinking approaches and digital business models in family businesses. She also supports entrepreneurial families in family strategy development processes and the development of digital skills.

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management
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