Luna Journal spoke with company founder and managing director Gerhard Gollnest of Gollnest & Kiesel about sustainability efforts and future plans.

The traditional toy company Gollnest & Kiesel was founded 37 years ago by Gerhard Gollnest and Fritz-Rüdiger Kiesel. Since 2016 Frank Jungclaus strengthens the management as commercial manager. Today, the company’s founders employ 500 people worldwide in the various production facilities and at the company headquarters in Güster.

Four brands have gathered under the roof of Gollnest & Kiesel.
Goki is the company’s own brand.
Heimess is a 60 year old brand for wooden baby toys.
Peggy Diggledey not only convinces with a wide range of exciting articles, but also educates the public.
For more than 17 years under the brand name Holztiger more than 400 play figures are manufactured from maple wood.
Luna Journal spoke with company founder and managing director Gerhard Gollnest about sustainability efforts and future plans.

You give each newborn child in Schleswig-Holstein a tree and are committed to ensuring that wood is only removed where it can grow back. Does the principle that you replant as many trees as you process work for you?

Every year we plant more than 25,000 trees – mainly beech and maple trees, rarely a few conifers. This results in a real forest. It’s impossible to process that much wood in a year. So the balance is clearly in favour of the forest.

With Peggy Diggledey you want to draw attention to the littering of the world’s oceans. How do parents and children accept this informative toy series?

Peggy is particularly popular on the islands and on the North German coasts and surprisingly also in Austria and Bavaria. In the interior, however, Peggy is not yet so present. Environmental protection also concerns children in the heartland. We hope that the little adventurer will soon conquer the hearts of the non-coastal inhabitants as well.

Gollnest & Kiesel puts 100% of the profit from the entire Peggy Diggledey product line into coastal, marine, environmental and social projects. What special projects have you been able to realize? What is planned for the future?

Every year Goki plants a forest in Schleswig-Holstein. Since 2004 we have been able to give people around 400,000 trees. Our next planting campaign starts in April. In addition, we support the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day in September, on which people all over the world voluntarily clear garbage from beaches. Some Peggy readers have been able to visit the research vessel “Aldebaran” and find out what plankton looks like under a microscope and what each individual can do to produce less plastic waste. And, of course, social commitment is also part of this: for example, Goki is building schools in developing countries.

In recent years, the company has financed school construction in countries such as Peru, Mali and Uganda with partners such as terres des hommes and children in Africa. Is responsible action also on the timetable here?

We finance school construction and work closely with local partners. No external teachers are hired, but local people are employed. The children are taught in such a way that the contents relate to their living environment. The exact curricula are determined by the teachers on site.

The main problem with plastic is the packaging material. With the new packaging law, the government is making a clear statement and underlining the importance of reducing waste. How does this affect your business?

The law is a step in the right direction, but in the end it’s just a drop in the ocean. Too little plastic is still recycled and too much is produced. We at Goki are working on using compostable or completely recyclable packaging.

Do you see the possibility to save plastic packaging to a large extent and to switch to alternatives?

Of course, this does not happen overnight. But the alternatives are there.

Plastics of particular concern are to be banned from the range in the future. Why did you decide to take this step now?

None of our plastics is toxic, everything we use is permitted according to the toy standard. But we go further: in order to be truly sustainable and environmentally friendly, we want to do without plastics in the long term. That’s why Goki is currently testing every single product and is looking for sustainable plastic-free alternatives for the plastics it uses, or is switching to plastics based on soya and cellulose. These plastics are biodegradable.

Cradle to Cradle is their declared goal. How realistic is it to achieve this in the near future? What are the major hurdles to be overcome?

Designing the entire production chain from tree felling to delivery to the customer C2C is a big project. We stand for eco-efficiency and are working to make more and more products fully recyclable. One hurdle, for example, is that biodegradable plastics (e.g. adhesive film) have not yet been collected separately. In other words, they end up in residual waste and are incinerated. That’s why we at Goki want to dispense with cardboard boxes covered with bioplastics and offer completely compostable packaging.

Do you already have products in your range that meet the C2C principles?

Our “Goki nature” product line is already largely C2C. Like all the wood we use, 100 percent of the wood comes from sustainable European forestry. Moreover, the wood is not chemically treated, but gets its different tint by heating (thermowood). Soon the complete packaging will be recyclable or compostable.

Especially in Germany, the topic of sustainability plays a major role. More and more customers are demanding that companies assume more responsibility. Can you identify country-specific differences around the globe?

As in other industries and areas of life, people in industrial nations in particular are open to sustainable products. With our high-quality wooden toys, we appeal to customers who act responsibly, so we don’t have to “missionize” them. Our customers expect avant-garde action from us. We are happy to meet this demand.


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Image: Goki