prof Dr Michael Otto as Founder 

Prof Dr Michael Otto’s decision to consistently take environmental aspects into account in the management of the Group can be seen in his personal commitment. His two foundations also emphasise these aspects.

The Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection

In 1993, the Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection was first launched for protecting and conserving water as a vital natural resource. The objective of the Foundation is to conserve the environment and nature for subsequent generations, as well as to point the way and generate motivation towards further inspiring initiatives.


The work of the Foundation is based on the three pillars of Funding, Education and Dialogue. Projects are preferred where the resources invested are of direct benefit to nature conservation. Beyond that it is important that the anticipated success of the project sets an example and that the project is not limited to a particular region. The Foundation is also committed to education that encourages children, young people and adults to become aware of how to act sustainably with respect to the natural resources vital to life. To do this, it focuses on setting up Foundation Professorships, supporting selected research and training centres and the foundation’s own AQUA AGENT education programme for children in primary schools in Hamburg. The Foundation also develops solution strategies to address current environmental policy issues as part of its programme of dialogue events.

Hamburg Forum for Nature Conservation

Once a year since 2004, the Foundation has held a series of Hamburg Forum for Nature Conservation events with an interdisciplinary group of participants. These dialogues are intended to stimulate public debate on key environmental issues, to create awareness for the concerns of nature conservation and to develop well-coordinated solutions on both a national and international level.
In addition to the Hamburg Forum for Nature Conservation discussions, the Foundation is also engaged in various long-term dialogue projects for developing solutions to the most urgent challenges of the 21st century. Out of the three Berlin Climate Meetings organised by the Foundation in 2006, for example, the ‘2° - German CEOs for Climate Protection’ business leaders' initiative was launched in 2007. In this initiative, business decision-makers from a range of different German industries came together to pledge their personal commitment to taking responsibility for the environment as well as supporting the German government in its policy for protecting the global climate.

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The Aid by Trade Foundation

The Aid by Trade Foundation was founded in 2005 by Prof Dr Michael Otto. ‘Cotton made in Africa’ (CmiA) is the first initiative launched by this Foundation. Together with business, non-governmental organisations and the German government, the Foundation intends to create better and more reliable sales opportunities in Europe for African cotton and consequently improve the living standards of African cotton farmers and their families within the scope of this initiative.

Cotton cultivation

For this reason, the Aid by Trade Foundation is building a Demand Alliance of international retail companies to generate demand for cotton products made with CmiA-quality yarn.
CmiA is based on the principle of helping people to help themselves where, through local training programmes, smallholder farmers are trained in efficient, environmentally friendly agricultural methods. These methods enable the farmers to increase their yields, generate more income and improve their living standards through their own efforts. Through the initiative’s work, social projects such as literacy courses for adults and payments made to the African farmers on a profit-sharing basis can also be financed from license revenues that come from sales of the cotton.

Prof. Dr. Michael Otto in Benin

CmiA is not organic cotton: it is cotton that is sustainably produced. A core focus of the initiative is on reducing the amount of pesticides used in cotton cultivation.
CmiA project countries are the western African states of Benin, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast along with Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi. These six countries are among the poorest countries in the world, where around 450,000 smallholder farmers are involved in this initiative.

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