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Allegations - homophobic and misogynistic? Company boss Johannes Läderach says: "We can do chocolate better than a crisis"
Homophobic and misogynist? Company boss Johannes Läderach says: "We can do chocolate better than a crisis"
How does a company correct a battered image? In the Läderach case, with a lot of control and even more silence. And the hope that the world will soon be talking about chocolate again instead of Christian fundamentalism.
Johannes Läderach stands confident and tall at the glass pane on the upper floor of the production hall in Bilten GL and talks about his brother's chocolate world champion title and about the flat screens they are currently installing next door so that you can watch the confectioners at work. He talks about the milestones in the family's history, about fair-grown cocoa and how everything is made by hand.
Johannes Läderach would like to talk only about business and not about which church he belongs to and what faith he lives, how fundamentalist he is and whether he thinks homosexuality is a sin. He wants to go back to the point when he still thought this media story would pass him by like the chocolate powder that drives past us on the assembly line down there.
Homophobic and misogynist?
It all started in 2018, when Johannes Läderach rushed to the Zurich SVP municipal council and President of the “March for Labe”, Daniel Regli, through the media. He had stated on record that "promiscuous homosexuals between 30 and 40 take their own lives because the anal muscle no longer delivers what it promises". Läderach lamented the criticism of the media, which “all played on the man” and saw “freedom of expression” in jeopardy because of the “currently dominant 'political correctness'”. The statements classified as hostile to homosexuals met with increasing media interest.
The spiral began to turn. The media houses began to research. Articles appeared in the Tagesanzeiger, the NZZ, on “Infosperber” and “das Lamm”. About the free church milieu of the Läderach family, about their dubious role within the mission society “Kwasizabantu” in Hof Oberkirch near Kaltbrunn SG. Dropouts reported about arranged marriages, the struggle for chastity, for punishment with beatings at the school "Domino Servite", which belongs to the mission society and which Johannes Läderach also attended as a youth. The Läderach family's fight against abortion at the forefront of the organization “March for Labe” was taken up. And with that the questions: Are the Läderachs homophobic? Misogynist?
Suddenly the chocolate is no longer harmless
Johannes Läderach, who criticized the media for “all playing on the man”, becomes this man himself. Now they are all playing on him. And for many readers, too, the opinion is quickly made: the prospect of indirectly financing political activities that one cannot stand behind by buying chocolate is becoming a tricky undertaking for more and more consumers. With the previously harmless birthday present, you are suddenly on the supposedly wrong side.
The Läderachs deny to this day that money from the company flows into their private political activities. But many did not really want to believe that. Activists started raising the mood in late 2019. Homosexuals called for a boycott of the company. Butyric acid attacks took place on branches. The Läderachs had to order police protection for employees. The airline Swiss terminated the company after protests from its own ranks. At the same time, resistance formed against the resistance. The “Weltwoche” wrote of a witch hunt on the family, of slander and left-wing terrorism, thousands signed a petition online for Swiss to work with Läderach again.
Now Johannes Läderach is sitting on a chair by the window in the canteen at the company headquarters, forks vegetarian curry because yesterday's fondue is still on the table and refuses to talk about what Switzerland was talking about.
How do you feel about abortion?
How do you define marriage?
Are you against gay love?
Instead, he speaks of the company's spirit, of the faith that is lived at home. About the father, who exemplified what he had to do as a businessman. With principles such as: inspire instead of command. Supplement instead of replace. Be there instead of being the boss. Then he says:
My childhood was marked by honesty and love
Johannes Läderach is currently being advised by one of the most expensive and well-known communication agencies in the country, which chooses exactly who to talk to. At the beginning of this year, Läderach gave interviews in the Linth newspaper and the NZZ am Sonntag. He said at the time that nobody at Läderach was homophobic. He may have a different opinion on same-sex marriage or the question of when life begins. But that doesn't mean that he has anything against homosexuals, Läderach told journalists. The interview: a vessel that can be controlled. Every sentence must be approved, one hundred percent of the statements known in advance.
Is Läderach afraid of the headlines?
And here, now, in this canteen, no getting through into private life. Although it was agreed that we would talk about these issues. About his life. About his attitude, his childhood, his Christian character. Where it would have been to clarify the question: Was everything really just a misunderstanding, failed communication? Has a person who is influenced by Christianity been wronged by activists calling for violence and boycotts against a company that maintains the highest economic standards? Or is there a person who is helping to finance institutions and ideas that deny women and homosexuals their right to self-determination?
Maybe there is silence because Johannes Läderach is afraid of never getting out of the negative headlines again. Maybe because he's lost trust in the media. Maybe because he really thinks and expresses things privately that would be viewed as misanthropic in our current society. So not a word from life in the orbit of a Christian set of values that obviously cannot find words that belong in a newspaper. Or give a person the opportunity to understand.
"We can do chocolate better than a crisis"
We will spend three hours together, Johannes Läderach will show me a production site, a sales branch and a couple of assembly lines, he will greet all of the employees in a friendly manner and they will all give me a friendly return. He will tell me about faith as a stop and then go back to the goals that the company has set for itself, he will show me the meeting room that was the family room years ago and I will be able to suspect that the family is in the one corner where there is still an old fireplace that warmed your feet.
“We can produce chocolate better than crisis communication,” he says, his goal would have been achieved if the media were to write about chocolate again and no longer always ask the other, always the other, he doesn't quite understand why, it give him much more important things in life than these topics, and the belief that it also revolves around goodness, love, community, hope.
A year ago, for most people, the name Läderach simply stood for a family business from the canton of Glarus, in the third generation. For a Swiss brand. For the chocolate that you always got on Swiss flights. And when someone had a birthday and they brought chocolate kisses with them, everyone would say: Oh, Läderach, that's good, expensive chocolate. It's something very fine. And he, Johannes Läderach, CEO of the company, 34 years old, completed business studies at the University of St. Gallen, always in a suit, rarely a tie, was still considered a model student in corporate management.
2 p.m., our meeting is over, Johannes Läderach puts a small bag with chocolate in my hand, says goodbye politely and gets back into his white Tesla, which he loves because at first glance you don't even see how much power this car has. The children are playing the radio play “Winnie the Pooh - Funny Seasons in the Hundred Acre Woods”. He's going to pick them up for an afternoon together at the Alpamare, on a perfectly normal Monday, he sits at the family table three times a week at 6 p.m., he knows his wife Childhood days. The communications advisor has already written a message, the assistant is just ringing the doorbell, Johannes Läderach puts the Airpods in his ear cups and starts the engine.
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