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Nearly 50,000 spectators created a tremendous World Cup atmosphere in the soccer stadium in Frankfurt. Tens of thousands more fans crammed the city’s pubs, cafés, and squares. They watched enthralled as Dede initially fumbled Grings’ curling shot but then clung on to it. 4,571 kilometers further south the nifty move brought a collective sigh of relief. Fans at a public viewing in the Nigerian capital Abuja were on tenterhooks watching their team play. Mbachu against Mbabi, Africa champion Nigeria against Germany’s best female players – it was a tense duel played out in the early stages of the women’s soccer World Cup in summer 2011. A total of 16 countries had qualified for the tournament.
Another international event was also taking place in Abuja at the same time, but its focus was on something rather different – cutting-edge technology. A total of 19 African nations and 72 participants took part in the third African energy conference on renewable energies, setting a new record in the process.
Like the soccer World Cup, women were also at the heart of this major event organized by the African Renewable Energy Alliance (AREA). The issues under the spotlight at the conference included the question of whether Africa can successfully leapfrog the oil-based development phase, and the topic “Renewable Energies and Women.”
However, it’s not just the conference participants who are investing a great deal of hope and enthusiasm in renewable energies. The formula “Energy = health, education, and sustainability” is also capturing the imagination of people in many African countries. That’s hardly surprising given that electricity is not available in many areas. Indeed, an estimated 650 million Africans have no access to electricity. The formula is beginning to work in areas where renewable energies are already in use. Rather than cooking meals on an open fire – which means collecting and burning wood, thus harming the environment – women and communities can now do more for their children’s health and education.
Bosch is investing 2.5 million euros in the second High-Tech Startup Fund and is involved in a variety of activities to promote new businesses.
The second phase of the High-Tech Startup Fund was launched at the beginning of November with a fund volume of 288.5 million euros. With its investment the Bosch Group continues its commitment to supporting promising new startups in the technology sector. Bosch has been a partner in the High-Tech Startup Fund with other companies since 2007, with the German Federal Ministry of Economics contributing the largest share of funding, 220 million euros. The first High-Tech Startup Fund invested successfully in around 250 startup companies, notably spin-offs from universities, research institutes, and industry and in-house developments. Some 2,300 jobs were created by the newly founded companies, attracting 335 million euros in followup funding. The second High-Tech Startup Fund is also offering initial financing of up to 500,000 euros as venture capital to companies in search of funding and providing them with support to implement research projects commercially. The Fund is thus aiming to turn ideas into new products that boost the competitiveness of the German economy in the international marketplace. In addition to its investment, Bosch is also bringing its experience and network contacts to the Fund.
Increasing entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial spirit was also the focus of an event that Bosch organized at the end of its anniversary year. Exactly 125 years to the day that Robert Bosch founded the “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering” on November 15, 1886, over 100 people came together at the Bosch Haus Heidehof to discuss what a company with 300,000 associates worldwide needs to preserve a lasting entrepreneurial spirit. Executives have to create an environment that encourages entrepreneurs, said Prof. Rüdiger Kabst, who holds the chair for entrepreneurship at the University of Giessen, Germany. In his opinion, this is not always given in large enterprises. He believes that large companies tend toward inertia and conformist behavior. This makes it all the more important for role models to actively practice entrepreneurship within a company. “You have to have the courage to reward non-conformist behavior. And small, agile subsidiaries need to be set up in individual business areas,” he said. A good example at the event was one of the latest startups by Bosch, Bosch Power Tec GmbH, which develops power electronics specifically for the area of renewable energy. Dr. Volkmar Denner and Dr. Wolfgang Malchow from the Bosch board of management felt that Bosch has many associates with entrepreneurial qualities: “But this means they have to be led, supported, and motivated differently, as well as given more freedom,” they stressed.
Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, set up in 2007, also supervises and supports startups in business areas that are of interest to Bosch. Although it is a wholly owned Bosch subsidiary, its operational set-up is very similar to private venture capital companies. Some 200 million euros will be invested over ten years in a virtual fund structure. However, like in other Group-owned venture capital units, it only invests part of the funds directly. The executive vice president for finance and administration, Dr. Markus Thill, is convinced that “the success of a startup usually depends on the people in the team, and has less to do with the product or market.”
In 2011, Bosch also supported the WECONOMY competition for the fifth time, which is aimed at young entrepreneurs who have founded a company recently or within the last few years. The best young entrepreneurs selected by a panel of judges came together in October for a networking weekend with business leaders from German companies. They afterwards have the opportunity to take part in the Knowledge Factory mentoring program, where member companies such as Bosch provide the young entrepreneurs with a suitable mentor.
Interview: Constanze Berendts - Member of the Board of Directors of Transparency International Deutschland e.V.
According to the most recent Bribe Payers Index published by Transparency International, German exporters and exporters from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium are among the least likely to succumb to corruption. But does this also imply that German companies are more transparent than others?
Berendts: First, this result means that senior executives abroad consider it very unlikely that German companies will offer them bribes. There are various aspects to the fight against international corruption – transparency is just one of them. Others include corporate culture, clear internal rules and the quality of criminal prosecution for international corruption.
Of course, it is good to know that German exporters can conduct business successfully abroad without resorting to corruption. But, sadly, German companies have not improved their index score since 2008. It is worrying that the intensified efforts to prevent corruption in recent years have clearly failed to bear fruit. For example, there is still insufficient legislation for the protection of whistleblowers in Germany.
Transparency isn't just a tool for countering corruption, it is a prerequisite for gaining the trust of customers and society. The EU's new CSR strategy aims to improve transparency with regard to social and environmental concerns. Would this type of initiative not be better suited to the more pressing needs in China or Russia?
Berendts: The fact that there is less transparency elsewhere may be a popular argument against transparency, but it is not a good one. The EU Commission emphasizes in its strategy that strengthening CSR commitments and creating more transparency should boost the international competitiveness of European companies, not weaken it. Calls for transparency on ecological and social issues do not stop at EU borders. The European public increasingly expects multinational companies to be accountable for their activities in Russia and in China, for instance.
Given the international dovetailing of supply chains and the communication opportunities offered by the Internet, China is most certainly affected when critical consumers in Europe question the production conditions for their consumer goods. This has been underlined by various scandals and boycott initiatives in the textile industry, for example. Incidentally, I believe that by addressing only “social and ecological concerns” the EU's CSR strategy does not go far enough. What about economic and political concerns? And what about payment flows for the procurement of raw materials or the disclosure of companies' and associations' lobbying activities? We have to demand transparency from our companies on these very issues if we want to create a modern-day understanding of CSR.
The EU has presented a draft Directive for renewable energy guarantees of origin, and a new Directive promoting transparency in energy trading is set to come into force at the end of the year. In which industries do you consider there to be a similar lack of transparency?
Berendts: The risk of corruption is particularly high in those areas where there is a lot of money and where the processes for awarding orders or licenses are not transparent. This makes, for example, the healthcare and the construction industries particularly vulnerable. Meanwhile, energy trading and the origins of electricity are not the only areas where greater transparency is needed in the energy industry. In the debate on alternative energy sources, the ability to influence political decisions is a particularly sensitive area. For example, the 2010 negotiations between the German government and energy groups about extending the life of nuclear plants, which were conducted far from the public eye and parliamentary controls, did not give the impression that an impartial decision was made under due consideration of all relevant interests. Politicians have to make these processes more transparent. But we also expect companies to be held accountable for their lobbying activities.
In the raw materials sector, transparency is becoming increasingly important due to upheavals in the Middle East and north Africa. People in this region want to know what is happening to the money from lucrative raw materials trading if it is not ending up in the public purse. Payment flows in the raw materials sector must be disclosed to stem corruption and ensure that the wealth generated by trade in raw materials goes towards fighting poverty. If western industrialized countries, companies and investors are committed to responsible trading, this is the yardstick by which their activities in such countries must be measured.
In terms of transparency, what requirements does the financial sector now have to meet as a result of the financial crisis?
Berendts: A lack of transparency was one – but by no means the only – cause of the financial crisis. This crisis was triggered by multiple failures – by people, management systems and market regulations. Action must therefore be taken on many levels. First, companies must establish a corporate and management culture that encourages employees to engage in responsible business practices. There must also be a fair and responsible remuneration system. What's more, financial companies should detail their commitments to proper market regulation in their sustainability reports. But better market oversight is also needed. Especially in an environment as highly complex as the financial market, all stakeholders must be able to rely on competent market supervision. We are calling for complete transparency regarding the lobbying activities of financial service providers. Of course, it is important to incorporate the industry's know-how into any reform efforts, but this should always be done in such a way that it is clear whose interests are behind which proposals.
Transparency International is joining forces with other establishments to call for a voluntary commitment from civil society organizations such as foundations and associations to disclose ten key pieces of information. In your opinion, what key arguments support the theory that voluntary disclosures and commitments are not enough for companies?
Berendts: We are committed to improving both internal and external framework conditions in the private sector and in politics, administration and civil society in order to prevent and combat corruption. We welcome initiatives for greater transparency and accountability that stem from various branches of industry or, indeed, the non-profit sector. At the same time, however, we emphasize the need for clear legal frameworks and transparent administration. For the non-profit sector, for example, we are calling for Germany-wide electronic registers of associations that can be viewed free of charge.
In the case of companies, preventing corruption is about finding the right mix of voluntary commitments, compliance management systems, disclosure and statutory regulation. The best disclosure system is no good at all if it is not accompanied by monitoring and criminal prosecution. And the best voluntary commitments will come to nothing if there is no legal protection for whistleblowers. Voluntary commitments are no replacement for sensible regulation by legislators. Ultimately, it is about protecting honest companies – they more than anyone should be interested in ensuring a clear legal situation and consistent implementation.
Our information society poses a dilemma – namely that a lack of transparency threatens confidence in democratic processes, while transparency and citizen and stakeholder participation can paralyze decision-making processes. How can political and business decision-making processes be designed in such a way as to safeguard both a high level of legitimacy and the ability to act?
Berendts: Transparency, dialog and participation on the one hand and the ability to act on the other are not mutually exclusive. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In terms of the possibilities that currently exist in communications, clear and transparent decision-making processes are an absolute must to safeguard both the ability to act at a political level and the legitimacy of business practices. Of course, engaging in honest and open dialog and taking into account viable alternatives is more work than simply presenting a finished solution. But I firmly believe that this is the only way to restore confidence in the economy and, above all, in political decision-making processes.
It is not all about finding a decision that makes everyone happy. It's about establishing confidence in a truly open decision-making process and safeguarding in advance clearly defined participation opportunities for all interest groups. Whether it's the construction of a railway station or the future of our energy supply, we have to make every effort to discuss the pertinent issues and ultimately agree on the best solution for the future.
In China the new Bosch University Bursary Program covers the first year of tuition for university freshmen with financial difficulties.
The Bosch China Charity Center (BCCC) launched the Bosch University Bursary Program with a fund of around 5 million RMB. Over the at least next three years the program will support 900 freshmen at universities across China. The bursary program will focus on freshmen with good academic performance and conduct, aiming to reduce their financial pressure by covering the tuition for their first year at university. The Bosch China Charity Center has reached agreements with eight universities to kick off the program for the first year. Participating universities include Chongqing University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Hefei University of Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Hunan University, Jilin University, University of Electronic Science and Technology and Xi'an Jiaotong University.
By working with these universities, the Bosch University Bursary Program will cover second- and third-tier cities in China. By removing financial barriers for freshmen, Bosch aims to enable the students to focus solely on their studies and get acquainted with college life. "The Bosch China Charity Center has decided to initiate the bursary program to help freshmen reduce the burden on their families, continue their studies and enjoy this transformational time of life", said Dr. Chen Yudong, President of Bosch China Investment Ltd. Bosch and the universities are starting to select the first batch of students accordingly to strict criteria and will grant the bursaries. After the delivery of their bursaries Bosch will continue to assist the selected students during their college life. All bursary receivers will be given precedence when applying for internships or job openings.
The Bosch China Charity Center (BCCC), which was established in April, when Bosch opened its new Bosch China headquarters in Shanghai, reflects Bosch’s commitment to sustainability and good corporate citizenship. “As an established and responsible corporate citizen, we believe in the importance of contributing to the well-being of the societies in which we do business”, Franz Fehrenbach, the chairman of the Bosch board of management, illustrated the value Bosch places on corporate social responsibility. With an annual budget of 25 million RMB, the BCCC will contribute to education development and poverty relief in China. In this way the Bosch China Charitable Center will centrally coordinate all charitable programs and work with the respective Bosch business divisions across China to evaluate and carry out long-term, sustainable community projects. The bursary program is the first project launched by the Bosch China Charity Center.
Bosch has launched a nationwide Clean Diesel Tour for automotive energy saving and emission reduction around China.
Bosch kicked-off the first and also the largest nationwide tour focused on the clean diesel technology in China. Under the slogan "Experience Clean Diesel Now" this tour will provide the opportunity to get insight into the status of clean diesel technology and its economical, social and environmental benefits in terms of energy saving and emission reduction. "China is the largest fast-growing auto market in the world, having still a huge demand for mobility. The Chinese government has set clear targets for energy saving and emission reduction", said Stephan Hoelzl, General Manager of Bosch Automotive Diesel Systems Co., Ltd.
Around the world, the agreed target for CO2 emissions is getting more and more stringent: Europe Union has set the goal of reducing the CO2 emission to 95 grams per kilometer by 2020, while China has pointed out the importance of automotive energy saving and emission reduction in the 12th "Five-years Plan", emphasizing the development and promotion of energy-saving vehicles as well as the new energy vehicles. Chinese consumers are also paying more attention to the performance in terms of energy saving and environmental friendliness. Compared to a gasoline car, a diesel car equipped with advanced Bosch technology has achieved a reduction of up to 30 percent fuel consumption and 25 percent CO2 emissions, while achieving a 50 percent higher torque at the same time. Counting on such environmental-friendly performance, the Clean Diesel technology will be strongly supportive to the realization of the energy saving and emission reduction goals, especially in the passenger vehicle segment.
The Clean Diesel Tour, started in October, covers around 20 cities in 6 months in the first round and contains of two major parts: the Mobile Exhibition and the Experience Tour. With the innovative mobile exhibition center, the Clean Diesel technology will be shown at automobile manufacturers, universities and organizations in different cities along the route. The benefits of the technology are explained in multimedia displays and interactive stations. For the Experience Tour, a fleet of four domestic Diesel SUVs will accumulate around 30,000 km within the next 6 months, challenging different climate and road conditions in China. The cars will report data like fuel consumption and driving experiences back to the exhibition center. Via the Clean Diesel Tour Bosch aims to establish Clean Diesel as an additional alternative for clean transportation using a worldwide proven technology. "The Clean Diesel technology, which has already proven its maturity in many different markets, is a practical and immediately available solution for the sustainable growth of mobility in China”, said Stephan Hoelzl. “With a higher share of Diesel cars on Chinese roads, a much bigger contribution to the reduction of emissions and fuel consumption could be given."