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Interview: Meinhard Miegel - Chairman of the Board of Denkwerk Zukunft

Meinhard_MiegelChairman of the Board of Denkwerk Zukunft and expert to the Enquete Commission on "Growth, prosperity and quality of life"
 

The German government has commissioned a new Enquete Commission on the subject of "growth, prosperity, and quality of life". Why are we having to re-evaluate our perception of prosperity and growth?

Miegel: Because prosperity and growth have long been used as synonyms and measured largely on the basis of material considerations only. Both of these assumptions have proved false. All sorts of things can grow without there being a corresponding rise in prosperity. Prosperity can even fall if, for instance, finite resources are used up or the environment is damaged. What's more, it has been shown that material considerations are not the only, and certainly not the primary, factor to influence most people's perception of prosperity. Other factors such as health, an intact family, friends and leisure are just as, if not more, important. We have to take account of these findings in future. Otherwise, the indicators we use won't reflect reality.

Where do you see the ecological and social boundaries of growth and is there still scope to grow within these confines?

Miegel: The boundaries will have been reached when nature, the environment, individuals, and society can't go on any further or, to be more precise, when they all show signs of exhaustion. The cost of repairing the damage done is a relatively accurate gage of this. If this is constantly on the rise, it's time for a change of direction. Calculations show that a large proportion of growth is already used to rectify the damage caused by the growth itself – if this is even possible in the first place. This is no way to run things. Conversely, it is possible to achieve growth while respecting the physical and psychological limits of depletion. But this must be a different type of growth and not the one practiced since the beginning of industrialization.
 
Prosperity is mostly measured in terms of material wealth in industrialized countries today. You envisage certain options for a future prosperity model. What roles do the ability to be frugal and the ability to innovate and change play in your new model?

Miegel: Both play key roles. Without groundbreaking innovations and the ability to adapt comprehensively to fundamental changes in living conditions, seven billion people – soon to be nine billion – will be living in inadequate conditions if they survive at all. Humankind has a lot of work to do. And even if it is successful, which I hope it is, the wealthier nations, including us Germans, will have to accept reductions in their material standard of living. Our current lifestyle is neither generalizable nor sustainable. It's much too costly for that.

Are people and society ready for a wide-ranging debate on these issues and what general impetus do you expect the Enquete Commission to give in this respect?

Miegel: No, the majority of people are not ready for a wide-ranging debate. However, the willing minority is growing faster than I ever dared hope. For example, having announced at the beginning of this legislative period that growth is the key to everything, the German Chancellor now admits that "putting growth above all else" was "one of the gravest errors". This is a remarkable development and one that gives reason for hope. I think the work of the Enquete Commission will continue in this direction.
 
Since GDP is now considered an unsuitable measure of prosperity and societal advancement, the European Commission wants to devise new measurement indicators for prosperity by 2012. France submitted its proposals at the end of 2009. Where should Germany's focus lie?

Miegel: The German efforts are embedded in a large number of activities. That's why the Enquete Commission first of all prescribed a thorough study of all existing material. And there's mountains of it. It will, however, devote particular attention to the opportunities and limitations of decoupling the consumption of resources from technological progress and the matter of how to bring about the changes deemed necessary within the regulatory framework of a social market economy. The latter issue, in particular, could become the trademark of German input.

Can a new measure of prosperity act as a catalyst for a new form of doing business, one that does not over-exploit resources?

Miegel: Yes, it definitely can. The biggest weakness of the current method of measuring prosperity is that it does not sufficiently reflect the cost of this prosperity. If this were taken into account, we would see that the progress made in increasing prosperity has been much more modest than many assume and that the costs associated with it have risen sharply in recent times. To put it another way, if we used a more accurate gage of prosperity in future, the exploitation of resources and the load on the environment would have to be cut back dramatically before we can achieve an increase in prosperity.

News: 100th educational partnership

Bosch Solar Energy and the Arnstadt public high school sign cooperation within the context of the Wissensfabrik

 

2011_100th_educationalThe Bosch Solar Energy business division and the public high school “Staatliches Gymnasium” in Arnstadt, Thuringia have signed a cooperative agreement to promote an early career orientation of students. For Bosch this is the 100th educational partnership within the context of the Wissensfabrik. The goal of this association – founded by German firms like BASF, Thyssen-Krupp und Trumpf – is to trigger enthusiasm for technology and business among boys and girls as early as kindergarden on through high school. As emphasized by Dr. Wolfgang Malchow, board member for human resources at Bosch, "In Germany I consider it a duty for companies in particular to promote interest in technical occupations through active interaction with children and youth. This is the only way we can win over qualified junior staff for tomorrow and beyond."

The cooperation initiated in Thuringia offers students an opportunity to become familiar with Bosch Solar Energy. They receive information about promising, sustainable careers in the photovoltaic industry. The agreement is intended to help students make timely decisions about their future professions and to make the transition from school into the working world easier. Furthermore, students can take part in various projects and activities adressing questions pertaining to renewable energy sources and thus become sensitized to actively participate in a more environmentally aware society. The cooperation also actively involves the teachers of mathematics and the natural sciences in order to jointly determine the special requirements a technically oriented company places on curriculum and students.

"This partnership creates a good foundation for an ongoing dialog between school and company that will actively structure teaching in support of potential future generations" states Dr. Martin Wöhr, Head of Human Resources for Bosch Solar Energy AG. Christine Löber, the high school's principal adds, "This cooperation with Bosch Solar Energy AG is an outstanding opportunity to identify individual talents and interests of students in order to help them make qualified decisions about their professional careers.”

Robert Bosch GmbH is a co-founder of the Wissensfabrik [knowledge factory] educational initiative founded in 2005. Its goal is to make Germany's economy viable for the future and to prepare the next generation for the challenges of a knowledge-based society. Till the end of 2011 Bosch plans to set up 25 new educational partnerships.

News: Prestigious environmental award in China

Bosch was the only non-Chinese recipient of the Chinese state's CEFE environmental award in 2010

 

2011_Prestigious_environmental

The All-China Environment Federation presented Bosch with the top Chinese environmental award, conferring upon it the title “China Environmental Friendly Enterprise” in recognition of the exemplary environmental focus of 11 subsidiaries in China. The Federation, which works closely with the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection SEPA, presented the award to a total of 16 companies. Bosch is the only one not headquartered in China. “We are honored to receive this title. It is a great credit for Bosch and is also a firm recognition of our years’ efforts in the field of energy saving and environmental protection,” said Dr. Chen Yudong, executive vice president of Bosch (China) Investment Ltd., at the award ceremony.


Environmentally friendly and energy-saving technologies such as clean diesel systems, electric drives, gearboxes for wind turbines, heat pumps, and energy-saving household appliances are also part of the company's long-term corporate strategy in China in the three business sectors Automotive Technology, Industrial Technology, and Consumer Goods and Building Technology. A total of 80 HSE (health, safety, and environmental protection) associates nationwide ensure compliance with Chinese legislation and global Bosch HSE standards. All major Chinese locations operate an environmental management system complying with the global ISO 14001 standard and virtually all locations are certified to this standard. In 2009, the Chinese locations succeeded in lowering CO2 emissions by a good 25 percent compared to 2007 levels.

The history of Bosch in China dates back 100 years. As is the case in other countries, the company's long-term strategy here is guided by its corporate values, including future and result focus, cultural diversity, and responsibility. This also involves ensuring a balance between business, environmental, and social concerns. “With this appraisal, Bosch will further intensify the work on energy saving, emission reduction and circular economy within the companies in China, improve internal environment-related management and develop employees’ awareness and initiatives so as to drive the company to step toward higher objectives of energy conservation and environmental protection,” said Dr. Chen.

News: “Energy Plus” school

Bosch Thermotechnology is involved in a showcase project dedicated to the energy-focused renovation of school buildings

 

2011_Energy_plus_school

The division is supporting the Uhlandschule project in cooperation with the local authorities in Stuttgart (Germany) and other partners from the industrial and scientific communities. The Uhlandschule is one of the few schools to be remodeled as an Energy Plus building as part of the energy-efficient school research project “EnEff:Schule” sponsored by the German Ministry for Science and Technology (BMWi).


On completion, the energy-efficient Uhlandschule should serve as an example for others and encourage further energy-focused school renovation projects. This project’s ambitious goal is to renovate the school so that it not only generates all the energy it needs on-site but also feeds any additional energy into the grid. The building's shell and the installations used will be the two key focal points of this energy-efficient project. Innovative insulating materials and ventilation concepts should help reduce the building's energy consumption, while any remaining energy requirements will be met using renewable solar and geothermal energy.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP) is providing scientific support for the pilot project. Bosch is one of the industry partners involved in the project and worked with the Fraunhofer Institute to develop the overall energy concept for the renovation. “The “Energy Plus” standard is the right way to achieve climate protection targets. It can be implemented using technology that is already available and can be applied to both new buildings and many existing ones. That is why Bosch Thermotechnology sees the Energy Plus house as the building standard of the future,” says Uwe Glock, president of the Bosch Thermotechnology division.

Following the successful status analysis and design phase, the planning work for putting the building and energy concept into practice is currently under way. The comprehensive renovation and construction activities, which have to be agreed with the school authorities, are scheduled to take place in 2012/2013. A detailed measurement program will then be put in place to verify the effectiveness of the measures and to enable the results to be applied to future school renovation projects.

Special: Investing in green ideas - Energy harvesting technology

Green_ideas_4

 

Until recently, alarm sensors or remote controls that collect the energy they need from the environment around them were nothing more than a pet subject of researchers. "Energy harvesting" is the term used to describe the process of employing light, vibrations, slight pressure or heat convection to turn such mini consumers into mini power plants. This technology can be used in almost any application involving electronics and sensors – from traffic technology and the monitoring of pipelines to consumer electronics and the recording of environmental data. For Claus Schmidt and Markus Thill, energy harvesting is one of the most fascinating areas of innovation there is. Both men are employed by Robert Bosch Venture GmbH to keep track of recent company startups in the field of green technologies.

This is how they came across GreenPeak, a company quick to recognize the considerable advantages of energy harvesting – for example, in radio sensor systems. Because GreenPeak has managed to reduce the energy requirements of its electronic components to a minimum, it is possible to replace cable connections with radio control. The electronics are so frugal that they are able to power themselves from very small amounts of energy harvested from the mini power plants. This cuts costs and will allow operation without batteries in the future. This was enough to win over Claus Schmidt and Markus Thill. Bosch has been investing in GreenPeak ever since. After all, Bosch knows that it doesn't just pay to invest in research into your own green ideas.

- 2011