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Almost all automakers and suppliers agree that a battery with lithium-ion technology will be the energy storage medium of the future for hybrid and electric vehicles. And not just for vehicles. While electric cars still have some way to go, electric bikes are already available for the 2011 season.
These, too, are powered by a lithium-ion battery. If you remember to place the battery back in your e-bike after charging it for two and a half hours, then you need never again worry about steep climbs on your bike. With just a couple of turns of the pedal, the small electric powertrain kicks in. It would be even more practical if the battery could also be used by the Bosch cordless drill/driver afterwards. And the electric-powered bike tour – alongside trips with electric cars in future – would be even greener if the electricity used to charge the battery came from renewable sources. The Bosch Solar Energy division came up with the same idea and presented its new thin-film solar modules as a charging station for the e-bike electric powertrain.
Scientists at the Technical Universities of Dresden and Ulm spent several years researching how to make solar power cheaper. Then, in 2006, they reached the point where they were ready to set up a company to realize their idea. Heliatek. These researchers saw the opportunity to become the world's first producers of organic solar cells and to use this technology to reduce the cost of solar cells considerably and extend the range of applications. Vapor-deposited coloring molecules on plastic film convert sunlight into electricity – a process requiring very little material and energy and no silicon. However, without the initial funding of 500,000 euros from the High-Tech Startup Fund and two other rounds of funding of 20 million euros from industrial investors, it would not have been possible to drive forward this technology.
Money well spent – in the eyes of Bosch, too. It is not only a founding member of the High-Tech Startup Fund, which has provided initial funding for 230 new technology companies, it has also invested directly in Heliatek since 2007. Heliatek has now increased the conversion efficiency of its organic solar cells to a record 7.7 percent and is thus making significant progress towards its goal of 10 percent. The first production line is scheduled to start operations this year and the first products should then hit the market in 2012.
Special: Investing in green ideas - Where stakes in new companies pay dividends in more than one way
"I spy with my little eye, something ... green." Many good children's games start off with a simple premise and, precisely because of this, build into something exciting. It is therefore almost logical to compare the process of founding a company with a children's game. This, too, often starts off with a simple idea, which then unfolds and takes shape. And the more players there are, the more exciting it can get – and that applies to both children's games and setting up a company. So where can we spy something green?
Virtually everything in the area surrounding the Bosch central office in Stuttgart's Schillerhöhe is green – there is almost nothing but trees as far as the eye can see. Many Bosch researchers also spy green. Around 45 percent of research and development expenditure is earmarked for products that save energy and resources.
These include green dishwashers, green heating systems, and green solar cells. "But dad, isn't our dishwasher white?" "Yes, but it's like this..." And that's when the game gets really exciting.
Who else can spy something green? "We spy organic solar cells," says Heliatek. "And we spy lithium-ion batteries," says Samsung. "We spy something green, too," says GreenPeak, "namely wireless technology that harvests its own energy." "Mmm," says Bosch, "we've also looked into that. Tell us some more and maybe we can work together to make even more things green." And this is where it starts getting exciting for companies, too.
Interview: Hartmut Müller - Chair of mirrored commitee on ISO 26000 at DIN, the German Institute for Standardization
10 years after the foundation of the UN Global Compact, ISO 26000 has been introduced to serve as a guideline on the social responsibilities of companies and organizations. What is the significance of ISO 26000 alongside the principles of the Global Compact?
Müller: The standard is aimed at all types of organizations in the private, public and charitable sectors, irrespective of their size, areas of activity and the regional and political circumstances in the areas where they operate.
Do you share the opinion that, alongside the ILO conventions and the Global Compact, ISO 26000 will be the most important framework document in the debate on international CSR?
Müller: Absolutely. By holding an open discussion, showing mutual respect and accepting opposing opinions, the authors of ISO 26000 have succeeded in finding viewpoints that are shared by the many and varied target groups and countries. They have created a solid basis for defining the concept of corporate social responsibility and for the minimum that ought to be achieved in practice. The standard makes it perfectly clear that it relates to “activities that extend beyond simple compliance with legal requirements.”
Almost 500 experts from just under 100 countries were involved in putting together the guideline. How did this cultural, economic and social diversity impact on the guideline and what freedoms does the guideline allow organizations of different nationalities?
Müller: The somewhat surprising outcome of the 2004 Stockholm conference – the decision to pursue the topic of CSR as part of an international project – showed that what had already become a widespread approach in developed countries was not yet reflected by a similar approach in the majority of developing countries. Any misgivings were exacerbated by the fact that, for the first time, the project work incorporated target groups that typically are either unfamiliar with standardization work or regard it as a fairly low priority. But although it may have often been a tricky and drawn-out process, the various parties learned a great deal from each other.
In the end, the creation of the ISO working group and the cooperation that will continue for many years to come will support the spread of the standard and its general acceptance. What cannot be overstressed is that the make-up of the group clearly reflects global political and economic shifts. The strong desire primarily from developing countries to have a guideline such as this does not mean that the various regional and political circumstances were not given fair consideration.
So has 2010 seen the emergence of a global understanding of social responsibility, or is the main task of ISO 26000 to promote precisely such a common understanding?
Müller: It is becoming ever clearer that the impact an organization has on the society in which it operates and the effects an organization has on the environment have become decisive criteria in assessing its overall performance and effectiveness. It also shows there is a growing general awareness of the need to protect ecosystems, view social justice as a benchmark, and ensure good governance. In doing so, economic, ecological, and social concerns need to be given equal consideration.
In enacting ISO 26000, 66 countries declared themselves ready to adopt it and only five countries voted against it. Many countries see Germany as a pioneer in social and ecological standards and were surprised that Germany abstained from the vote. What sort of signal do you think that sends out?
Müller: It was clear that the people who were directly involved in the process were astonished by the vote. But this can be explained by the binding voting rules at DIN – an opposing viewpoint held by a group that is involved in the process must be respected. Quite apart from that, since the standard cannot be certified or used for a certification, there is real motivation to continue developing the standard's content. Time will tell whether, or to what extent, the practical application of the standard reflects the spirit of the guideline and the intentions of its authors. This process must be supported.
What are the tangible benefits of ISO 26000 for the ongoing progress and integration of social responsibility in companies?
Müller: The guideline is a tool for the voluntary application of standards and is the result of much work by parties from a range of different backgrounds. However, no organization should feel overstretched by its exceptionally broad-based approach and flexible application options. In the end, ISO 26000 will help deliver a tangible improvement in sustainability. Despite the criticism it received in the run-up to being adopted, organizations that take responsibility seriously will quickly come to appreciate the new standard.
By signing the "Code of Responsible Conduct for Business", Bosch has strengthened its value-driven long-term corporate policy
Bosch is one of 20 German companies to have signed the "Code of Responsible Conduct for Business." In doing so, the participating companies recognize that trust is a basic prerequisite for their business activities and agree to comply with verifiable standards for responsible business conduct.
Bosch was involved in the early stages of the code of conduct, which was developed by Wittenberg Center for Global Ethics. Responsible conduct traditionally plays an important role at Bosch and is enshrined in its corporate culture. "For us, this means achieving a balance between result focus and values such as openness, trust, fairness, credibility, and cultural diversity. That is the basis for long-term success," emphasized Professor Hermann Scholl, Chairman of the Shareholders' Meeting and Supervisory Board of Robert Bosch GmbH at the signing ceremony. The code of conduct not only strengthens the Bosch corporate values, but also complements the other voluntary undertakings of the Bosch Group, such as the "Basic Principles of Social Responsibility," the "Principles of Work Safety and Environmental Protection," and the Group's membership of the Global Compact.
The signatories' next step will be to place the values and standards of the code of conduct on a broader footing at the participating companies and incorporate them into the management processes. To counter the loss of trust in industry executives experienced by many consumers, the companies also want to enter into intensive dialog with society about the code of conduct. "The confidence of people in Germany in the social market economy and in the business elite has suffered greatly – and not just since the outbreak of the crisis in the financial markets," said Prof. Jürgen Strube, who initiated the code of conduct. He added, "The confidence of the public in our economic system, and ultimately in democracy itself, will be weakened if people no longer perceive us as role models."
The code of conduct explicitly addresses issues that have provoked criticism in the public debate, such as profit and morality, redundancies, management remuneration and respect for rules. A key element of the code of conduct concerns the verifiable standards, which are to be firmly anchored within the companies and made transparent. The signatories are committed to providing leadership that is both success-oriented and value-oriented within the framework of the social market economy. This commitment also covers fair competition, social partnership, the principles of achievement, and sustainable development. "On the one hand, the code of conduct emphasizes that our prosperity is based on competition, the profit motive and a willingness to achieve results," said Professor Hermann Scholl. "On the other hand, we have made it clear that this must be achieved fairly and that we also wish to include weaker members of society."