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A critical dialog at the econsense sustainability network’s Forum in Berlin
The econsense Forum for Sustainable Development of German Business recently invited representatives from business, politics, science, and civil society to critically discuss “Global value-added: entrepreneurial responsibility around the world” in Berlin. Some 300 guests took part in the event, which was held at the beginning of May. Discussions focused mainly on the German economy’s responsibility with regard to global sustainability targets, and addressed the ways in which Germany can and should contribute to achieving them.
In his keynote speech, former German president Horst Köhler made his position clear. “In the long term, no company can succeed if society fails. For this reason, the German economy cannot afford political provincialism and strategic small-mindedness,” Köhler said. He called for a major economic and social transformation, which would include redefining growth. According to Köhler, growth should no longer be seen merely in terms of consumption. Rather, a new definition should also include cultural and social wealth, satisfaction, and lasting, healthy relationships. In addition to this, Köhler encouraged companies to place greater importance on long-term strategies.
Ulrich Grillo, president of BDI – The Voice of German Industry – and spokesman of the econsense board of trustees, also argued in favor of a “constructive economy”. “With their exports and direct investment, German companies have an influence on many of the world’s regions. They should use this influence for the greater good,” Grillo said.
How sustainable are the actions of German companies abroad? This question was the focus of a company survey that was carried out by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research on econsense’s behalf. The study found that German companies also apply their sustainability standards at foreign branches, thus contributing to an improvement of local structures. For instance, 81 percent of respondents said that their companies’ social standards applied to employees around the world. Moreover, almost two-thirds of the companies that took part in the survey assume responsibility for the training of skilled workers at home and abroad. This helps increase levels of education around the world. The Berlin Forum concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Tanja Samrotzki, a German journalist.
More than 30 international companies support the econsense corporate network, among them BASF, Bosch, Deutsche Bank, and Volkswagen. The network is committed to shaping the practice of corporate responsibility. Founded in 2000 by BDI – The Voice of German Industry – econsense sees itself as a forum of experts that promotes dialog between politics, science, media, and society. The network aims to drive corporate sustainability topics forward.
The “Nachhaltigkeit durch Präsenz” study (available in German only) can be downloaded here.
The econsense network quiz dispels myths about sustainability
The topic of sustainability continues to be the subject of intense debate. Critics uphold the idea that corporate initiatives to protect the environment, contribute to society, or manage employees responsibly are expensive and largely useless.
With a new online quiz at www.econsense.de/onlinequiz (in German), the econsense Forum for Sustainable Development of German business aims to show how companies benefit from pursuing ecological and social targets in addition to doing business. With questions from different areas of business practice, the interactive quiz offers surprising insights for anyone interested in sustainability and the ways in which initiatives are implemented. As a member of econsense, Bosch supported the quiz's development and is making an active effort to demonstrate the economic and social relevance of initiatives that aim to achieve sustainability.
Econsense was founded in 2000 as an initiative of the Federation of German Industry (BDI). Bosch is one of the founding members. The network of companies aims to promote sustainable economic development and a commitment to social responsibility. The network currently counts 35 members, all of which have global activities. Over the years, econsense has become an important partner for actors addressing the topic of sustainability in politics, science, and business.
More information can be found at www.econsense.de
More innovations will secure Germany's long-term competitiveness
How do innovations contribute to sustainable development? This was the central question at „econsense Impulse für Nachhaltigkeit – Nauener Gespräche 2014“(econsense stimuli for sustainability - Nauen meeting 2014). Experts from the business and research communities conferred close to Berlin on May 21 and 22 to analyze political, social, and business challenges, and to discuss potential solutions for current fields of innovation.
Professor Marcel Fratzscher, president of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), and professor of macroeconomics and finance at Berlin's Humboldt University, presented a clear position in his keynote speech: in the long term, Germany will not be strong enough to compete on equal footing with economic powers such as China or the United States. "If we want to achieve lasting competitiveness, we must stand by Europe and help weaker countries like Greece and Spain to overcome the crisis."
According to Fratscher, Germany must make major investments in infrastructure, education, and energy to keep up with other industrialized nations in the long term. Otherwise, Germany will become less and less attractive as an economic region, and may even put its competitiveness at risk. In his view, a lack of planning security and an uncertain investment environment are among the reasons behind an insufficient willingness to promote research and development. "As a result, companies are holding on to their cash instead of spending it on research and development as they should."
Bosch Group companies know from experience that achieving sustainability often calls for innovative ideas and solutions. In 2013, the Group spent 4.5 billion euros on research and development and filed 5,000 patents. Moreover, 48 percent of R&D expenditure went toward products that help protect the environment and make life safer. Today, such products account for 37 percent of Bosch sales.
Representatives from the worlds of politics, business, and research used the “Sustainability get-together” by econsense and Robert Bosch GmbH to discuss climate protection in buildings
Representatives from the worlds of politics, business, and research used the “Sustainability get-together” by econsense and Robert Bosch GmbH to discuss climate protection in buildings.
Politicians, scientists, and some 50 other guests joined econsense and Robert Bosch GmbH at the latter's Berlin office to discuss how decentralized domestic energy supply can help cut CO2 emissions. Uwe Glock, chairman of the board of management of Bosch Thermotechnik GmbH, highlighted significant potential for savings in residential buildings that can be unlocked cost-effectively and using existing technology.
Energy consumption in buildings is currently responsible for around 40 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide. In Germany, more than 40 percent of primary energy consumption is accounted for by buildings, 85 percent of this being used to heat rooms and hot water. “Old and inefficient equipment is still used for this purpose in most buildings and should be replaced as quickly as possible by the efficient technology now available,” says Glock.
The products offered by the Bosch Thermotechnology division for efficient domestic energy supply can play a major role in achieving climate targets. Examples include solar thermal collectors combined with condensing boilers and cogeneration equipment. According to calculations by Bosch, using efficient technology to heat rooms and hot water could reduce annual CO2 emissions by some 55 million metric tons in Germany alone.
The Bosch Thermotechnology division achieved significant growth in sales of solar thermal systems in 2009. Business involving renewable energies accounted for 15 percent of total sales. In the years ahead, the division is looking to systematically expand activities with systems for using renewable energies and energy-efficient solutions.