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Almost two years after the Sustainability Development Goals were launched, experts are now taking stock of progress.
Achieving equality for all, ending poverty, and minimizing climate change are just three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the governments of 157 United Nations member states agreed on in 2015. The SDG Index now offers insights into how far we have made it on the road toward achieving these goals. Based on 99 indicators, the ranking shows which countries have come the closest. This year, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland have taken the top spots. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and the Central African Republic are at the bottom of the ranking. Germany is in sixth place, scoring points for its low poverty rate and high standing in terms of education and industrial progress. In contrast, Germany showed room for improvement in the areas of climate and ocean protection, as well as in the realm is sustainable production and consumption.
In the most recent edition of the SDG index, spill-over effects were considered for the first time. These refer to the negative impact the industrialized nations have on poorer countries, for instance because of the exploitation of resources and weapons exports.
The SDGs as a guideline
As a member of the United Nations Global Compact, Bosch has committed to pursuing 11 of the 17 SDGs. “Thanks to these development goals, we can measure our activities based on their relevance for society and ask ourselves how our innovations contribute to sustainable social change,” says Dr. Volkmar Denner, the chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH. In 2016, the company spent 55 percent of its R&D budget on technologies related to the environment and safety. For instance, Bosch is committed to developing innovations that cut CO2 emissions in the areas of e-mobility and automated driving.
Moreover, the company cooperates with Robert Bosch Stiftung on projects that support health and social well-being. In 2016, the Robert Bosch Center for Tumor Diseases was opened. “We need to continuously assess our position, allow for a change of perspective, and be ready to forge new paths. I strongly believe that, with the right definition of innovation, business can make a significant contribution to solving the challenges society faces,” says Volkmar Denner.
More information and details on the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals can be found in the SDG Index.
To find more about what Bosch is doing to help achieve the SDGs, please consult the Sustainability Report.
Bosch Global Supplier Award conferred to best suppliers
The award honors fruitful past partnerships as well as partnerships that show promise for the future: on July 12 and 13, the Bosch Group presented 44 suppliers from 11 countries with Bosch Global Supplier Awards. For the 15th time, the award ceremony acknowledged the outstanding performance of suppliers in the production and delivery of products or services. The event, called “Partners in Success”, was held in Fellbach, a suburb of Stuttgart.
Supplier companies have long been much more than mere parts suppliers for Bosch. They have also served as development and innovation partners that give Bosch a competitive edge. With this in mind, Dr. Volkmar Denner, chairman of the Bosch board of management, emphasized that strong relationships between Bosch and its suppliers will remain important in the future. “In the connected world, partnerships will continue to gain importance. Hierarchical value-added chains will become value-added networks. With our open platform technologies, we can make the best possible use of digitization in our partner networks, for instance for data-sharing purposes in Industry 4.0.
Relationships with suppliers a key success factor
As an innovation leader, Bosch is shaping the transformation of the Internet of Things. To this end, the company makes major investments in new technologies and markets, and drives innovative purchasing and logistics strategies forward (see post of July 21). At present, purchasing and logistics volumes amount to 60 percent of total Bosch Group sales. Good relationships with suppliers are thus a key success factor. “Our aim is to achieve supply chain excellence,” says Professor Stefan Asenkerschbaumer, deputy chairman of the Bosch board of management. “This can only work if all partners are intelligently networked and work together closely with the help of automated processes.”
The strong and lasting relationships that Bosch strives to maintain with its suppliers are part of this high standard of quality. The Bosch Group has cooperated with many of its partners for decades: three of the prize-winning companies were among the honorees for the eighth time. Within the framework of these partnerships, Bosch places a great deal of importance on compatible views of corporate social responsibility. For this reason, the company is committed to setting sustainability standards throughout the value-added chain. To ensure the quality of this process, Bosch reviews the environmental and occupational safety performance of its suppliers. Since 2010, the Group has conducted 614 social audits around the world, and aims to reach the 1,000 mark by 2020.
The list with all prize winners can be found here. (The PDF is only available in German)
Germany’s environment minister presented the B.A.U.M. award during Environment Week in Berlin
What do an engineer from the municipal cleaning department, a former Viva VJ, and a cultural studies expert and food specialist have in common? Each of them has made an outstanding contribution to eco-friendly and socially responsible business. Germany’s environment minister Dr. Barbara Hendricks honored their achievements at an event held on June 6, on the eve of Environment Week in Berlin. Dr. Hendricks presented the environment prize of the Bundesdeutschen Arbeitskreises für Umweltbewusstes Management e.V. (B.A.U.M.). With 550 members, the German environmental management initiative is Europe’s largest corporate network for sustainable business.
The recipients of the 2016 B.A.U.M. environment prize with Dr. Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s environment minister
Since 1984, the initiative has awarded the prize to individuals for their commitment to promoting sustainability and protecting the environment. This year, the television and radio host Tobias Schlegl was among the award recipients. He was honored for his successful approach to making environmental and sustainability-related topics interesting to younger people. The photographer Nomi Baumgartl also took home a prize for her art projects, which raise awareness on the impact of modern lifestyles on the environment and climate. In the large companies category, B.A.U.M. acknowledged the achievements of Kristian Kijewski. Kijewski is in charge of environmental management at Berlin’s city cleaning department. When it comes to protecting the environment, he has successfully made his department a role model and multiplier.
At Environment Week, the B.A.U.M. jury members (from left to right) Fritz Lietsch, Ulrich Walter, Dieter Brübach (B.A.U.M. chairman), and Bernhard Schwager seized the opportunity to chat with German President Joachim Gauck
A Bosch executive is among past winners of the prize. In 2009, Franz Fehrenbach, at the time chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, received the B.A.U.M. environment prize for his company’s consistent commitment to sustainability. During his tenure, the Bosch Group introduced a global management program for climate protection, among other things. The aim was to reduce CO2 emissions relative to value-added by 20 percent by 2020 over 2007 levels. This target was reached in 2015, and Bosch has since raised the target to 35 percent.
More information on the B.A.U.M. environment prize and a list of winners can be found here (only in German available).
Photographis: Bernhard Schwager
Several thousand experts convened at Schloss Bellevue for Environment Week
On June 7 and 8, the fifth annual “Environment Week” took place at Schloss Bellevue, the German president’s residence. In cooperation with the German Federal Environment Foundation, German President Joachim Gauck invited several thousand experts from the worlds of science, business, politics, and media, as well as representatives of civil society. The aim was to discuss current environmental topics.
German President Joachim Gauck welcomed guests to the Schloss Bellevue grounds
At the same time, the 4,000 square meter exhibit on the castle grounds served to present a selection of 200 innovations for environmental protection. Almost 12,000 visitors took advantage of the opportunity to get informed about innovative products, services, and concepts.
Around 200 exhibitors presented their projects over the course of Environment Week
Bosch was also one of the exhibitors. At the company’s booth, associates used an intelligent reproduction of the Mona Lisa to show how environmental sensors in a connected environment can ensure a healthy ambient climate. A 3x3 mm Bosch sensor was used that can monitor air pressure, humidity, room temperature, and air quality simultaneously. If the figures deviated too strongly from the norm, the painting responded. If air quality was bad, the Mona Lisa’s skin turned green. If it was too dry, the portrait cracked. In the future, environmental sensors will be suitable for use especially in the realm of intelligent building and logistics applications.
Dr. Werner Struth, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, at the company’s exhibit.
In addition to the exhibit, there were a total of six main forums and 80 specialist forums in which experts addressed current sustainability-related topics. At the “Current status and outlook: the tools of sustainable business for the implementation of the UN’s Agenda 2030 – management systems and reporting“ forum, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were discussed, which have been in force since the start of 2016. Bernhard Schwager, the head of sustainability at Bosch, explained the approach the company has taken to prioritize 17 of the 169 sub-goals of Agenda 2030. In so doing, Bosch has drawn a link to its own sustainability activities.
Bernhard Schwager on a panel with Annette Schmidt-Räntsch (German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety) and Holger Robrecht (ICLEI)
Dr. Werner Struth, member of the board of management at Robert Bosch GmbH, emphasized the relevance of energy efficiency and a decentralized energy supply at the “Energy turnaround and climate protection: what needs to be done?” forum. Particularly in production, there is a great deal of room for improvement. According to Struth, more than 80 percent of process heat generation systems do not meet current technical standards and thus cause high costs and emissions. At the “energy efficiency table”, visitors had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with efficient Bosch technologies. For instance, heat recovery and decentralized power generation contribute to significantly reducing CO2 emissions, and this also helps protect the environment and achieve EU climate targets. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 20 percent, and energy efficiency increased by 20 percent.
More information on the fifth annual Environment Week can be found here (only in German available).
More information on a decentralized energy supply with Bosch technologies can be found here.
More information on Bosch MEMS sensors can be found here.
All pictures by Bernhard Schwager
People, profit, planet – the famous triple bottom line. How has this concept evolved, and maybe even changed, since you first coined the phrase in 1995?
Indeed, we have had 20 years of mutation since then. At the time, the key sustainable business concept was eco-efficiency, which meant making or saving money through resource efficiency and better products. So thinking in terms of a triple bottom line (TBL) was slightly heretical.
The idea that there was not just financial but wider economic dimension to value creation, and also destruction, encouraged companies to take a wider view of their contributions, while the social dimension was a considerable shock to some business leaders – particularly in the USA. Think of Walmart post-Hurricane-Katrina: they went for an eco-efficiency version of sustainable business, not the full TBL approach.
One of the thrills of recent years has been to see a fair number of social entrepreneurs talk about their TBL inspirations – and also to be part of Sir Richard Branson’s B Team as it embraces the People, Planet, Profit formulation.
In your experience, are ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) indicators currently playing a role in corporations when it comes to their business models, processes and products?
I think the efforts of organisations like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) have mainly led to better, if increasingly complicated, accounting, reporting and verification. None of that is bad, of course, but to date the direct impact on the underlying business models has been small. A few outliers pioneered, among them Patagonia, Interface and large corporations like Unilever. But the most striking business model innovations are coming from companies like Tesla and Uber, who don’t strike me as ESG junkies. They are simply responding to the zeitgeist, the growing sense that the future the sustainability movement warned us about is here, whether it’s drought in California and Brazil, or for different reasons the swelling northward surge of economic and soon climate migrants into Europe.
You are often referring to the next ten years until 2025 as the “Breakthrough Decade”. What does this decade stand for – and why is it coming up now?
Futurist Alex Steffen put it succinctly in a May 2015 tweet: „What happens in next 40 years [is] critical for all humanity for centuries to come. What happens in next 10 years sets [the] range of what's possible.’ Our sense is that the next decade will determine whether we make this work for our and other species, or not. The aim is also to inject a greater sense of urgency into the discussion, given that many people are setting their targets out to 2050 or even 2100. The next decade will also see the Millennials beginning to take over from the Baby Boomers, which is a huge demographically-shaped opportunity for culture change.
In The Stretch Agenda, one of your latest publications, you decided to write about corporate transformation for this “Breakthrough Decade” in the form of a play. Why did you choose to write about this topic in such an unusual format?
Partway through the project, one of my colleagues said, “Everyone’s writing reports these days, but no-one’s reading them! Why don’t we do a play?” My initial reaction was, “What a stupid idea! Impossible!” But then we thought it through – and concluded that this might be a way of creating the business equivalent of a Trojan Horse. It’s only just out, but it’s interesting that we have already people like a major Italian bank and a Sri Lankan cell phone company saying they are keen to use the play in executive education and training.
One character in the play says, “many companies are reporting their sustainability numbers – and setting targets – with little or no reference to the wider context.” How can this issue be resolved?
Much corporate reporting is about integration across various forms of capital, but gives the reader or user no sense of how what the company is reporting fits into a wider context. We use an aircraft to show that there is a horizontal dimension to all of this – integrating across physical, financial, natural, human, social and other forms of capitals. Additionally, a vertical dimension is increasingly linking from the field or factory out to the biosphere or atmosphere, and a longitudinal dimension with most reporting on a quarterly or annual basis, when we ultimately will need to report over decades-long timescales. Because those are the timescales over which the most critical trends are developing – whether it be global competitiveness or climate change.
“Today’s unmet needs are often tomorrow’s markets,” is another interesting statement in The Stretch Agenda. Do you have an insight into one such unmet need that could develop into a future market?
We are fascinated by the way that cell phone technology is enabling breakthrough business models that help bring finance, solar lighting and education to some of the world’s poorest communities. We have begun to map and quantify some of the emerging ‘Sweet Spots’ in this space in our Breakthrough Forecast.
Change happens on a timetable and people need constant wakeup calls to breakthrough to new forms of behaviour and economic activity. What is currently the most important wakeup call that needs to be amplified and heard by everyone?
I’m not religious, but the Pope’s recent encyclical is as great example of a leader calling out the nature and scale of the challenge, particularly in respect of climate change. But there has been little mention of population, as yet. Since I was born in 1949, 4.8 billion people have been added to the global population. This has already had major consequences, and forecasts that we are headed to up to eleven billion people suggest that the pressures can only intensify over time. And all of this at a time when the global governance mechanisms we have inherited from the post-WWII era are sadly, despite huge efforts from those involved, no longer truly fit for purpose.
You said that we are waiting for the next big sustainability “wave” to come. Prior societal pressure waves changed businesses and markets drastically. What could trigger such a wave, and how can businesses prepare for the inherent change coming with it?
The diagram shows a series of great wave structures in the OECD world since 1960, when I first started getting interested in all of this. In 1961, for example, aged eleven, I raised money for the World Wildlife Fund in its first year of existence.
The first wave focused on the environment and the role of governments, the second expanded to a wider green agenda. Our own Green Consumer Guide sold around one million copies in the late 1980s. Then the beginning of a third, anti-globalisation wave in the late 1990s, but that was cut back by the events of 9/11. More recently, we have seen wave four focusing on sustainability, with surveys showing very high proportions of CEOs around the world saying they have already embedded the concept.
We don’t think so, as explained in a recent book, The Breakthrough Challenge, I wrote with Jochen Zeitz, former Chairman and CEO of Puma, and now co-chairman of The B Team with Richard Branson.
It is no accident that this expanded agenda is increasingly pushing up to the Board and C-suite levels in companies. This is now a strategic agenda about how we create and grow the biggest markets of the 21st century.
The Baby Boomer generation of leaders and executives still struggles to see how they can adapt incumbent business models to the new realities. But the Millennials, who are heavily represented among the most interesting innovators, are not going to wait. Whether they Uberize the competition because of a desire to save the world or to make money doesn’t really matter. Joseph Schumpeter would have recognised them as the agents of the next wave of creative destruction. The question now is do we back the future, or cling on to the wreckage of the past?