And what do CEOs think about all this?

marcrem2.jpgPlease check names and functions at the programme

Frank Trümper, formerly head of CCA (the CSR-shop within Deutsche Bank) and board member of DB’s group of foundations, opens with an interesting question: What is the value that CSR adds to the business of Deutsche Bank?

This relates for example to employee engagement (see also an article from Ethical Corporation , where Trümper is interviewed on this). And, to him this is being enhanced through a human relations (HR) department which sees Companies delivering on the concept of meritocracy (see the inventor of the term and his unease about New Labours’ use of it). Trümper seems quite radical in perceiving this as “the only legitimation for business” (or did I get this wrong??). To him, the highest reward of business is, to contribute to democratic solutions. He ends with the remark that the scandalisation of fat cat pay is just a metaphor for all that’s wrong with the business world. True blue.

Dirk Matten refers to countries, where governments don’t enforce human rights etc. - and the growing role of MNCs in these markets. Companies need to relate to the growing worldwide impacts they now have - not only by globalised trade but as well by the internet that changed the model, amount and distribution of information.

According to Matten, the notion of CSR being voluntary gets increasingly obsolete. For instance, Adidas does have responsibilities in developing countries, it is not a choice. What should be the standard to measure CSR? Provision of basic civic rights, public infrastructure and all those things that used to be de rigeur when the nation state was still in full blow! Although, me thinks, he most likely *is* aware of the function that corporate spin and an instrumental understanding of CSR has.

Trümper compares CSR with the history Total Quality Management (TQM) had and has within the corporate environment - in the mid-90s, after years of constant lobbying, TQM finally arrived in an increasingly complex world, getting incorporated within business core functions. Similar CSR: Business nowadays ask: Where do I affect society, where do I have the strongest impact through my competences? Critically to all approaches of CSR through locating it within the communications department Trümper adds that CSR is not a corporate but a management function.

I like this guy. Even liked him at this press conference mid-2005 when DB presented their annual CCA report, when he sat next to this banker with that difficult name (was it Tessen von Heidebrecht or something?), a guy really informed on all things CSR - underwriting the report… ;)

Matten sees a break in social responsibility after ‘89 - the argument of “capitalism has won” indoubtedly seems to be long-term compelling Although, I should add, it is exactly this “new paradigm” that leads to a redefinition and repositioning of not only economy but of critical thinking itself: “Wo, wenn nicht hier, sollten Unternehmen menschlicher gemacht… Wer, wenn nicht wir…” etc. - so that this critical thinking survives or - in benjaminic terms - is “saved” within management (Trümper: not corporate) functions of, you guessed it: CSR :)).

Dassler from Adidas (yes, the “das” in Adidas is the das of Dassler) mentioned that they convinced their suppliers and thereby increased efficiency.

The moderator (sorry, didn’t get his name, it wasn’t Ziesemer/Handelsblatt bus a colleague…) provokes the board member of E.on, Krüper, asking how he justifies the overpriced energy prices of which everyone in Germany including my family is concerned. Krüper answers, the sector does have price exchanges such as the Leipzig energy exchange, but “We are far away from being a perfect market, we are supporting the propositions of politicions towards a harmonized, liberal market in Europe.” Do I need to comment?

How important is sustainable growth? It is a factor, says Dassler, although it might not be that known by shareholders. Krüper sees that managing sustainability is only possible if you are a sustainable cmpany. You can only survive, when your stakeholders are convinced that your price, quality and employee is OK.
Comes the public questions:

Someone asks Krüper (!) that, while everybody is talking about the new role of companies that could they not mean, beside zillions of things that they redefined in their rather limited neoliberal, neo-con view, that they would be able to play a leading role towards e.g. renewable energy - something that is undoubtedly lacking in politics (again: hello RNE! :))? Krüper points to the offshore wind electricity plants they plan - and that Eon does both: burning fuels *and* investing in renewables.

Dassler confesses that it is the leading SRI agencies that press them towards a “never ending” story reporting, so finance is an integrated process. And Krüper adds, that it is only fair to say that CSR in not among the first priorities of CSR - and that investors don’t ask for CSR activities but instead do say: We do want you to be sustainable (SRI’s knocking) etc. — well, well, here he really should mention that sustainability is about sustainable growth and profitability, shouldn’t he? However, he doesn’t.

I wonder if - among all things of Eon investing some 2% (or was it 0.2%? Never mind) of their net profits in renewables - this market-driven argument for sustainability (to be precised, it’s not quite an argument or function of SD, it really is within the core of SD itself) has arrived at the board of one of the world’s largest utilities?

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