What we learnt in Cologne at the 3rd International Conference on CSR, Sustainability, Ethics and Governance

Between August 1st and August 3rd of this year 2016, we had the pleasure to attend the third international conference on CSR, Sustainability, Ethics and Governance in Cologne, Germany, entitled ‘Sustainability as New Business Paradigm‘. Here’s the website of the conference.

The conference was organized by Cologne Business School and the Global Corporate Governance Institute, and took place at the Cologne Chamber of Commerce.

Verteego attended the conference since its President is also Secretary General of EDUI France, EDUI being an Australia-registered NGO with a focus on sustainability in China and also a partner of the event.f63b2916-299a-4059-8240-f4f3f0ec6e57-original

Apart from being perfectly organized, we found the event to be very refreshing on the latest academic research and findings regarding sustainability in general, CSR in particular. For sure, there was material to help us craft even better software to help our customers manage their data in a more productive and yet more insightful manner.

You’ll find in the post below what we learnt in Cologne in early August, in a few quotes that we think deserve to be remembered. In chronological order. We’ve added a few pictures that we think may be of interest to you.

Nick Capaldi, President of the Global Corporate Governance Institute : “We are no longer in a world of business as usual. We cannot focus on either benefits or costs anymore. CSR is transformative, CSR adds value to all stakeholders. CSR is the tool for corporations to bring sense and sensibility.”

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Gunther Horzetzky, State Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Energy, Building, Housing and Transport of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia : “Mrs Merkel is willing to deploy CSR regulations. But our government can’t send police everywhere to enforce laws: only some pressure from the economy will work. We, as a government are working on making changes (eg utility provider) easy. Consumers know a few dollar t-shirt was made in a way that cut corners.
Haifeng Huang, pictured with the mic below, Co-Chairman of EDUI and Assistant Dean of HSBC Business School at Peking University: “I want to communicate a different picture of China, a picture that shows economic growth that doesn’t leave jobs and nature behind. China needs technology from outside to clean its air, but don’t forget some of the waste in China comes from Europe. To me, Sustainability means Working together to solve the problems.
Harald Goost, as 7th generation general manager of  workwear manufacturer Bierbaum-Proenen, founded in 1880, says “quality equals best staff, long term business relationships with suppliers ; I realized when we relocated production to Hong-Kong that worker women couldn’t go to the toilets or the production would stop, so they peed on the benches, which is not the kind of business we wanted to build. This is why sustainability costs less than losing acceptance from stakeholders. 1 staff out of 110 in Köln does CSR : it’s a cost but young recruits are very keen on CSR. CSR is not only a continuous improvement process, It’s about ethics. And as a family business : they see ethics as a cornerstone, plus consumers want more and more to know how clothes are manufactured. This is why we are getting help from NGOs, which are full of smart people.
Detlev Grimmelt, Marketing Director of the Fairtrade association in Germany: “10 to 15% extra consumers are willing to pay to clean their conscience ; we are talking about a Transformation of values ; physical traceability (eg roses,…) matters more and more. Companies are not free riders.
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Samuel Idowu, Metropolitan University:
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Hualiang Lu, Nanjing University of Finance and Economics:
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Lisa Fröhlich, Cologne Business School President:
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The pitches from the conference partners on how they contribute to making the world more sustainable proved extremely interesting.
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Jan-Philip Laurinat gave a great talk on the values and core mission of Australian NGO with a focus on China EDUI (Ecological Development Union International):
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Ralph Thurm from Ahead Ahead, said “most companies actually do ESG reporting, not real sustainability reporting. There’s still a long journey in front of us. For example, Michael Meehan stopped working for the GRI because not enough drive in that area! Sustainability reporting is still in puberty. Companies are reactive, not proactive: consumers are ahead. CSR is not moving as fast as the world is changing. My definition of entrepreneurship is acting our way to a new way of thinking, not conversely.”
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Here’s a full (almost) lecture from a Harvard University academic, Dr. Catlin Powers:
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Danica Purg, President of IEDC-Blod School: “We teach ethics by presenting dilemmas. The school was built with a view on a lake, as an art gallery to inspire professors and students on a daily basis“:
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Then came the corporate panel. The one we found most easy to understand for us since we talk to corporations everyday as a sustainability reporting software vendor provider.
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Deutsche Asset Management “is in the process of integrating ESG into mainstream German and European investments. Principles of Responsible Investments were signed in 2008 from the very beginning (from 10 to 500 signatories since then). Today, there is a market premium for sustainability; there will soon be a market discount because sustainability will be the norm, 5 years from now! Investor behaviors are changing rapidly. Clients give the order on how to deal with the portfolio. Consequently, Deutsche AM offers clients to have view on overall carbon footprint portfolio. Potentially joining the Divest – Invest Movement is impacting the bank as a whole, so it’s not in my hands.
Private company Bosch “spends 3bn euros a year in sustainability (including R&D on energy efficiency). With only 4 targets for all BUs : CO2, accidents, supply chain, women executives. The report goes to the board.
Family-owned Otto group counts 55k employees and 12bn revenues and 1m different articles in retail (85%), financial services and logistics services (sourcing services, transportation, warehousing…). “Sustainability has to do with future business. The group’s strategic framework for sustainability focuses on several subsets : sustainable garments, FSC paper and wood, social management (including vendors), climate protection. Our materiality analysis showed several matters of interest: cost of damages and remediation, shared value.
The digital revolution influencing business models (business 10 years from now will have changed, maybe we will only sell 3D printers and materials).
Supply chain : tier 1 is easy to deal with, beyond tier 1 it’s tricky to influence, it requires a lot of effort.
Industry 4.0 pushes CSR thinking further.
There exists no universal framework to always make the right decisions.
Deutsche Post DHL “operates in 220 countries, is one of the most international companies, counts half a million employees. It’s a small city or small country depending on whether you measure in GDP or eCO2. We want to be the benchmark for sustainable business. Our 3 pillars are: responsible business practice (ethically and morally, not only legally), quality of service (green innovation) for our customers, eg built their own electrical vehicles! (Because no manufacturer would fit), corporate citizenship activities (eg natural disasters, employability / education). Sustainability metrics are reported monthly. Sustainability’s involved in all different boards. DHL prefers Shared value creation over the Old paradigm where CSR collects a share of the profits: a contribution to CSR isn’t sustainable because if profits go down, then CSR efforts will go down too. CSR should be integrated in the daily business models and operations.”
Porsche is “Non stock listed, a 100% sub of VW, Porsche counts 20k people. The term Sustainability has been used internally since 2012. However, integrating environmental and social issues into business has a long history at Porsche. Sustainability is a CEO thing: top-down process, high priority. 2014 saw our first sustainability report being published. Our 4 areas of focus are Product responsibility / supply chain / environment and energy / employees and communities. A Sustainability road map was created in 2015. Porsche talks 4 times a year to the board regarding sustainability.
 
Then came the EDUI panel, when Jeremy Fain, President of Verteego and Secretary General of EDUI France, contributed as panel speaker. Jeremy emphasized the importance of disclosing data all along the supply chain to ensure commitments are shared by all stakeholders. The panel was moderated by Prof. Teng-Tsai TU from the National Taipei University in Taiwan, and included prominent speakers such as Dr. Chunghong Sheng from the Environmental Policy Research Center of the Free University of Berlin, Adrian Paul Misarti, founder of the Red Oaks Partners in Italy and Dr. Ulf Henning Richter, Associate Professor of Strategy in Nottingham Ningbo China as well as in Tongji University.
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The panel was introduced by different keynotes, including one from EDUI co-chairman and Associate Professor at the University of South Australia David Ness, below:
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Other quotes we invite you to remember, and pictures from the sessions:
Lanny Entrekin, Emeritus Professor of Management, School of Management and Governance, Murdoch University, Australia
87% percent of companies have no control over their supply chain.
Paul Ohana, leadership consultant and author of Leadership in the Bible: a Practical Guide for Today
Sustainable development encompasses all the things we know, for the first time in the history of management.
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Manhong Mannie Liu on responsible Venture Capitalism:
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Curiosities about Cologne
 
As the most liberal city in Germany, it was no surprise Cologne was full of shops with a focus on sustainable products.
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Last, we found the city of Cologne counts many beautiful fountains. Here are a couple of them.
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