On Why Business Should Serve the People

Discussions on moral values and ethics have never been more important than today. The financial crisis has shown how dangerous the impact of a lack of values and ethical responsibility on our entire economic and social structures can be. When investigating the causes of erroneous trends or rather the possibilities of avoiding such, one inevitably will stumble upon the question of what view of mankind one holds.

As a Christian, the testimony of the bible is authoritative to me: mankind is God’s creature. This provides it with a unique dignity. God creates a human being in relation to its fellow men. This idea is expressed in the commandment of neighbourly love: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. Therefore, a human being can never exclusively be means to an end in business – e.g., for the purpose of profit maximisation –  but rather has to be an end in itself at all times.

The bible reminds us to handle property and wealth responsibly. Jesus constantly warns that property may turn into the false god “Mammon” for mankind, setting its heart on the idol and serving it instead of God.

Based on these ideas, we have developed an overall concept for our business. Initially, it was orally passed on, by now it has been written down. It defines as the greater goal of our company: “The business has to serve the people.” The determination of its position at the same time serves as a preamble: “The Deichmann family feels committed to the Christian view of mankind. It is eager to emphasise these values in its operational activities – being well aware that reality will lack behind the desired ideal at times.”

It is further said: “On basis of these values we have defined a greater goal for our company: The business has to serve the people. This statement is valid for customers, employees, suppliers as well as people in need alike.

“In this context, achieving profits is not an end in itself. Profits are necessary to keep the business healthy, protect and create new jobs, to achieve expansion through internal means as well as exercise charitable functions.”

What does that mean to the individual groups mentioned above?

The consumers are our first priority: “We want to offer fashionable shoes in high quality to large sections of society at a fair price. We perceive this aim not only as one of sensible business but as a social endeavour.”

The company, however, wants to serve its employees as well: “Our managing staff shall leave the necessary room for proactive initiatives of employees, further one’s own responsibility and the pride of achievement as well as take every employee’s abilities, needs and woes seriously. This should be achieved in the spirit of cooperation and empathy rather than the spirit of confrontation.”

In addition, for many years now we pay salaries exceeding the pay scale of collective bargaining to our employees and support them in their efforts to establish a pension fund beyond the legal requirements. We abstain from establishing minor employment forms because we want to collaborate especially with our female staff on retirement provisions. Beyond those measures, we offer our employees the possibility of a so-called Week of Health at a Swiss sanatorium for a long time. For employees facing financial trouble, we have established a supportive fund that offers non-bureaucratic help especially in cases of illness and deaths in the family. Regular allocations are also offered in cases of births and marriages. The funds are in all cases provided by the company.

We also feel responsible for the employees of our business partners. As a globally active company, we are aware of potential abberations on our supply markets. Our guidelines address this issue:

“We attach importance to a fair and collegial commerce with our business partners. We pay attention and try to enforce that the people in the countries of our production sites can work in humane conditions. In this respect, Deichmann feels committed to its Code of Conduct.”

Our long-standing Code of Conduct is based on the requirements of the International Labour Organization. It entails social and ecological minimum standards that we enforce towards our suppliers. This is regularly monitored by independent testing institutes.

As a third group of people, we as an entrepreneurial family feel obligated to support people in need, both at home and abroad. Help for the poorest among the poor has a long-standing tradition at Deichmann that dates back to its founding years. Today, the company supports more than 200.000 people through its relief organisation “wortundtat” and local partner organisations in India, Tanzania, Moldavia, Greece and Germany. The focus in these projects is aimed at medical assistance, and especially the educational sector. Most projects focus on helping people help themselves. The on-site support is exclusively provided by local staff.

Many of our employees identify themselves with our business culture and the associated social and charitable commitment. They feel connected to the company in an exceptional manner and help to fill our overall concept with life again and again.

About the author:

Heinrich DeichmannHeinrich Deichmann is a German entrepreneur and member of the Board of Patrons of the “My Europe” Initiative. Since 1999 he is the CEO of the Deichmann Group, Europe’s largest shoe retailer. more…

How the chemicals industry is combatting world hunger

According to the 2013 Global Hunger Index, around 842 million people in the world are starving. The figure may have declined by approximately 160 million since the early 1990s, but one person in eight still goes hungry. Every year, more people die of starvation than of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis put together.

In the face of such dramatic evidence, every single one of us has a responsibility to do what we can. The reasons for hunger are as diverse as the solutions need to be. The chemical industry, for example, can help reconcile the conflict that sometimes exists between food and bio-fuel production, and better protect food in transit by developing smart packaging and shipment solutions. Specialty chemicals can play a key role in minimizing crop loss and maximizing crop yield. Let me highlight a few examples.
Lost crops present a very real threat to world food supplies. Did you know that without pesticides, just 32 percent of harvested produce would be viable? But with the help of crop-protection products, this rises to 68 percent? On the flip side, however, these chemicals impact our environment – so we need to deploy them as efficiently as possible. Specialty chemicals can help. For example, our highly-effective, sustainable adjuvant Synergen® OS, made from renewable resources, is biodegradable and highly eco-friendly. It is extremely effective at combatting drift, even when used in low dosages. As a result, less of the pesticide reaches the surrounding area, and the distance to neighboring fields and bodies of water can be significantly reduced, improving land utilization. Moreover, the product’s active penetrates leaves faster, meaning less pesticide is required. So farmers can conserve actives, water and energy, and also reduce effort.

A further example is food transportation. To help people at risk of starvation, large quantities of food must reach their destination intact. In 2011 alone, more than 5.3 million tons of grain were distributed to 76 developing countries. Typically, these commodities are shipped in containers by sea, rail and road, and take several weeks to arrive. During the long journey, the goods are often subjected to extreme environmental conditions. Condensation forms easily in the steel containers, rendering contents susceptible to mold, decay and decomposition. According to the Save Food Initiative, up to 40 percent of the total volume of food produced in the world is rendered inedible during transportation and distribution in developing countries. Our product Container DRI® II provides a solution. This granulated desiccant is highly absorbent, and can be effectively deployed at all temperatures and humidity levels. It can absorb three times its weight in moisture from ambient air, and ensures foodstuffs arrive undamaged where they are so urgently needed.

No discussion of world hunger would be complete without mentioning fertilizers – which brings me to my final example. Of all the plant nutrients, nitrogen is the most effective, and is considered to be a real driver of growth. Annual global demand for fertilizers is around 180 million tons. By 2008, around half of the world’s population was eating produce grown using nitrogen-based mineral fertilizers. Ammonia is an essential component of nitrogen production – in fact, 80 percent of industrially produced ammonia is destined for nitrogen fertilizers. For the past 100 years, the key large-scale production process for ammonia has been the Haber-Bosch method. Its downside is that it is extremely energy-intensive. In fact, this process is responsible for almost two percent of global energy consumption. To save energy and improve the efficiency of the process, we developed AmoMax®-10, a highly reactive catalyst. Its unique design is based on the mineral wustite, which contains iron oxide, and enhanced promoters meaning it increases efficiency by 40 percent compared to magnetite-based catalysts. Thanks to faster activation times and higher efficiency at lower temperature and pressure, AmoMax®-10 delivers significant energy savings and simplifies ammonia production.

These examples underline the key role of the chemical industry in combatting world hunger. Of course, this is not the only problem facing humanity, and in social discourse, we have defined a multitude of megatrends currently affecting the planet. I am absolutely certain that without the chemical industry, mankind would not be able to even scratch the surface of these challenges.

About the author:

Flims Event CLARIANT 2012Dr. Hariolf Kottmann is Chief Executive Officer of the Swiss speciality chemicals company Clariant International Ltd. and a member of EC and Board at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) since 2012. more…


PS: Dr Kottmann will gladly answer all questions you might have. However, due to time constraints, he cannot do so regularly. We will collect your questions and comments that have been submitted until and including October 27, 2014, and will pass them on to him. For all questions submitted after that, we cannot guarantee an answer.

Russia vs Ukraine

Ukraine is a country located between Russia and Europe. Since declaring independence in 1991, Ukraine has been a strongly divided country and this crisis is a result of major internal divisions. The population is divided between pro-Russian and pro-European. According to political scientist Leonid Peisakhin, Ukraine “has never been and is not yet a coherent national unit with a common narrative or a set of more or less commonly shared political aspirations.”
The crisis was initially an internal one, but then rapidly escalated to what is now the tensest situation between the US and Russia since the Cold War.

A look at the facts

In November 2013, President Viktor Yanukovych was offered a deal for a stronger integration with the EU, his rejection caused major mass protests, which he violently put down. Many Ukrainians wanted the deal, not only because they feel closer to Europe culturally, but mainly to save their weak and troubled economy. It was not only an economical deal, but also a political one. Protestors were mainly students and young people, trying to save their country, fight against corruption, make a change. This was the breaking point: Russia backed Yanukovych, while the US and EU backed the protesters. As protests continued and turned into anti-government protests, Yanukovych was forced to leave the country, seeking Russia’s support.

In the meantime, Russia wanted to reinforce its influence on Ukraine, so in March 2014 Russian troops slowly arrived in Crimea, a peninsula situated south of Ukraine and surrounded by the Black sea and the Sea of Azov, which used to be Russian territory.

A power struggle for Crimea

Crimea is in a strategical position, having 3 main ports on the Black sea and its territory has sparked fights for domination for centuries. On March 16, Crimeans voted for their region to become a part of Russia. Most of the world sees Crimea’s secession vote as illegitimate for various reasons: it was held under pressing Russian military occupation with no international monitoring and many reports of intimidation; it was pushed through with only a couple of weeks’ warning, and it was illegal under Ukrainian law. Still, legitimate or not, Crimea has effectively become part of Russia.

A draft UN investigative report found that critics of secession within Crimea were detained and tortured in the days before the vote; it also found “many reports of vote-rigging”.

US and EU united against Russia

The US and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia to punish Moscow for this, but there is no sign that Crimea will return to Ukraine. Russia’s sanctions have hit many of the EU’s agricultural states, especially the closest ones.
The Netherlands – the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products – is set to lose 300 million euro annually from canceled business with Russia. Poland as well was hit hard by the Kremlin’s sanctions. Spain, a large exporter of oranges to Russia, is estimated to miss out on 337 million euro in food and agriculture sales, while Italy has estimated its losses at nearly 1 billion euro.

From the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Russia feared losing influence on Ukraine and that their neighbors would fall under what Moscow sees as a Western conspiracy to surround Russia with inimical governments. It’s very difficult for many Russians to untangle their own history from Ukraine’s and accept the equality and legitimacy of the Ukrainian culture parallel to their own. Since April, pro-Russian rebels have been colliding with Ukrainian troops in the eastern part of the country, taking over government buildings and cities. Several Ukrainian military planes have been shot down and a Malaysian Airlines flight as well, killing more than 300 civilians. Of course, neither Kiev nor Moscow admitted taking part in the incidents.
These deaths attracted major attention; the world could not stand back and ignore the conflict anymore.

The Ukrainian response, especially a youth response

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced the start of “Project ‘Wall” in September, the building of a wall along its borders is a strong statement. Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine should be clear about who its enemy is, the former Soviet neighbor has become an “aggressor”.

The US has provided non- lethal aid (food, body armors, etc.) instead of weapons to Ukrainian forces. This is a strong affirmation of the US to avoid any further worsening of the situation.

Since March 2014, the Ukrainian government has sent letters to young men to invite them to join the army. Surprisingly, many young Ukrainians joined without second thoughts. Mainly the reason they had was helping restore law and order in Ukraine. We should certainly learn from these motivated young people protesting and ready to fight for their rights.
Hopefully the youth will stop the conflict and save Ukraine.

About the Author:

APicture Alessandra Maffettonelessandra (22) is Chairwoman of the Youth Council for the Future (YCF). She is involved with the “My Europe” Initiative since 2012.