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…

Should Turkey become a member of the EU? (1/4)

The flags of Turkey and the EU (Flickr:European Parliament/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This is the first part of a 4-part series, discussing the pros and cons of an accession of Turkey to the European Union from all angles. Check the blog regularly or sign up to our newsletter to be notified as soon as the following parts are available.

The relationship between Turkey and the European Union (EU) has lasted more than 50 years. Although in the past there have been ups and downs, Turkey is still interested in being a member of the EU. The possible membership of Turkey to the EU has many pros for both sides. Turkey’s geographical position as a bridge between Europe and Asia, its host of different cultures and its secular political and constitutional structure make it visible and important. In this paper, I will try to explain why Turkey should be a member of the EU from the EU’s perspective.

Promoting the motto “United in Diversity”

For many centuries, Europe has been home to many different cultures and civilizations. Like the EU, Turkey hosts many different cultures, such as Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Azerbaijan, Greek, as well as many religions, such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and many others. All of these are in relative harmony with each other. This means that if Turkey becomes a member, the motto of the EU “United in Diversity” will be promoted. At that point, I have to remind you of something. It is known that Turkey is a secular and democratic country as well as the fact that its population is mainly Muslim. To be honest, in the Islamic world the EU is seen as the Union of Christians, so the most important impact of Turkey’s membership will be a signal that Europe is open to the Islamic world.

A stronger voice in international arena

With globalization, something happening in a part of the world can have an impact in other countries. For example, a change at the New York Stock Exchange can cause a disaster in London. Or a political crisis in the Middle East can easily make the USA to be worried about it. To eliminate the negative power of globalization, countries have to stick together. In Turkish there is an idiom about this issue: “One hand has a voice, but two hands have more voice”. So instead of alone or excluded from others, the EU should be closer to Turkey to be stronger.

“As a member of the EU, Turkey can re-invigorate Europe’s relations with fast evolving regions like the energy rich Caucasus and Central Asia, to the new Middle East that emerging from the new events. Turkey’s unique geo-strategic position, plus the strength of NATO’s second-largest army would greatly add to European security, too.” (1)

Demographic position

I, as a university student, have visited some countries within and beyond the European Union. During my trips, I realized that there is an aging population in member states, so of course the population of the EU is aging. At the same time, today’s Turkish population is very young and increasingly well-educated. The young population in Turkey is about 40 million. You cannot see this youth power anywhere else, so I think that the aging EU should consider this demographic aspect of Turkey as a soft power.

Dynamic economy

Unfortunately, the economic crisis at the beginning of 2010 has created economic recessions in some member states of the EU. If we look at, for example, Greece, Spain, Portugal and some others we can easily see this scenario. At the same time, for a long time, the Turkish economy has been growing and it has more stability. Today, Turkey is a part of G20 but hopes to be the G9 of G8 in a short time. Moreover, the membership of Turkey will add 75 million consumers to the single market. This indicates that if Turkey becomes a member of the EU, both sides will benefit economically.

Briefly, Turkey and the EU need each other politically, economically and culturally in today’s globalized world. When Turkey is a member, the EU and Turkey will share both happiness and sadness. Thus, if Europe is to become an active global player, rather than a museum, it needs the fresh perspective and energy of Turkey.

Continue to Part 2 of the series


1. www.debatingeurope.eu/focus/infobox-arguments-for-and-against-turkeys-eu-membership/#.VEYB_lfi-ik (20.10.2014)

About the author:

haci mehmetHacı Mehmet Boyraz (21) is a student of International Relations with Political Science and Public Administration at Gediz University in İzmir.

Strange Love (2/2)

Have you ever been afraid that the world might end within a moment for no particular reason whatsoever? Have you ever been suspicious that if you read just the right line coined from the right poet with the right intensity and pitch of your voice, you can accidentally cause Earth’s fiery destruction? I hope so.

Because, you see, a world which can be shattered to pieces merely by the emotional buildup of a poem is the same world which another poem can reassemble on the very next day. It is a world preserved by its own power of self-expression, because it is a world which lives twice simultaneously. But today self-expression just as our ozone layer is endangered instead of supported by human technology. We seem to be concerned only with the “self-” part completely forgetting about the “expression” itself. What we often ignore is that self-expression is not merely to play music or to write verse or to paint, it is to a much higher degree listening, reading, absorbing, being curious and autodidactic, collaborating and experimenting. It is so easy these days to meet a British “poet” who has never heard of Ted Hughes or Philip Larkin or a German one who never found time to discover Hans Magnus Enzensberger or Gottfried Benn. It seems to me that contemporary communication made us feel more self-centred and self-absorbed than ever instead of widening our horizons for the work of others around us.

“Today literature and art are exposed to another danger. They are not endangered by ideology or a political party, but by an economic process without face, without soul and without direction. Its censure is not ideological. It has no ideas. It knows everything about prices and nothing about virtues.”                                                                                       – Octavio Paz, ‘Poetry and the Free Market’

I don’t miss the glorious days when T.S. Elliot and W.H. Auden were regarded as living demigods or when New York Times used to publish poetry on its pages, I don’t even miss the times when the governing elite of Ancient Ellada and Rome was abundant with true worshippers of poetry. Dreaming about this would have been sentimental and because of that – bad poetry. What I’d really like to see today is rage against the machine, rebellion against the dissolution of individuality in favour of mediocrity, dissatisfaction with the mass production and fabrication of music, literature and cinema. I am afraid that we will soon be able to create a machine indistinguishable from man not because Alan Turing said so but simply because we have turned ourselves into one of his definitions – by straightening up and abstracting all the curves and wiggles life has, by not admitting that reason and logic are not as fundamental to the human’s nature as the primordial power of metaphor and rhythm.

“I fought the law and the law won.”                                                                                              – The Clash

Day by day, I recognise more easily the patterns of the monstrous mechanisation and standartization that our society is going through. I see more and more people refusing to accept the fact that we don’t have mythology anymore, that we live in a world where mysteries are sentenced to death for being “one hundred percent truth and two hundred percent fiction”. The problem of poetry is that it is an incompetent businessman trying to capitalize on a highly distinctive and challenging product which no one is able to mass produce and standartize. A product that doesn’t impose on you any kind of cheap tricks and promises. Its packaging doesn’t try to flatter you, to reassure you or to convince you, it doesn’t bring you any short-term appeasement with yourself. Instead it very often wants you to “gaze into the abyss” and to realize that “the abyss gazes back into you”.

“Poetry is everywhere except in the poems of weak poets.”                                                   – Paul Claudel

Last but not least, poetry can be studied, but not taught. I find it really amusing that some people still believe that they can standartize poetry by creating a mechanical algorithm for creativeness. I am of course speaking of the fashionable creative writing courses. These are ridiculous because to try to study how to write poetry is like trying to study how to laugh at jokes. You don’t. It’s not funny. It’s an anti-joke and anti-poetry. If you devise an algorithm for how people should be creative, they won’t be creative anymore. Creativeness is always mysterious and unknown and that is why we appreciate geniuses. We simply don’t have a clue how do they do what they do. The day we understand that process will be the day when we are going to stop praising them for being creative.

But what is one way to write poetry? When mediocre musicians from the Austrian aristocracy asked Mozart how does he write music, he simply answered, “I bring together sounds which love each other.” As simple as a little night music. You see, footballers don’t write dissertations on how to play football. They come together and play. In the same way, a good poet plays football with a ball which nobody else can touch. The brilliant poet does the same with a ball which nobody else can see. I warned you. It is a strange love.

About the author:

Picture Bogomil Todorov GospodinovBogomil (20) participated in our workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England.

Strange Love (1/2)

“There are people who understand and love poetry and people who cannot stand it. The latter are much more and they are the masters of today’s world.”                                 – Lyubomir Levchev

These days only the poet himself doesn’t know what poetry is. He is the one who doesn’t try to beautify its dead lovers. He doesn’t take advantage of its former wives. He doesn’t kill it without making mistakes. He doesn’t dream of its cold comfort. He puts all his questions to its mirror. He doesn’t try to convince the shape of its stone in his firmness. He knows that if it is heads and he is tails, what’s important is the coin. But he is not its fairy tale.

If someone asks him why poetry is important or why he is interested in poetry, he answers that poetry is not important at all and that’s the sole reason for which he is interested in it. “In the century of you must do it because it is good for you”, he will continue, “there exists this special kind of artistry, this unique cross-breed of originality and cautious contemplation, this music for the inner ear and imagery for the inner eyes which is not doing any good to anybody”. The oldest tree in the forest, you see, is the most useless one, owed to the fact that it is good for nothing else but providing shade to strangers.

“Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world,
pierced by a ray of sunlight,
and suddenly it’s evening”
– Salvatore Quasimodo, Tutte le poesie

And this is precisely how a strange and unnecessary love like this can happen in an alternative world where happiness is not the universal virtue by default and clichés are not always regarded as common sense. Such a love seems to occur only when uncalled-for and unexpected and then disappears if you try to talk to her about the practical implications of her essence or the importance of her virtue. As Lao-Tzu once beautifully said, “A virtue that is aware of itself is not a virtue”.

Once Diogenes saw a child drinking out of his hands, and so he threw away his cup and said “That child has beaten me in simplicity”.

Yes, you don’t have to do it. If you can go without it, it’s better for you. To believe in absurdities is the first symptom of poetry and unless you are terminally ill with it, save yourself the trouble. If you believe it is inevitable, always have in mind that “the point of action is contemplation”. If you read and write poetry, don’t do it to put down people who may not look as erudite as you and don’t do it for the sake of being non-conformist, because this is exactly what conformists do. No insincere and inferior motivation will bring you the same experience as when you just do it for the sake of spontaneity. It’s not the same as going to the gym regularly or nightclubbing every Saturday even when what you really wanted was to sleep that night. There is no authority and no law which requires you to do it and no social pressure to do it under the false promises of certain yet never fulfilled future happiness.

“Because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of conscience, of thinking, of comprehending the universe. Having experienced this acceleration once, one is no longer capable of abandoning the chance to repeat this experience; one falls into dependency on this process, the way others fall into dependency on drugs or on alcohol. One who finds himself in this sort of dependency on language is, I guess, what they call a poet.”                                                                                                                                  – Joseph Brodsky

…continue to Part 2

About the author:

Picture Bogomil Todorov GospodinovBogomil (20) participated in our workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England.

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.

The Future Needs You!

Since the Maastricht Treaty, there is a European citizenship defining a series of rights. These have been completed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which entered into force in 2009. Besides social rights and classical freedoms, citizenship most importantly includes political rights. This means rights to participate in the political process, for example by voting your Member of European Parliament, to address a petition to the Parliament or the very new possibility to sign a European Citizens Initiative. So these rights are about concrete democratic practices.

Modern democracy is founded on the force of the better argument and not of the force of violence. Therefore discussion and the exchange of arguments are crucial. Discussions precede every step of a political process: when you bring up a new idea, before you decide if and how you realise a project, before you vote a candidate for a public office and when you hold politicians accountable for their actions. If you want to convince others and win a majority, you have to put arguments on the table.

As most other things in life, democratic practices can be learned. By getting familiar with them, young people like you grow in their role as citizens. But what does it mean to you? Get used to ask questions. Learn to listen to the other. Participate in political discussions. It’s about learning by doing. And by the time you will become more self-confident. You have a voice, so use it! Become an active citizen! This is my wish in general. I encourage you also specifically to practice in the European context, because the future of Europe depends on its future citizens. The participation in the activities of “My Europe” is a first valuable step in this direction.

As European Commissioner, I initiated the Citizens’ Dialogues. We brought the debate on Europe to more than 50 cities all over Europe. We not just invited people to ask us their questions. We also listened to them. And we expect them to tell us what they want, what they wish. It was the possibility of a face-to-face communication. I learned a lot during these dialogues. Therefore this direct contact between Europeans and all political decision-makers should continue. I hope you will have the opportunity to participate in this new forum of democratic practice one day. Until then: Become an active citizen! Europe needs you!

About the author:

Speech by Viviane RedingViviane Reding is a Member of European Parliament and the European patron of the “My Europe” Initiative. From 1999 to 2014, she served in the European Commission, from 2010 on as Vice-President. more…


PS: Viviane Reding will gladly answer all questions you might have. However, due to time constraints, she cannot do so regularly. We will collect your questions and comments that have been submitted until and including October 20, 2014, and will pass them on to her. For all questions submitted after that, we cannot guarantee an answer.