At Mercedes-Benz, integrity is an essential part of the corporate culture and the basis for the sustainable success of the Group. As project coordinator for the "Integrity Program and Network", Jessica Gehring and her team provide practical assistance with making the right decision in difficult situations. In her interview, she explains why it is important to look beyond the company when it comes to integrity and what she loves most about her job.
Ms. Gehring, how does acting with integrity succeed?
That is often not so easy. Integrity means doing the right thing – in other words, acting ethically. However, in many situations that we experience in everyday life, there is no one right solution. This is exactly where we come in with our team. It is important for us to raise awareness among all colleagues worldwide about what is needed if we are to act with integrity. My team is less concerned with legal issues, because our Legal & Compliance colleagues take care of that. Rather, it is about ethically correct behavior in all situations.
Do you have an example of such a situation?
Imagine you have just finished work and are walking to the company car park. You see your colleague – obviously in a great hurry – quickly running to his vehicle, jumping into his car and scratching the vehicle next to his with his bumper as he pulls out. He continues towards the exit and seems not to have noticed the little accident. It would be acting with integrity to contact the colleague directly, as he may not have noticed the whole thing and is unknowingly committing a hit-and-run with his behavior – a step that requires courage for some. Another example would be if I overhear a colleague passing off another colleague's idea as his or her own in front of the boss. What do I do when something like that happens? Or, I notice in a meeting that a colleague is behaving disrespectfully towards another person – do I say something or not?
Being courageous and making the right decision – this applies to many situations in everyday working life.
Yes, those are a few striking examples, but they can easily be applied to almost any area – from the workshop to the office. With our "Integrity Program and Network" team, we want to empower colleagues to take the right path in "tricky" situations and promote trustful cooperation. At Mercedes-Benz, we are convinced that we will only be successful in the long term if we act together with integrity.
How do you support colleagues in their efforts to act with integrity? What specific approach do you take?
On many different levels. It includes, for example, advice on the preparation of team events and larger divisional meetings on the topic of integrity. These events provide a forum where members of staff can share ideas and discuss current challenges, but also opportunities. We actively promote speaking up in our company and encourage everyone to express their own opinion freely, thereby enabling open debate. This also includes dealing honestly with mistakes. In addition, there is the "Integrity Info Point". Colleagues can turn to this point of contact if they are unsure about how best to act in a situation. Another example is the "Integrity Case Collection" portal on our intranet. Here, we collect and publish real-life examples and cases. We also have an "Integrity Toolbox", through which we provide employees and managers with the information and methods to address integrity as a topic within their own areas or, for example, to create a closer relationship of trust within the team.
And how can we picture your team?
We are really mixed: my two bosses work on a job-sharing basis and have both studied international business administration. One of my colleagues is a psychologist, one is an economist, our current intern is specializing in sustainability management in her studies and I am a trained journalist. Especially when it comes to integrity, it is helpful to bring in perspectives from very different disciplines. And we work very closely with the other integrity management teams. There are other departments besides us that deal with our Integrity Code or the topics of sustainability and human rights, for example.
What does the sharing of ideas on the topic of integrity look like beyond that?
We have established our Integrity Network for this very purpose. These are colleagues who drive the issue forward at the worldwide locations, meet several times a year to exchange ideas and work with us to decide on further measures. We also have the Advisory Board for Integrity and Corporate Responsibility: the members of the Advisory Board have multi-layered knowledge and experience in the fields of environmental and social policy, transport and mobility development and various human rights and ethical issues. The interaction with them provides us with an important basis for actively shaping the steady shift in values at Mercedes-Benz.
And how did you come to Mercedes-Benz?
I started as a temporary student employee at Mercedes-Benz during my master's degree studies and then also wrote my thesis at the company. What has excited me about the Mercedes-Benz Group from the very beginning is that I work with colleagues all over the world. I really appreciate that, partly also because I travelled a lot as a journalist – from the Middle East to South America –and had the privilege of meeting a lot of people. Intercultural exchange often brings completely new perspectives. This diversity is lived here, which is why I stayed after my studies.
What are your next plans?
It is important to me to contribute to society through my work. In integrity management at Mercedes-Benz, I have the chance to make a real difference – in a very practical way. When colleagues come to us in difficult situations, we find a solution. That's what I'm committed to in the future, and that's what drives me.
Another personal question: If time travel were possible, where would you like to travel to?
I would definitely like to travel into the future. There are already so many books about the past (laughs). Maybe to the year 2040. I hope that by then we will have made some progress on the issues currently preoccupying us, such as climate protection, and that I can see a good future for our children – especially for my little daughter. That would make me happy.
Jessica Gehring (29) has been passionate about the brand with the three-pointed star since she was a child. On her way to school, in a Mercedes bus of course, she would pass the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen every day - the large site with the buildings aroused her curiosity. In parallel to her bachelor's degree in media studies, rhetoric and political science at the University of Tübingen, Jessica Gehring trained as a journalist. In her assignments for various newspapers as well as radio and broadcasting, she reported from Jordan, Lebanon and the Middle East, among other places. During her master's degree studies in communication management at the University of Hohenheim, she first gained experience at Mercedes-Benz as a temporary student employee and then wrote her master's thesis at the company. These days, when Jessica Gehring is not working with her team to promote integrity, the young mother enjoys spending time with her young daughter and her life partner. Or she trains for her big goal: for her 30th birthday next year, she has set her sights on running a marathon.