Renata Jungo Brüngger.
Interview with Renata Jungo Brüngger

"Sustainability goes way beyond climate protection alone".

January 31, 2024 – First-class products, job security, reasonable returns, responses to climate change and social commitment: customers, employees and shareholders as well as political and social stakeholders set a wide spectrum of demands on Mercedes-Benz. Fulfilling them is best achieved by structuring the company for commercial success and long-term sustainability. Member of the Board of Management Renata Jungo Brüngger is responsible for Integrity, Governance and Sustainability at the Mercedes-Benz Group. Part of that role involves overall management of sustainability topics. In this interview, she offers insights into her work in this field.

Sustainability is increasingly important to company success. What role does this play at Mercedes?

Renata Jungo Brüngger: I am convinced that long-term success can only be achieved through doing business sustainably on an enduring basis. The core of our business has always been compelling products. At Mercedes-Benz, we want to build the world’s most desirable cars. Sustainability is central to that.

Most people probably think straight away of climate and environmental aspects. We address those through our "Ambition 2039", which is a key element of our business strategy, whereby we have set ourselves the target of making our fleet of new vehicles net carbon-neutral over the entire life cycle by 2039.

That always takes into account the complete value chain – from development to the supply network, our in-house manufacturing, product electrification, renewable energy during the use phase of electric vehicles and vehicle recycling. Manufacturing at our in-house factories has been net carbon-neutral since 2022 and we’re striving to cover more than 70 percent of their energy requirements with renewable energies by 2030.

However, sustainability goes way beyond climate protection, because economic, ecological and social responsibility belong together. That’s why we have been thinking about this holistically for many years now.

What are your focal points for a sustainable supply chain?

Renata Jungo Brüngger: Our “Ambition 2039” applies to our suppliers, too. Together with our partners, we want to implement effective climate-protection measures along the entire supply chain. Based on our annual purchasing volumes, 84 percent of our suppliers have already committed to supplying Mercedes-Benz factories with net carbon-neutral production materials by 2039 at the latest.

At the same time, in the global battle against climate change, we must not shift problems to other parts of the world. That’s why we must keep a close eye not just on carbon footprint but also – and especially – on human rights in the supply chain. That basically means from mine to product. Our clearly stated aim is for all the products we offer to be made without harm or compromise to human rights. The correct governance helps us with that – for instance, our 'Human Rights Respect Systems'.

Renata Jungo Brüngger, member of the Executive Board, responsible for Integrity Governance & Sustainability.
Renata Jungo Brüngger, member of the Executive Board, responsible for Integrity Governance & Sustainability.

What are the biggest challenges in this sensitive area?

Renata Jungo Brüngger: Many people underestimate the complexity of our supply chain. We have tens of thousands of direct suppliers and far more subcontractors. Sometimes a single supply chain can have up to seven or eight tiers. And each of those tiers can have up to 20 subcontractors. That’s why we take a strategic and risk-based approach to achieve the greatest possible transparency across the upstream value chain. We began by identifying 24 high-risk raw and processed materials in our products – including cobalt, lithium, graphite and nickel. This enables us to define and then implement targeted measures.

We use things like audits to look very closely at raw material supply chains with a high risk of harm to human rights. We publish the findings of these analyses as well as the resulting measures in our Raw Materials Report. And we are committed for industrywide standards in order to achieve a greater impact. Beyond that, we take part in social projects on the ground to improve living standards and education. We approach this on multiple levels, which calls for patience and persistence. Ultimately, though, it improves things for local people. And that’s exactly what we’re aiming for.

Alongside electrification, artificial intelligence (AI) has an important role to play in the future of mobility. How do we take a responsible approach to this kind of technology?

Renata Jungo Brüngger: From production to the product itself and from sales to governance functions such as legal, compliance and audit, artificial intelligence is being implemented in wide-ranging areas across the automotive industry. So, the question is not if it is being used, but how. That’s why, in 2019, Mercedes-Benz determined Principles for the Development and Use of AI. Through this, we want to strengthen trust in our company, our products and services as well as provide all our colleagues with guidance on how to deal with AI.

We already approach development projects in cross-functional, interdisciplinary teams. That means, experts from the legal, ethics and compliance departments work closely and face-to-face with our software engineers. Nevertheless, the products we are developing right now won’t come to market for a few more years. However, we don’t know yet, what regulations relating to AI will look like by then. In short – innovation is often faster than legislation. We are attempting to address this with “adaptive compliance”. This means talk to those involved about the risks they see and, at the same time, try from the start to keep an eye on future regulatory developments and societal expectations. This, too, is an aspect of sustainability.

What is Mercedes-Benz doing beyond its own company boundaries for sustainability and climate protection?

Renata Jungo Brüngger: As a global player and luxury brand, our responsibility doesn’t end at our factory gates. We want to make a positive contribution to society that goes further than our own worldwide business activities. Our focus is twofold: We support projects aimed at furthering ecological sustainability and promote initiatives that strengthen social cohesion.

One project that’s particularly close to my heart is the global "beVisioneers: The Mercedes-Benz Fellowship" aid programme. We’re very proud to be financing this unique initiative with donations and thereby strengthen a new and diverse generation of innovators. The starting capital was raised from the proceeds of auctioning off a 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé. beVisioneers is managed by an independent charitable organisation and has been supporting young people since 2023 with knowledge, coaching and grants to further innovative projects in the fields of environmental protection and decarbonisation. The programme reflects key elements of our Corporate Citizenship Strategy, in that it promotes ecological sustainability and social cohesion through education.

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