Challenging and encouraging, weighing up and giving feedback – and being in dialogue at all times. This is how the cooperation of the Advisory Board for Integrity and Sustainability with Mercedes-Benz could be described in a nutshell.
One thing is clear: The Advisory Board has become indispensable as an important driving force for the work in the areas Integrity, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility. The independent experts from different countries have already been accompanying the company for a whole decade.Ten years – the perfect occasion for a brief review by Renata Jungo Brüngger, member of the Board of Management, with responsibility for Integrity and Legal Affairs:
A lot has changed since the first session of the Advisory Board in fall 2012. In addition to Renate Hornung-Draus and Helmut Holzapfel, Sylvia Schenk has also been a member of the Advisory Board since right from the start. The lawyer values in particular the cooperation: "The speed of the transformation has hugely increased over the years, the questions in the Advisory Board have been broadened – and the company’s willingness to face it has kept pace.
Her Advisory Board colleague Changhua Wu added: "The Advisory Board helps the company to find its way in an increasingly complex and sometimes challenging landscape of change."
"It is the constant dialogue that brings about sustainable change"
To sum things up: One of the tasks is to challenge and encourage the company in difficult considerations, in finding compromises – "with the unbiased view from the outside," said Martin von Broock. The ongoing work in the Advisory Board has a special meaning for him. Because: "Rarely does a single impulse result in sustainable changes. More than anything, it is constant dialogue that brings them about."
For these dialogues, the Advisory Board and Renata Jungo Brüngger as well as additional members of the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board come together several times a year in personal and virtual meetings. Peter Bakker sees the Advisory Board as a "supporter and challenger." A pivotal point for him: "The intensive discussions related to the sustainable business strategy. With the Ambition 2039 as well, we set ambitious targets together with the company."
His Advisory Board colleague Peter Jones sees another aspect with regard to sustainability: "There is also a collective responsibility for the impact of products on our environment. Recognizing potentially negative consequences and dealing with them is part of corporate responsibility."
For example, in addition to Ambition 2039, the members of the Advisory Board viewed together with the company’s leaders also the contents of the Integrity Code.
"I'll still be able to look at myself in the mirror tomorrow"
Teresa Fogelberg assesses the constructive dialogue between the Advisory Board and company as follows: "In our roundtable discussions, it is about the internal alignment of the company on the one hand. On the other, we discuss long-term strategic decisions and their possible consequences, such as the focus on luxury – and whether these two things go together."
The questions are not always easy; the company has to be flexible, Renate Hornung-Draus says: "There are many challenges between the conflicting priorities of corporate responsibility and corporate interests. It is important for me in my work as an advisor that I'll still be able to look at myself in the mirror tomorrow."
Continuing to Work Together on Challenges
Helmut Holzapfel values the openness at Mercedes-Benz: "Without exception, I fell on nothing but sympathetic ears for all the ecological questions – also the unpleasant ones. Including the exchange between environmental groups that are very critical of the automotive industry and the management of Mercedes-Benz."
Johan Rockström is convinced that the intensive dialogue will become even more important in the future. After all, "to be able to navigate through uncertain times, focused discussions will remain necessary between the Advisory Board and the company."
The Advisory Board for Integrity and Sustainability supports Mercedes-Benz repeatedly in thinking in new directions and working together on the challenges of our time. Matthias Thorns is a new member of the Advisory Board, who joined in July 2022 and brings with him extensive expertise in terms of human rights.
For the cooperation, it is particularly important to him, "that the Advisory Board deals with a wide range of topics in a comprehensive manner and does not just focus on a few topic areas. The makeup of the Advisory Board must reflect the need for broad expertise."
His Advisory Board colleague Bojana Bellamy, who was also recently appointed, adds: "As advisory board members, we are not only able to share our expertise on various topics with the leaders of Mercedes-Benz in a constructive dialogue, but we also learn from these discussions. Not least due to the different perspectives that company representatives and advisory board members from diverse disciplines and cultures bring with them.”