Reflections on Cooperative Sustainability Research between Business and Science
Yesterday the third CSR-Salon was held in the Meistersaal close to Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. The main hosts of the event were UPJ – a CSR-network for companies, public authorities and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) – and Econsense – a forum for sustainable development for German companies. The theme of the evening was „cooperative sustainability research between business and science“, building upon the previous two themes of private-civic and private-private partnerships. The event took place in a beautiful salon with delicate ornaments on the ceiling and a feastful set-up. The performance was enriched by a delicious three-course vegetarian dinner which was served in the course of the evening.
The chairs of this year’s CSR-salon were Dr. Thomas Koenen, director of Econsense, and Peter Kromminga, director of UPJ. After a brief opening, two speeches were held by Dr. Wolfgang Große Entrup, the environment and sustainability manager of Bayer AG, and Dr. Thomas H. Osburg, the director of Europe Corporate Affairs Intel Corp. Thereby, it was highlighted that an innovative, positive view on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was needed. Moreover, the importance of developing practical solution was emphasized. Ultimately, it was pointed out that inclusion of the private sector and collaboration between science and companies is vital with regard to CSR.
Afterwards, a science slam was performed by Oliver Adria, who was the winner of a national science slam contest. So what exactly is a science slam? A science slam is similar to a poetry slam which might be a more familiar term. However, in a science slam no poetry is slammed. Instead a scientist presents his scientific research in a brief (usually no longer than 10 minutes) and easy-to-grasp manner in order to teach science in an understandable way to a diverse, non-expert audience. In this case, the research dealt with the energy transition towards renewable energy. The topic was illustrated by using lemmings as an analogy in order to explain the context of renewable energies in an entertaining, comprehensible fashion.
To further illustrate the collaborations between companies and research institution three partnerships within the field of sustainability were presented. The first tandem was a collaboration between SAP Research and the ISOE – an institute for social-ecological research – on the topic of electric mobility. Training has been provided to SAP employees on how to drive electric vehicles with its regular use being encouraged. Feedback by the employees on the perception of electric vehicles was generally positive and through the course of the research a total of 50 regular cars have been replaced by electric vehicles.
The second tandem illustrated a partnership between Generali Zukunftsfonds and the Ruhr-University Bochum. Hereby, the main theme was demographic change. To be precise, the lifestyle and the activities of the elderly – being aged between 65 and 85 – were investigated. As it turns out the common perception of the elderly as lonely and inactive is no longer accurate. To pick some examples, 90% of the participants indicated that they do possess a social network and 45% are actively engaging in volunteering activities. The purpose of the study was to further sensitize companies for the needs of the elderly. As pointed out the elderly should not be considered “old steel” but “high quality steel”.
The third tandem in turn referred to a collaboration between Deutsche Bahn AG and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft on diversity management. More precisely, it was analyzed what the underlying causes for a lack of women in leadership positions could be. One of the conclusions was that women are often excluded from groups of men because they are seen as an “irritation factor”. Nonetheless, the interest in increasing the percentage of women in leading positions by a variety of companies has been highlighted as well.
All in all, the contributions of the event touched upon a wide diversity of relevant topics and stimulated further thought and discussion. On the whole the CSR-Salon can be considered a success, with regard to both the intellectual and the culinary saturation.