I have taken some time today to research current Sustainability / CSR consultancies based in Germany and came to an interesting conclusion in my view.
High number of consultancies for a fairly small overall market
For a rather small market, Germany has a lot of specialised CSR / Sustainability consultancies I have to say. Several years ago there where the big 4 consultancies and a few others. Now I have seen so many companies also offering CSR / Sustainability services, that it makes me wonder how they can make a proper living with this focus. As far as I can tell, is the overall total annual turnover for sustainability services including assurance in Germany a maximum of 25 to €30 million. This is my assessment only of course and based on what I have heard from other consultants here in Germany.
Here is the list of the consultancies I could find. I only included these consultancies with a very large part of their business focusing on CSR / Sustainability.
I am sure there are more consultancies offering CSR / Sustainability services in Germany. If you know one or more and they are not on the list please feel free to suggest these here as a comment. Many thanks.
What if I would change my company business model to something similar to ImpactMakers here in Germany? Instead of writing a lengthy post I decided to do a list of pros and cons for this possible change. Please feel free to add your comments and views on this. Could you imagine changing your business to this kind of business model? Could this possibly be part of how CSR / Sustainability companies would define themselves in the future? Many questions indeed!
My current Pro and Con list on changing to into a social enterprise
The business purpose would be redefined to be less centred around one single individual or a group of leaders. This would completely transform the current business as a whole to truly be meaningful.
Employees would be more than just employees. They would be empowered to serve the community and be part of something much bigger.
An independent council would help make the important decisions. These would be better informed decisions and the know-how within the business would increase immensely.
The local community would profit from the excess revenue generated from the business. Isn’t life about giving back rather than taking? I think so.
The entrepreneur has less control over the future of the business. This is hard to swallow for any die-hard entrepreneur.
The owner of the business is earning less money when the business is very profitable. This for most people is the sole purpose of the business they run. Not necessarily for me.
So far this kind of a business form does not exist here in Germany. As far as I know. This is a big uncertainty.
Most of us have loans that we needed to take to by a flat/house for our families to live in. What about the acceptance of this new business form to any lenders /banks? Will they accept this social enterprise form as sufficient security?
I will expand this list as I get new comments and own thoughts as I dive deeper into this topic. All comments appreciated.
Yesterday the German chancellor Angela Merkel fired her environment minister. This is the Reuters news item: Merkel ditches environment minister after poll rout | Reuters. We will of course never know all of the reasons why she decided to do so but it seems that the main reason was that he lost against the main social democrat rival in the North Rhine Westphalia polls last weekend. She replaced him with a close ally of hers who has no experience in environmental matters and seems to be a political power player to say the least.
This is a very bad day for the environmental / sustainability movement in Germany. It seems that political game-play has yet again won over sustainability competence and vision. I am not politically active and this is another good example why I will never be active in politics. In the end it is not about qualification, competence and vision, it is purely about who has the majority, back-scatching and political manoeuvring. Not at all about the environmental issues we as a country face with the huge problems of our energy future, the impact of climate change and environmental pollution. Yesterday was a sad day for the German environmental future in my view.
Today I had any interesting and very emotional argument after a business meeting. The topic was on the upcoming general elections here in our county, North Rhein-Westfalia. The business colleague asked me which party I supported and I said I would support the so called Pirate Party here in Germany. The collegue did not like this answer to say the least. The next five minutes where spend with arguments from his side why they where no real political party and why their party programme was so immature and so on and on.
My main argument for why I would vote for them is that Germany 1) needs to change to be prepared for a more sustainable future and 2) that most people in my age-group and younger are so disillusioned with their future prospects that there needs to be change for all our sakes. There are a lot of other aspects that need to change but these where the ones that are most important in my view at the moment. And if the Pirate Party would be successful in upsetting the established parties this would be a sign that more people want the change as well. 10% of all votes would send a great sign to the establishment that we the voters are not willing to go along with the mismanagement of Germany.
Try to promote change wherever and whenever
Usually I do not like arguments (I find them a waist of time usually) but I needed to go through this argument with my colleague in my view because I strongly believe in the need for change here in Germany. I felt I needed to promote change there and at that particular moment. And you know what? It felt really good. It felt liberating and it felt like the right thing to do.
I am German and I now also live in Germany having moved from the UK back to my home country. CSR in Germany generally therefore is and has always been important to me. Having lived abroad for nearly half of my life I am also very critical of what the German CSR field has to offer, especially when we talk about current CSR best practice.
This is not the first post on CSR in Germany. These are the links to posts dating back to 2008 and 2009.
Overall situation of CSR in Germany in 2012
Germany in terms of CSR has a lot to offer but for some reason best practice over the past 2 years has not really evolved. There are some exceptions to the rule of course as the below mentioned CSR best practice examples show. But generally I can not see a huge difference to the overall best practice and CSR direction of German organisations now in comparison to 2 years ago. Why this is the case I am not sure. It might be the economic downturn or the lethargy of global business to step up a gear in CSR best practice. There are many possible reasons and I am sure all of the CSR practicing organisations will have a good reason for what they do in CSR. I believe we will see a lot of positive change in German business but lets just hope some of it will also be in the CSR field.
Here are my top current CSR best practice examples and further CSR in Germany resources you might find of interest.
Siemens: A lot of data and information shows that they are serious about learning from past CSR problems. Transparency is the key here for Siemens. Siemens on Sustainability
BASF: The information approach to CSR. BASF, similar to Siemens, is taking the proactive approach in providing a lot of information and resources. If you have the time as a stakeholder to dig through their information resource that is. BASF on Sustainability
CSR in Germany resources
CSR in Germany initiative led by the German government – This overall CSR initiave is a step in the right direction but has not really established any thought leadership within the German business community in my view. There is a lot to be done and not much to be shown for so far.
German Council for Sustainable Development - The purpose of the council is to “support Germany on its way towards sustainability, to promote sustainability as an issue for public discussion, to support the German government in all matters of sustainability”. A very bold statement indeed. Has it achieved much? Hmmm, very sketchy I must admit.
CSR Germany (PDF) - The CSR Internet portal of Germany’s four leading business organisations. This is an OK website for CSR information but the issue I have with this organisation is that it is lead by trade organisations and not an NGO.
UPJ – German national network of engaged businesses and local non-profit intermediary organizations. UPJ have some good initiatives is one of the few organisations with useful global partnerships
CSR News list of German CSR businesses - This is a good list of companies active or doing business in the CSR field in Germany. CSR News is also based in Germany and run by some really engaged founders.
I have not been blogging a lot over the past few weeks unfortunately. The reason for this inactivity is that a pretty significant life change has preoccupied me over the past weeks.
We will be moving back to Germany during the course of December. This move has been planned very carefully and both my wife and myself are really looking forward to this new challenge in 2011.
So will anything change here on my blog?
The clear answer is NO. Quite the opposite really. This blog has seen a huge rise in popularity and in terms of visitors during the course of 2010. During 2011 I will continue to blog on a regular basis about CSR, Sustainability and Social Media. And I have immensely enjoyed picking up the pace with more regular and in-depth CSR / Sustainability blog posts during 2010 and I will not stop with this in 2011.
The move back to my home country will actually be a good move in terms of my business as well. I will continue to expand my websites and still work as a consultant for my regular and new clients. All in all will this be a really good next step in our view.
So in effect only two major elements will change: 1) The location from where I am doing my work and 2) the level of support we can give to and receive from our families back in Germany.
2010 has been a very eventful year, personally and professionally. All events and consequences this year showed us that we needed to change something in our life. And this is what we are doing…..changing our life’s for the better. One small and bigger step at a time.
How has 2010 changed your life? Have you or will you change something important as a consequence of events in 2010?
Todays post is about the three major future developments phases I see for CSR in Germany. I have worked in the CSR field for a while now and being German I obviously always felt close to the Germany and as a consequence watched the CSR developments unfold over the past few years with interest.
One Big Challenge
There is one big hurdle for a continuous successful adoption of CSR practices for Germany in my opinion. The current financial crisis. Why? Well many reasons but I think the biggest problem with CSR practices within an organization will be the lack of funds within a business to start their CSR activities. In the wake of the restructuring of departments within businesses will the CSR budgets suffer as well. This is obviously not only a German problem.
But CSR as with every corporate change process needs sufficient initial funding to get of the ground. So lets hope, for the sake of the German CSR initiatives (and all CSR activities/budgets across the globe), that this financial crisis will not last that long anymore or that the German public will realize that CSR is a key element of the future of their business environment and demand increased CSR investment from business.
Once this crisis is behind us I am of the opinion that CSR practices in Germany will undergo three major development phases in terms of CSR practice.
The three major future development phases for CSR in Germany
More and more companies will be hearing about CSR and CSR best practice across the globe. German companies can be slow to adopt new business practices sometimes. The level of skepticism is traditionally quite high in German business. This has always been the case and can be regarded as both good and bad in my opinion. As a result the major companies in the main German share index, DAX 30, will be likely to all report on their CSR practices. This development will then also be an important driver for the adoption of CSR by more and more smaller companies.
CSR as a term will be more closely aligned with Environmentalism and move towards Sustainability, not just CSR itself. Environmentalism is traditionally very big in Germany and ingrained in the German culture. The likelihood that CSR and Environmentalism will be combined into the overall concept of Sustainability is very high. You might ask yourself why this is the second major development phase but definitions have a big importance in the German way to do business so to say. Once the terminology is agreed the German mentality is usually to move on and focus on the next phase of Sustainability.
Once there are more people/businesses involved and the political establishment will have realized that this is something they need to support, then Sustainability (CSR and Environmentalism) will be a key element in the sustainable future for German business. This is the special aspect about German business. Once they decide on doing something they usually get on with it and do not question the decision made. A really good cultural trait in my opinion.
These are the three major development phases I see in German business with regards to CSR. But this is only my point of view and judgement of course. I am more then happy to hear other points of views. Not only the German point of view of course but other cultural contexts in adopting CSR.
It is the weekend again and I can not believe how fast the week has passed me by. It seems like yesterday that I woke up to start the week in a productive way.
In any case. A lot has happened during this week. Here are some highlights:
I had a very productive meeting with our website designer for the new SustainabilityForum.com. Still a lot of work to do but we are getting there eventually.
I finally met Mark Seall in person on Tuesday. Great guy. Hopefully we will still do a lot of work together now and in the future to come..
Had a very successful client week with a very important meeting on Thursday. It has been a good week indeed.
This weekend Anne and I went to view several properties in the London commuter belt. One interesting property stands out at the moment. But lets wait and see whether we could be able to rent this house. Strangely enough was the rent raised by 20% on the day we viewed it. Raised? In this weak property market? Very strange indeed. We really want a change of location but it also needs to offer value for money. This is key. Otherwise are we staying where we are.
This week will be a busy one again. I am off to Germany today again (currently waiting for the flight at the airport while writing this post) to see another client tomorrow and will fly back on Tuesday to spend the rest of the week in London.
My highlight of the week will be the inauguration of the Barack Obama in Washington. I hope this will be a great day. A day for America to kick off its new age of being a true and just power in the world again. The past 8 years were mostly wasted years but we now need to forget the past and concentrate on the future. Our Global Future. I am not an American but I hope that Barack Obama will become more then just an American president. I hope he will be a global leader for change.
I am currently sitting in the waiting area of the Luton Airport waiting to bord a flight to Hamburg, Germany and I just noticed that I did not do a Lifestream post during the past two weeks.
So what has happened over the past two weeks?
In short: A lot as always.
Here is the extended version sorted by current activities (business and private):
Two weeks ago one of my major projects really kicked of in terms of workload and time commitment. This project has really taken a lot of my time over the past weeks. Especially after one of the project managers fell ill 2 weeks ago and I had to jump in to fill the gap.
I also had to travel to Germany last Sunday for that project. I choose to travel by car as I needed to have some repairs done on my old faithful Ford Focus. Traveling by car meant that a both ways 6 hour journey by plane then took me 2 full days traveling time (numerous traffic jams included).
The website development has also not been totally on time the past 2 weeks. This is mainly due to some personal changes in the programmers team and issues with the Content Management System (CMS). I hope this is sorted out this week.
We also had several friends visiting us over the last couple of weeks. It is was really great to finally have time to catch up on old and new stories. This week a special old friend made the journey to London for an extended weekend and we really enjoyed the last few days. Friends are really important and life can be very lonely without good friends.
All in all have the past two weeks been very interesting and eventful. But my experience of the past few years has been that these weeks in November and early December are especially busy weeks. Everyone seems to either start or finish a project, do end of the year client visits, etc. People seem to work harder then they usually do during other parts of the year. I assume this is similar to the typical “Oh my God is it already Friday work mentality” in business. On a Friday I always feel that a lot of people need to sort out their unfinished tasks of the week. I get a lot more calls and emails from people on the Friday then any other time during the week.
Maybe this is just me but I seem to see a correlation.
I am in Hamburg all of this week but I am already looking forward to the flight back on Friday evening. Don’t get me wrong I love my work but family is family. And life without your family and some good friends is like food without spices………Just boring and colorless.
On that note, have a good week everyone and lets get „November Busy“!
This week has been a real manic week. Ever since I started Monday morning there has been nothing but work, work and work. Dont get me wrong, I love what I do but there is some point where you need to stop and take a breath to reflect. This is usually the Sunday for me. Relaxation, spending time with the family and looking at the week ahead.
Today is Sunday and I still have a lot of work to do. So no reflection for me this week. I am lucky that Anne (my wife) has a friend over this weekend to keep busy. She would not have liked to see me work all weekend. She charishes our Sunday togehter (so do I). But they are in London today. That gives me the time to…….yes you guessed it………work. Well at least I am getting payed for it. Lets look at the bright side.
In terms of developments this week has been rather quit. I am also happy about this as my schedule is pretty packed for the next few months to come. Next to my journey to Germany during this week I managed to do two blog posts this week. One on domains titled: How To Put A Domain Name Up For Sale – Quick And Easy and my weekly Top 5 Sustainability/CSR News.
The upcoming week will be busy again with travel to Hamburg on Tuesday evening and the journey back lae Thurday night. Then hopefully I will be able to spend the following week here in London. Catching up with the London Network for a change.
So long everyone. Have a good and productive next week.