Interview with Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke
“Sustainable development is a key element of our corporate strategy”
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG responsible for Innovation, Technology and Environment and for the Asia/Pacific region
Prof. Dr. Plischke, Bayer set itself ambitious targets with its “2006+” sustainability objectives. The program finished at the end of 2010. How did the company fare?
We worked hard to meet the objectives of our five-year “2006+” program and, for the most part, succeeded in doing so by last year. Two areas in which we have made particularly impressive progress in recent years are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and occupational health and safety. The demands relating to environmental protection and corporate governance as a whole are growing all the time though, so we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. An additional challenge is to successfully implement our sustainability strategy worldwide.
Where do we go from here?
The aim of the targets we have set for 2015 is to further integrate sustainability into our business activities along the entire value chain. To help us achieve this, our reporting focuses on five areas of activity in which these targets apply – management & corporate governance, employees, innovation & products, ecology and social commitment. For example, we have set ourselves the target of cutting specific greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent throughout the Group between 2005 and 2020, and by as much as 40 percent at Bayer MaterialScience. As you can see, we are actively committed to protecting the climate.
What role does sustainable development play in your core business?
Sustainable development is a key element of our corporate strategy. From our main areas of focus – sustainable health care provision, high-quality nutrition for a growing global population and climate and resource conservation – you can see the extent to which our business is geared towards sustainable development. It is equally important to us to ensure sustainable everyday business practices in all areas. To take the example of procurement, our code of conduct that has been in place since 2009 requires all our suppliers to act sustainably. We carry out systematic checks – especially on suppliers in strategic areas and from countries that are considered to represent a risk – to ensure that our stringent requirements are being complied with. Sustainability also plays a key role in product development. We aim to use our innovations to help ensure society’s sustainable development. Recent successes in this respect include our innovative anticoagulant Xarelto, new yield-boosting seed varieties such as InVigor and the development of new lightweight plastic components. What’s more, we never lose sight of the safety and environmental compatibility requirements applying to our products.
How important is dialogue with interest groups?
Without dialogue there is no transparency and without transparency there is no trust. As a global company, Bayer is in the public eye. We are frequently involved in discussions and debates with critics on topics such as animal testing and access to medicines in developing countries and emerging markets. Knowledge transfer and input from both sides are therefore vital to us. We want to be an accepted part of society and, in the long term, need our business activities to meet with approval. That, too, ensures our future viability.
How to you intend to gain society’s acceptance?
The starting point is to ensure a good relationship with all interest groups that have dealings with the company, including the local communities around our sites worldwide, our employees, our stockholders and the media. We aim to treat them all as equals and honor our responsibility towards them.
Bayer was one of the first signatories to the UN Global Compact LEAD, the new platform for corporate sustainability leadership. Why is that so important to you?
This move is a logical step for us. 10 years after we became one of the first signatories to the UN Global Compact, we are now undertaking to develop and implement a challenging new action plan that is intended to help us overcome the global challenges of the future together. This is also in line with the objectives of our strategy.
Is Bayer setting new standards with this step?
I am certain that, with our targets for 2015 and the United Nations leadership initiative, we will continue to be a world leader when it comes to sustainable business practices. As a result, we are well placed for the future.