Laureus Sport for Good uses the power of sport to foster the development of children in need and change their lives for the better. Laureus was founded by Daimler 20 years ago, and celebrates its anniversary in Berlin on February 17. Anita Greiner manages this commitment on behalf of Mercedes-Benz. In our interview, she speaks about destinies, projects and her vision of changing the world.
Ms Greiner, what makes you get up in the morning?
I want to help others. I see it as a great privilege, and something I learned in my home country. I am from Hungary and grew up under so-called goulash-communism. Helping each other was a matter of course in my country. And now I have the honor of doing this professionally. I really do get up each morning and ask myself: Ok, we're doing things well. However, what can we do even better? How can we get even more support in order to help more children?
What exactly does the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation do?
All around the world, we help to change the lives of millions of young people and children. We are offering them the chance for a better future and supporting the development of sustainable, resilient and livable communities and cities. More than 180 current projects address the most difficult social problems of young people and children that one can imagine. The future of many children and adolescents, and that of their local environment, is at risk.
Is any project particularly dear to your heart?
Not just one. Here in Stuttgart, for example, we have created "move&do". It’s an educational program for socially disadvantaged children. Each year together with members of staff - a team of around 30 to 40 Mercedes-Benz employees - we spend one weekend camping out in tents with the children. I always help out in the kitchen:I know all about preparing goulash soup or fruit pancakes. Even though it's often a real challenge to prepare 120 portions of fruit pancake on gas burners!
Laureus projects take place all around the world. Do they always focus on sport?
Yes, because sport has a special power. Sport gives us a way of bringing people together, creating a sense of togetherness and overcoming barriers. Sport gives us a way to reach out to the children. In one project in India, for example, we help girls to believe in themselves, pursue their goals and find a vocation. Life is extremely hard for these girls: they are subjected to terrible violence in their home or village. Playing soccer makes them forget for a moment. Apart from this, soccer is no ordinary sport for girls in India. The girls learn something that is normally reserved for boys and which makes them feel stronger.
How does this affect the prospects for the girls?
Playing sports together creates a team spirit that benefits their school learning. One girl told us that she had given up on any dreams before she came to us. Now she dreams about her future. When I see these girls smiling broadly, I'm very touched. However, we need to expand the school further. The project is such successful, that we need more rooms.
How does the environment react?
At first, we received neither support from the small village nor from the local authorities. A great deal of persuasion is required, which starts primarily with the mothers. The project team has to hold many conversations before patterns of thought are changed. We are even able to pay the girls a small wage if they become coaches and train younger girls. This helps the family to understand that girls can earn money too.
Who has given the impulse for the project?
The foundation follows certain criteria derived from the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN). There are a total of 17 goals, six of which define the top priorities for Laureus – for example: mental health, equal opportunities for women and girls, access to education, integration of sidelined people and an end to violence. There is a certain selection procedure that takes these into consideration. If all the criteria are met and we are able to ensure that the children will be protected, we agree on specific goals for the project.
What is the relationship between Daimler and the Laureus foundation?
Laureus was jointly founded by Daimler and the French company Richemont. We activate this joint platform with the Mercedes-Benz brand. For Mercedes-Benz, Laureus Sport for Good has meanwhile become the brand's most important social initiative.
Where do you obtain your funding?
Alongside donations from the founding partners, the foundation’s work is supported by other companies, foundations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Here at Mercedes-Benz we set great store by activation measures that generate donations. For example, two years ago we obtained a limited-edition model of a Mercedes-Maybach G Landaulet that we were then able to auction for 1.2 million euros. We also approach customers during the MercedesTrophy, our renowed worldwide golf tournament series. In India alone last year, we collected 114,000 euros thanks to the support of participating customers. This year we are planning a major employee campaign for the first time.
The Laureus World Sports Awards are well known to the public. You yourself strongly support the view that a greater focus should be a foucplaced on the social projects.
That's true. When Laureus was founded in 2000, the awards were the absolute mainstay. And the awards continue to be very helpful. They provide the opportunity to gain the commitment of celebrity sports personalities to our cause – Edwin Moses, for example, the first chairman of our foundation. We need these role models not only for our external communications work, but also as focal points for the children and staff involved in the projects. One thing is clear: we want the main attention to be given to the social projects of the Laureus Sport for Good foundation. This is what is important, and our communication is aimed at this – as are our measures to generate funding, of course.
Idols as advertising posters?
Yes, but not only that. I dislike it when sports personalities only visit a project in case cameras are present. Nevertheless, I can assure you that many of our sports personalities also care for the children without media attention. The Olympic cyclist Manuel Fumic and the former soccer player Fredi Bobic are very committed to supporting projects in the Stuttgart region, for example. Both of them come from here. It’s a home game for them, so to speak. They visit the children very regularly and demonstrate their total commitment. Kati Witt supports our ice-hockey project in Berlin, while Axel Schulz goes boxing with the kids. Of course there are many more well-known sportspeople who support us internationally. Around the world 250 help us to make the world a little better for disadvantaged children.
Are there also Daimler employees involved in the projects?
Yes, for certain projects we use Corporate Volunteering or Social Days to offer opportunities to take part, however this depends on the project. After all, our projects are primarily aimed at children, and educational work of this nature requires special training. Nvertheless, of course, there are also plenty of opportunities to take part in the organizational work or on the spot - when camping out, at a tournament or at other events. Those wishing to take part can find our appeals in the Social Intranet and find out more in our Laureus Sport for Good Community.
Why is Mercedes-Benz actually committed to this? After all, the projects have nothing to do with mobility in the closer sense.
Right, we need to talk about that too. Our brand purpose – First Move the World – obliges us to look beyond physical mobility and merely moving people from A to B. We are also concerned with "social mobility" and with strengthening the feeling of freedom and self-determination of children and adolescents, so that they can realize their goals and get where they want to be. The strong commitment we invest in a better future for children also benefits our brand. Because it also helps to ensure that our employees enjoy working for the company, and customers like to purchase our cars.
What are your top objectives for the next five years?
Obviously, we want to reach even more children. Violence and discrimination against children must end. To get closer to this goal we seek to grow with our partners. In 2018, we reached 300,000 children in 41 countries with over 180 projects. You decide whether this is a lot or a little.
Sounds like a lot – but it could presumably still be more.
That’s correct. We are now the world's largest organization in the sports-for-development sector. We want to build on this to become even larger.
In which project would you like to have taken part as a child?
I used to fence and play basketball, and I have been practicing kickboxing for 15 years now. When visiting a boxing project in a Brazilian 'favela', I was even able to take part in a training session. Although I will never forget the bullet marks in the walls. The experiences out in the field always remind me how urgently these children need our support.