Anja Lehner and Elisabeth Viebig keep the threads together: they devise and manage the social engagement of Daimler. In our interview, the two talk about how projects are chosen and why Daimler benefits from investing in social engagement also in economically demanding times.
Ms.Viebig, Ms. Lehner, do you have a dream job?
Viebig: Absolutely! Our company is currently undergoing a fundamental change and society is in constant change as well. What motivates me is to see how we can do our part in society, one that reflects this transformation on both sides. How do we ensure that our work has an impact – that is why I love coming to work every day.
Lehner: Helping to meet our aspiration is an absolutely fantastic job. In concrete terms, this means creating an added value for our company. In times of change it is even more important to have an even better rapport with society. As a company, we are not transforming in a vacuum, but we are receiving stimuli from society and are feeding stimuli back. This also includes us being socially involved in the fields we are active.
Ms. Lehner, which experiences in your job have made the most profound impressions on you personally?
Lehner: There are many. In our team, we are in contact with very different people in a wide range of places. It never ceases to amaze me, to see the huge enthusiasm and respect that many people have for Daimler as a company. This reaffirms my understanding that every single one of us, as faces of the company, has a great responsibility in the public eye..
How do you keep track of all the requests for donations and sponsorings?
Lehner: Our team creates the necessary transparency. All commitments are recorded in a database. In addition, more substantial donations and sponsorships are discussed, evaluated and approved in our donations and sponsorships committee. Project goals, sustainable effect and addressed target groups are just three of the many criteria in this process.
Viebig: My team and I primarily look after fundraising projects and corporate volunteering. The database Anja mentioned is the basis for our daily work. Locally, the projects are managed by the individual national companies. On the one hand, this creates proximity, which allows for responding specifically to the local requirements, and it increases the effectiveness on the other.
Which projects or initiatives have a chance of being sponsored by Daimler?
Lehner: Sponsoring is often tied to emotional aspects, but the selection of our commitments is about which projects are a fit with our company values and also the strategy. With regard to sponsorships, we enter into a contractual partnership, and thus one criterion of success is that our partner and we have similar values and goals. We are perfectly aware that we bear a great social responsibility. This already starts with making the decisions where we get involved and where we don't.
Why is social engagement important for Daimler?
Lehner: Our founding fathers invented the automobile and with it contributed to a more mobile and more open society. The people got to know a whole different feeling of freedom. That is still evident today and distinguishes our company: we are mobile,internationally networked and able to get to know other cultures. This was far less possible for earlier generations. We are determined to preserve the individual and social advances that mobility brings. Wherever we are active, we see ourselves as "corporate citizens," who contribute to Society.
How is it possible to build on the promise of freedom from the past and also contribute to Society?
Lehner: If we want to have an impact, we must confront the current social issues: from electric mobility and climate change to digitization and social fairness. That is why we are involved in these areas.
What questions do you ask yourself before you start a project, Ms. Viebig?
Viebig: Before we get started, we always ask ourselves: Does the project have a connection to our key topics, for example, in the area of electric mobility, digitalization or climate protection? Easily put, we sponsor projects related to mobility For us, being mobile is more than getting from point A to point B. Social, intellectual and societal mobility enables encounters, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations provide us with orientation. They comprise 17 goals in all – for example: equal opportunity for women and girls, access to good education and integration.
Which specific projects on the protection of the climate does Daimler Support?
Lehner: Environmental protection has been a focus of our commitment for a long time now. The issue has a very high priority, not only in society, but for us as well. For example, we cooperate with "Caritas International" on "Water is life". This project is about teaching farmers in semi-arid regions sufficient knowledge about the use of this resource. In Germany, we have been sponsoring the protection of cranes together with the NABU nature conservation association since 2019. Cranes are the epitome of mobility and individual freedom. They live in marshlands and moors, which absorb vast quantities of CO2. By protecting the cranes, we are saving their habitat at the same time and thus are investing effectively in climate protection.
Apart from environmental protection, which sponsoring project will the focus be on in 2020?
Lehner: In 2020, we will support the Berlin Philharmonic, which as a builder of bridges campaigns to promote the dialog between Germany and Israel. It will perform concerts in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on May 1 and 2, 2020. Its commitment to respect and tolerance and against racism and antisemitism also corresponds to the values of our company.
Ms. Viebig, can employees also become involved?
Viebig: Yes, at the Social Days, for example: that is where we combine team building with social involvement in charitable institutions. In addition, there is "ProCent" for instance, a permanent employee campaign, which we established together with the General Works Council in 2011.
How does ProCent work?
Viebig: Anyone willing to participate donates the cent amounts of their net monthly salaries. Daimler then doubles the amount. The proceeds benefit charitable projects in Germany and abroad, which without exception are all proposed by the workforce. As a result, we have already been able to sponsor 1300 projects in 63 countries – from an inclusion project in a kindergarten near Stuttgart to building a school in Burkina Faso. In 2019, the donations totaled 715,000 euros. In this way, a total of 8.45 million euros has already been approved for projects all over the world since 2011.
Why is it important for you to involve employees in corporate citizenship campaigns?
Lehner: Daimler stands for some 300,000 people around the globe. The employees are ambassadors and put a face on Daimler. Many are proud when they get involved socially and we can support a good thing together.
We are living in economically demanding times at the moment. What does that mean for you and your work?
Lehner: We are focusing even more strongly on projects with which we can make a major impact. There is still a lot we want to accomplish together with our employees in the years to come.
What are your wishes for the future?
Viebig: Quite clearly, that we reach even more people who we can support on their road to a better future.
Lehner: I wish that we continue to support committed people who enthusiastically fight for their cause. It is always worth it, whether the project is big or small.
Anja Lehner is the Head of Corporate Sponsoring & PR. She and her team are responsible for the strategic direction of the Corporate Citizenship unit. Together with the sponsorships and donations committee, she manages the worldwide corporate citizenship and sponsoring activities.
Elisabeth Viebig is the Head of Community Commitment/Volunteering & Memberships. She and her team look after the extensive social commitments of Daimler as well as after donations and memberships. She supports the locations worldwide in being a "good neighbor" locally and in contributing to society. In addition, she is a member of the sponsorships and donations committee.