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New Ways to Implement ESG Goals

WHU and Haniel Foundation initiative dedicated to the topic of responsible corporate governance

“ESG in Action”—that was the motto of the fourth Rhine-Ruhr Dialog at the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management campus in Düsseldorf at the beginning of February, where numerous managers and academics discussed future-relevant topics from the environment, social, governance sector, commonly known as “ESG.” The aim of this joint initiative from the Center for Non-Profit Management and Social Impact and the Haniel Foundation was to develop concrete ideas for ESG-relevant goals. This year, the event was also supported by the IT consulting company Senacor and the think tank Fisch im Wasser.

“The idea behind the Rhine-Ruhr Dialog has always been to discuss topics that transcend the boundaries of business, society, politics—and ESG is one of those topics,” said Peter Kreutter, Managing Director Foundations at WHU. When it comes to sustainability, Kreutter is hitting on one of WHU’s core concerns that the university is committed to tackling in the areas of research, education, infrastructure, and start-ups. According to him, the Rhine-Ruhr Dialog format, initiated years ago together with Rupert Antes of the Haniel Foundation, was not only intended to raise awareness of ESG issues this year. Rather, he said, it was specifically about how data could be generated for the ESG sector, about finding out which activities had already been established on the corporate side—and about how companies and non-profit organizations could work together more systematically to have a positive impact on society.

To create a common knowledge base for all participants, the event started with three keynote speeches: Professor Christian Andres, Chair of Empirical Corporate Finance at WHU examined the topic from a capital market perspective; Dr. Lars Grotewold, Head of Climate Change at Stiftung Mercator, focused on climate; and Professor Christopher Grieben, COO of the think tank Fish in Water, addressed the question of how health topics can be rethought and implemented in companies.

Later, the participants discussed in small groups of six to eight people how to implement their ideas. Christopher Peterka, managing partner of the think tank gannaca, provided the participants with methodical support. They had just 25 minutes to work together to find answers to the major challenges presented in the keynote speeches.

“The climate crisis concerns us all,” said Dr. Lars Grotewold from Stiftung Mercator, speaking about the importance of addressing ESG issues. “We simply have to take note that climate protection is no longer an option for companies, but a must, and that it is the central prerequisite for competitiveness in the future in general.”

A video of the event can be viewed here.

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