Business must do even more for climate protection, even in difficult times, said Franz Fehrenbach, chairman of the Bosch board of management, an a talk at the Baden-Württemberg sustainability congress held in Stuttgart on 25 March (Nachhaltigkeitskongress Baden-Württemberg 2009). The acute economic and financial crisis must not, he said, be allowed to function as a pretext for slackening efforts to combat climate change.
Fehrenbach said that the “green economy” also offered opportunities for overcoming the crisis. According to Fehrenbach, every third euro of sales generated by Bosch now comes from products that conserve resources and/or protect the environment. In 2008, the Bosch Group achieved sales of some € 45 billion (US$61 billion).
Fehrenbach said that is was imperative that addressing climate issues should not be put onto the back burner simply because of the current severe economic problems—“down there at the bottom of the agenda along with all the other items to be set aside for the time being.” In Fehrenbach’s view, this would be a breach of trust. The continuing financial crisis had, he said, meant that business had already lost not only money, but also a great deal of trust. But by pursuing climate protection more earnestly and rigorously than before, he felt it could profit in terms of finance and trust.
It was not only studies forecasting considerable growth for environmental technology that Fehrenbach quoted to substantiate the economic opportunities offered by focusing on more environmentally friendly technologies. He also pointed out that emissions and energy-consumption standards were becoming stricter the world over—even in the emerging markets.
“This ecological globalization works to our benefit,” the Bosch CEO said. The examples he gave included not only efficient vehicle drive systems, but also systems for utilizing renewable energies, from gearboxes for wind turbines, to ground-source heat pumps and solar collectors, to photovoltaics. With this broad range of products, Bosch already generated sales of roughly €1 billion (US$1.36 billion) in 2008.
And in the future, said Fehrenbach, it was self-evident for the company that it would “provide technological answers to ecological questions.” More than 40% of the company’s research and development budget, which for 2008 amounted to €3.9 billion (US$5.3 billion), goes into products that protect the environment and conserve resources. One especially important factor here is the long-term nature of its innovation policy.
“This is also the only way we can make a success of the electric vehicle—which will come later rather than sooner,” Fehrenbach said. But he also urged that opportunities for saving energy here and now should be used, whether with condensing boilers in the home or with the start-stop system in the car.
According to Fehrenbach, the value of companies’ contribution to climate protection was decided at the sales counter. Since 1990, he pointed out, the amount of energy consumed by household appliances had fallen significantly, yet the average age of these appliances in Europe was still more than ten years. If all these old appliances were replaced with new ones, this would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 6% of the amount to which the EU committed itself in Kyoto.
“There are potential savings to be made in all our business sectors,” Fehrenbach said, “but we can only realize these savings if we convince each individual consumer that it is worth paying more for an appliance that results in lower energy costs.”
Bosch is also increasing its energy-saving efforts within the company itself. The new Chinese headquarters in Shanghai, for example, will cover half of its heating and cooling requirements with ground-source heat pumps. Photovoltaics arrays have already been installed at German locations such as Murrhardt or Reutlingen. By 2020, Bosch aims to cut the CO2 emissions of its plants by at least 20% from their 2007 level.