November 25, 2010

Top managers and entrepreneurs sign up to a voluntary code of conduct

  • Business leaders adopt a “Code of Responsible Conduct for Business”
  • Clear commitment to the social market economy and fairness in global business: “Business must serve the good of the people”
  • All managers and entrepreneurs in Germany are invited to take part in the initiative
The chief executive officers and managing directors of 21 German companies have presented a “Code of Responsible Conduct for Business” in Berlin. The signatories have committed themselves to addressing the loss of confidence of many citizens in business leaders by adopting a set of concrete measures and rigorous standards. The signatories include the chairmen of large companies such as BASF, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, Metro, Bosch and Henkel and the heads of well-known family businesses and medium-sized companies such as the Otto Group, Fuchs Petrolub and Trumpf. The code was drawn up with assistance from the Wittenberg Center for Global Ethics.

“The confidence of people in Germany in the social market economy and in the business elite has suffered greatly – and not just since the outbreak of the crisis in the financial markets”, said Prof. Dr. Jürgen Strube, Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board of BASF, who initiated the code of conduct. “As the heads of German companies, we wish to send out a signal with this code of conduct. As business leaders, we have a special responsibility as role models. The confidence of the public in our economic system, and ultimately in democracy itself, will be weakened if people no longer perceive us as role models.”

Principles of the code of conduct

The code of conduct sets out verifiable standards that are intended to become firmly established in the participating companies. The signatories are committed to providing leadership that is both success-oriented and value-oriented within the framework of the social market economy. These standards include fair competition, social partnership and the principles of achievement and sustainable development. The code of conduct also explicitly addresses issues that have provoked criticism in the public debate, such as profit and morality, redundancies, management remuneration and respect for rules.
“On the one hand, the code of conduct emphasizes that our prosperity is based on competition, the profit motive and a willingness to achieve results”, said Prof. Hermann Scholl, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Robert Bosch GmbH. “On the other hand, we have made it clear that this must be achieved fairly and that we also wish to include weaker members of society.” 

“Trust is the basis of our economy, and our economy cannot function without it”, emphasized Dr. Jürgen Hambrecht, Chief Executive Officer of BASF. “Rules and regulations form an external framework for our actions, but they cannot replace trust. The increasing public distrust in politicians and business leaders indicates that something is not right in our country. As business leaders, we need to stand up and be counted by making our contribution to this discussion.” 

The values and standards described in the code of conduct are expected to be incorporated into the management processes in all of the participating companies. “Companies and managers, especially in the finance sector, depend on trust”, said Josef Ackermann, Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Bank. “Above all, trust depends on people being able to believe each other. We will only be believed if social responsibility is a fundamental feature of all our thoughts and actions. Social responsibility must form an integral part of our business policies and processes, and we must exercise social responsibility in every decision that we make. That is what we wish to make clear in this code of conduct.”

As a first step, the signatories have committed themselves to implementing the values and standards enshrined in the code of conduct in the participating companies. “Over the coming months, we would like to invite other entrepreneurs and to join us in signing the Code of Responsible Conduct in Business”, said Prof. Dr. Strube. 

The following business leaders have drawn up the code of conduct and are signatories to it.  

Dr. Josef Ackermann, Chief Executive Officer, Deutsche Bank AG
Michael Behrendt, Chief Executive Officer, Hapag Lloyd AG
Dr. Eckhard Cordes, Chief Executive Officer, Metro AG
Dr. Klaus Engel, Chief Executive Officer, Evonik Industries AG
Franz Fehrenbach, Chief Executive Officer, Robert Bosch GmbH
Stefan Fuchs, Chief Executive Officer, FUCHS PETROLUB AG
Dr. Jürgen Hambrecht, Chief Executive Officer, BASF SE
Dr. Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chief Executive Officer and General Partner, Merck KGaA
Dr. Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller, Managing Director, Trumpf GmbH & Co. KG
Dr. Herbert Lütkestratkötter, Chief Executive Officer, Hochtief AG
Friedrich von Metzler, General Partner, B. Metzler seel. Sohn & Co. Holding AG
Prof. Joachim Milberg, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, BMW AG
René Obermann, Chief Executive Officer, Deutsche Telekom AG
Dr. Arend Oetker, Dr. Arend Oetker Holding GmbH & Co. KG
Hartmut Ostrowski, Chief Executive Officer, Bertelsmann AG
Dr. Michael Otto, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Otto Group
Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chief Executive Officer, BMW AG Kasper Rorsted, Chief Executive Officer, Henkel AG & Co. KGaA
Dr. Ulrich Scheufelen, Member of the Supervisory Board, Powerflute
Prof. Hermann Scholl, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Robert Bosch GmbH
Hans-Otto Schrader, Chief Executive Officer, Otto Group
Dr. Johannes Teyssen, Chief Executive Officer, E.ON AG
Prof. Martin Winterkorn, Chief Executive Officer, Volkswagen AG
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chief Executive Officer, Daimler AG

Here you can download the code of conduct.

For further information, please contact:  

Johannes Marten
Head of Political Communications Germany
Deutsche Bank AG
Phone: +49-30 3407 4461

Thomas Nonnast
Press Office BASF SE
Phone: +49 30 206295034
PDF version