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Jochen Berner - Head of Sustainability Strategy at ZF Jochen Berner - Head of Sustainability Strategy at ZF

Towards a Holistic Balance Sheet

Interview with Jochen Berner, Head of Sustainability Strategy, ZF Group

Sustainable action makes an important contribution to safeguarding the future for companies. ZF not only works on this within the current legal obligations, but is also committed to make sustainability visible in its balance sheet. Read more in the interview with Jochen Berner, Head of Sustainability Strategy at ZF Group.

What significance does "sustainability" have for ZF?
Sustainability is an integral part of the Group strategy which shows its high significance. The strategy includes, for example, the goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2040 along the entire value-added chain. This high level of ambition has not resulted out of pressure, but because we are convinced that it is our social responsibility to contribute to sustainable development.

Is sustainability still a USP if all companies are required by law to commit to it?
Legislators worldwide primarily oblige companies to disclose the impacts of their business model on environment and society. However, for us as a company, it is a sign of vision and a sense of responsibility that we do not act only when the law requires us to do so. It is rather our concern to anticipate and meet future expectations of the different stakeholders. We see this as a great opportunity to show that we take it seriously and that we have ambitious, binding goals supported by effective measures. I am sure that we will create a differentiation in this way that the market will register and reward.

Personal Information

Jochen Berner is responsible for the further development of the Group sustainability strategy at ZF since November 2021. In addition to topics such as climate protection, this also includes human rights due diligence and questions on holistic company evaluation.

How far has ZF come in terms of sustainability?
ZF regards sustainability as an opportunity. We are convinced that our products will make a positive contribution to the transformation of our industry. If you look at our Sustainability Report, you can see that we continue to emit CO2 with our business activities and that accidents still occur in our factories. Are we already sustainable? No. Are we on the right track? Yes.

Will ZF achieve its sustainability targets on its own or does it need support from the legislator?
As a globally operating company, we are part of a complex ecosystem framed by expectations and requirements. Regulation is part of it. We want to achieve our goals on our own and are optimistic about doing so. Smart regulation can support this approach.
"We want to achieve our goals on our own and are optimistic about doing so."

Targets such as ZF's announcement that it will be completely climate-neutral by 2040 are "tough targets" which can be easily checked with key figures. What about the sustainability dimension "people"?
In this area, too, we have clear targets that are defined with key indicators, such as the proportion of female graded among executive managers or accident rates. These targets can also be process-related; I am thinking here, for example, of objectives relating to the implementation of human rights due diligence. Our ambitions and a transparent governance are important for every topic, and they must be adequate and credible.

How reasonable for ZF is extended accounting that includes also non-financial sustainability aspects?
The current measurement of the company's success based on financial key figures is insufficient to represent the actual social value added. For this reason, we are participating in cross-sectoral initiatives that develop and test new approaches for visualizing this contribution. In this context, our membership in Value Balancing Alliance must be named.
"The current measurement of the company's success based on financial key figures is insufficient to represent the actual social value added."

How well is ZF already positioned for this extended accounting?
We and other large, progressive companies are currently running pilot projects on methodologies aimed at a holistic and standardized accounting. On the one hand, we are expanding our knowledge to evaluate performance and results. On the other hand, we learn a lot about ourselves in the process and in the exchange with the partners. In this way, we identify opportunities for improvement and which topics we need to focus on more strongly. This provides for transparency and is exactly what the method aims at – definitely a rewarding commitment!

How ZF Thinks and Acts Sustainably

Sustainability encompasses far more than environmental protection. It also includes topics such as social responsibility, equal rights and equal opportunities. ZF has already achieved a great deal in this regard, and has also set itself ambitious targets for the future. Find out here what they are – and how ZF is ensuring more sustainability.