EOS in the UN Global Compact: Taking corporate responsibility to the next level.
Corporate social responsibility is nothing new for EOS. Since joining the UN Global Compact, this issue has taken a special strategic direction within the Group. In this interview with two compliance experts, you will learn how the goals of the UN initiative can be applied to your own business.
- EOS joined the UN Global Compact, a global sustainability initiative by the United Nations, in 2021.
- Joining this program has greatly increased the speed at which corporate responsibility is being integrated into the corporate culture at EOS.
- Currently, EOS is analyzing its options for contributing to the goals of the initiative and is uncovering potential that in a next step, will be formulated into the company’s own goals and summarized in a CR strategy.
By joining the UN Global Compact in 2021, EOS has once again underscored its endeavors to change the world for the better in at least its own sphere of influence. In the meanwhile, more than 16,000 companies from over 160 countries are participating in the UN initiative to make the world a more sustainable and fairer place in the three categories environmental, social and governance (ESG for short).
The ways in which members implement the goals of the initiative can look very different in practice. Because of course, joining the initiative is not enough. On the contrary: At the beginning, each new member has to derive its own goals out of the principles of the initiative and mold them into a binding corporate responsibility (CR) strategy. EOS is currently in this process and is analyzing its points of impact. In this interview, the two compliance specialists Alisha Kumar and Sibylle Weingart talk about what these might be and what happens next.
From a CR perspective, what is already working well at EOS?
Sibylle: Our founding family Otto has always credibly imparted ethical principles of corporate governance, in the sense that we practice social responsibility internally and externally in the business segments in which we operate. In the past year, EOS has defined four actionable areas for the company to focus on: Responsible Collection, Joint Progress, Financial Sustainability and Environmental Protection. Within the company, we have also established a code of conduct, for example, as a navigation aid for our employees. For all external stakeholder groups this offers a reliable reference point that they can draw on in their interactions with EOS.
Alisha: That EOS bears responsibility towards its employees became particularly evident during the pandemic. We were all set up to work remotely from home within an exceptionally short time. To protect our health, the corresponding regulations were often stricter than required by law. The ability to reconcile work and family commitments also took a high priority, e.g. through flexible working time models. Specialist personnel can also temporarily reduce their working hours if their personal circumstances render this necessary. EOS therefore makes it possible for all those who wish to do so to adapt their work to their current personal circumstances and not vice-versa.
Membership of the UN Global Compact creates an awareness of the need for a company to craft its own more stringent CR strategy from principles that are already being practiced.
What new impulse do you expect from membership of the UN Global Compact?
Sibylle: Membership of the UN Global Compact creates an awareness of the need for a company to craft its own more stringent CR strategy from principles that are already being practiced. Take the issue of diversity, for example: Thanks to the commitment of our personnel, networks like Queer@EOS and the Female Empowerment Network W:isible, that have developed at EOS in recent years, are giving a human face to the concept of diversity within the company.
To give these endeavors a strategic direction, EOS recently created a Diversity and Inclusion Board that is also supported by the management. Because we now know that a diverse and inclusive corporate culture offers many benefits, whether in the form of higher employee productivity, declining fluctuation rates, or a decisive edge when it comes to recruiting talent.
Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals for a sustainable world
With its Agenda 2030, the United Nations has established a timetable for our future. It contains 17 sustainability goals, directed not only at civil society but with equal measure at all governments and the business community:
- Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
- Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
- Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
- Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
- Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
- Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
- Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
- Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
- Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
In respect of diversity and people management, EOS is therefore already in a good position. But what about the other goals of the UN Global Compact?
Alisha: The UN Global Compact is pursuing a total of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Now it is not very practical for a company to want to serve all 17 SDGs at the same time. Every company and every industry has different strengths that it can leverage to achieve the overall objective – of a sustainable and fair world. This is why initially we analyzed where we, as a financial service provider, can make the biggest difference.
We therefore need to ask ourselves how we can work in a more ecologically sustainable way, particularly with regard to electricity consumption, the use of technologies, the energy consumption of servers or the necessity for business travel.
What were the results of the analysis?
Sibylle: Given the sector we work in, the first SDG, the fight against poverty, is naturally at the top of our list. It would be very interesting, for example, to engage more intensively with the question of what people actually need to earn today to be able to cover their basic needs. We are also focusing on SDG No. 4, quality education, as better financial education is a proven means of tackling excessive debt in society. In this conjunction, the non-profit EOS company finlit foundation has already had good experience with teaching primary schoolchildren about the right way to handle money. Internally, on the other hand, our focus is on goals three and five, i.e., health and well-being, and gender equality.
Alisha: Although, as a technology-driven financial services provider, the business operations of EOS do not leave a very large ecological footprint behind, we still believe that everyone should do their part here, no matter how large. This is why our agenda also includes SDG 13 – climate protection – which also plays a major role in the general context of the Otto Group. EOS is working with its parent company Otto Group to be carbon neutral by 2030. We therefore need to ask ourselves how we can work in a more ecologically sustainable way. particularly with regard to electricity consumption, the use of technologies, the energy consumption of servers or the necessity for business travel.
What happens next?
Sibylle: The next step is to derive our own goals from the stated goals of the United Nations and align our existing CR initiatives to them in an appropriate way. Externally, for example, this would involve a more responsible interaction with consumers and handling of their data. Internally, this would cover issues like a discrimination-free workplace, fair remuneration, or a good work-life balance.
Alisha: When it came to identifying our priorities we had support from the consulting firm :response, which had already helped the Otto Group through this process and so knows what to look out for. The next step is to work with numerous departments within the company to formulate specific goals, on the basis of which we will produce a roadmap with corresponding measures for the next few years. Only then will the goals we set become binding, and only in this way will we ultimately be able to also measure the success of our CR strategy.
What does the term corporate responsibility (CR) mean to you both personally?
Alisha: It is not just EOS as a company that is doing its part to operate sustainably and make a contribution to society; every single one of us is also instrumental in this process through our shared understanding of values. I don’t just want to personally live by those values that guide my own actions; I also want to anchor and incorporate them into my professional and private sphere. As a young woman with multicultural roots, I see diversity as one of the key issues that should no longer just be “nice to have” but needs to be an integral part of the corporate culture. Another important goal in my view is the transparent clarification and elimination of the gender pay gap.
Sibylle: For me, CR is much more than just an ESG-driven mindset within the corporate strategy. As human beings, and as a company, we need to look at the consequences that our actions will have for future generations as well. This means engaging with these issues honestly and transparently and identifying the negative impacts we can have on society. I think that in this respect, EOS is taking an important step forward with its own extended CR strategy and specific roadmap.
Photo credits: Sven Wied