Positions and Objectives
econsense is an association of leading, globally active companies and organisations of German business specializing in the area of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Founded in 2000 on the initiative of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the goal of econsense is to provide a dialogue platform and think tank, with the dual objectives of advancing sustainable development in business and assuming social responsibility.
Sustainability and CSR have become globally guiding principles. In an open dialogue, the members of econsense strive to further advance the implementation of economic, social and ecological objectives, with the awareness that business with strengths in innovation and investment also assumes certain responsibility for the success of sustainable development. At the same time, companies can only discern their corporate social responsibility when supportive and reliable political framework conditions offer them a good environment. Uniting all econsense members is the conviction that sustainable development offers a strategy for companies to increase their long-term competitiveness and, thus, to remain “future proof”.
The objectives of econsense are:
- To pool corporate activities on sustainability topics, such as climate protection and demographic change, and to jointly further develop these projects;
- To actively shape the political and social discourse;
- To credibly communicate the solution competence of the economy;
- To strengthen the open dialogue between political and social groups;
- To highlight the possibilities and limitations of corporate responsibility; and
- To promote sustainability concepts and CSR in the business community and raise awareness of policymakers for framework conditions that promote innovation and competitiveness.
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Our understanding of sustainable development
Collaboration between economy and politics
Innovations for sustainable development demand an open social and political environment that enables companies to provide sustainable products, services and processes. The political framework conditions must be designed in a way that supports innovative businesses. As such, a forum is necessary to discuss the various perspectives of sustainability, identify conflicting goals and pinpoint paths to solutions, together with political actors and civil society. However, these factors can be different for each company, for each product and, in the end, for each citizen. Rather than attempting to sub-optimally "micro-manage" production and consumption, politics should, particularly in the area of sustainability, give companies sufficient room to find efficient solutions to the most urgent issues.
Most crucial is the circumspect balancing of the ecological, economic and social dimensions. It is important to optimise the positive impacts of the decision for each dimension and to minimise the negative ones. Here governments can increasingly exploit business solution skills present in technology, management and process organisation. Politics should also recognise companies as a central stakeholder. The goal is to increase cooperation between politics and companies, while also including impacted social groups.
Balance of economic, social and ecological objectives
The principle of sustainability involves balancing and integrating economic, ecological and social objectives against the background of global responsibility and the needs of future generations. Putting the sustainability principle into practice requires a balanced consideration of the following objective: For the individual case, sustainable development will always include a negotiation on how the principles of "ecologically compatible", "economically profitable" and "socially promotable" can be harmonised best, with the understanding that it will not always be possible to find a fully satisfactory solution to cover all needs.
Treating all economic resources with foresight is a key factor in implementing a sustainable economy. In this respect, it is important to ensure that sustainability is not reduced to merely ecological issues. It is much more important to understand the entire spectrum of economic and social development potential and to approach sustainability as a cross-disciplinary concept for optimising all three target dimensions (society, ecology and economy).
Central strategic competitive factor for the economy
The objectives of sustainability are an important part of business thinking. They support the search for concrete solutions for future-proof corporate actions. Effectively integrating sustainable development within corporate actions, with an appropriate balance between the three parallel goals of sustainable development, can bring about real competitive advantages in national and international markets. Thus, sustainable development is a strategy to increase competitiveness.
A central innovation opportunity rests in integrated thinking and actions. Corporate thinking that overcomes sectoral boundaries is a prerequisite for sustainable solutions: The merging together of various industrial branches and areas of activity, of different sectors in management and administration as well as various technical disciplines and levels of action offers a broad range of opportunities for successful entrepreneurship. econsense envisions itself as an "early starter" of respective exchange forums.
The goal of sustainability therefore is to find solutions that account for a variety of demands for sustainability within corporate strategies. A "culture of sustainability" within companies can help realise sustainability in concrete terms both in everyday work and in the design of entire production processes and products. However, anchoring the idea of sustainable business solely in the economy is not enough. It is also crucial to motivate consumers to consider the ideas of ecological and social compatibility in their everyday purchase decisions. Business can have a supportive effect by developing and offering environmentally and socially compatible products and by emphasizing their added value through communication and marketing.
Continuous development process
Sustainable development is a learning and change process geared for the long term: Solutions are not universally valid, nor are they final; rather, they are determined specifically on an individual basis and for the current status of social awareness. This is why continuous analyses as well as revision of ideas and concepts for sustainable economy and politics are indispensable.
Sustainable development needs an open and creative innovation process in society, politics and the business community. This process must be supported by market-economy tools and an open dialogue, which can lead to competitiveness and innovations, jobs and wealth, resource efficiency and ecological compatibility. The innovations for sustainable development require a supportive political and social environment: This includes not only technological innovations but also economic, political and social innovations. Accordingly, framework conditions for a sustainable form of economy must be designed so that they support the renewal process. Prescribing paths to solutions would be counterproductive and thus hinder creativity.
The objective of harmonising the three dimensions of sustainability — economy, society and environment — demands a careful weighing of these needs. Therefore, to implement the sustainability concept, continuous dialogue among stakeholders must occur to clarify and carefully consider the reciprocal understanding of sustainability. For this reason, sustainable development is also a communication task.