Strategy and concepts
Managing transformation collaboratively
As an actor in the transport sector, the Mercedes-Benz Group supports the Paris Climate Agreement: It is convinced of the goals of the agreement.
Accordingly, the Group's political advocacy is clearly aligned with its sustainable business strategy.
The sustainable development of the transport sector entails many challenges. To cope with these, partnerships play an important role for the Mercedes-Benz Group. For the Group, partners in this sense are those stakeholders who work together with it to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Responsible and transparent representation of interests
Companies are expected to focus not only on their immediate core tasks such as value creation, research and development, or employment.
The Mercedes-Benz Group also bears social responsibility, which also includes the political representation of interests. This is because the balancing of different interests and the presentation of reliable information are important in enabling elected officials to make informed trade-offs and effective political decisions.
Transparency is not a contradictory concept here – on the contrary. Knowing the decision-making process and its participants is an understandable matter of public interest that deserves support. The Mercedes-Benz Group therefore aligns its political advocacy in the Group with principles of transparency and responsibility and is guided by the Integrity Code that applies throughout the Group. The Mercedes-Benz Group uses its expertise in a targeted manner to achieve the greatest possible correspondence between public and private interests – and thus to be part of the solution.
The way a company safeguards its political interests helps to determine whether its concerns are accepted and taken into account in political decisions. The Mercedes-Benz Group is convinced that the public has a right to know about the decision-making processes, and that companies that position themselves transparently are more successful than others in the medium and long term. After all, this is also how they can make the greatest contribution to the community. Here, the Mercedes-Benz Group takes the route of publicly accessible parliamentary lobby registers. In this way, it can transparently inform the parliamentary groups about its issues, as well as about the resources and players involved in safeguarding its interests.
With the legally required registration in the German Lobby Register, the Mercedes-Benz Group AG has committed itself, in addition to its own lobbying principles, to comply with the Code of Conduct for Interest Representatives under the Lobby Register Act. It has made further commitments by voluntarily accrediting its political representatives in the EU Parliament’s transparency register. The Group also uses its own Mercedes-Benz Group Climate Policy Report (additional information group.mercedes-benz.com/investors/share/esg/) to inform about its political positions. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Group publishes further information regarding its stance on relevant, strategic issues affecting its stakeholders on the corporate website. Here too, it adheres to the principles of transparent representation of interests.
For the Mercedes-Benz Group, constructive political dialogue is indispensable in all markets in which the Group is active worldwide.
The External Affairs (EA) unit is the central coordinating body for political dialogue at the national and international levels. It is located in Stuttgart and falls under the responsibility of the Chairman of the Board of Management. The EA unit shapes the Mercedes-Benz Group’s relations via a global network with offices in Berlin, Brussels, Beijing and Washington, as well as corporate representations in various markets.
The department ensures that the positions shaping the Group’s lobbying work are in line with the objectives and content of the sustainable business strategy of the Mercedes-Benz Group as well as with its guidelines and other public statements. The aim is to provide Group-wide coordinated content for the representation of interests and to address target groups in a coordinated manner. The Head of External Affairs is a permanent member of the Group Sustainability Board (GSB) and supports the board’s work on political issues.
External Affairs also coordinates closely with the members of the Board of Management and specialist units on all lobbying issues. For this purpose, the department organises meetings of the so-called Governmental Affairs Committee for various Board of Management divisions. These meetings are held several times a year and on an ad-hoc basis.
The Mercedes-Benz Group uses Group-wide established compliance processes to address risks in connection with the political representation of its interests. The Business Practices Office (BPO) whistleblower system accepts complaints and reports relating to compliance issues.
The Mercedes-Benz Group conducts mandatory training courses on a regular basis to ensure the employees comply with statutory requirements and internal guidelines and policies. The Integrity and Legal Affairs unit is responsible for such courses. EA supports the courses when needed by contributing its political expertise.
At the beginning of their employment, employees outside External Affairs whose positions also require them to represent Mercedes-Benz in the political environment of their market (e.g. plant management positions) usually participate in a special onboarding process (in the form of an interactive online training module) that prepares them for their tasks and makes them aware of relevant policies.
Party donations and political contributions
In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Group’s Lobbying, Political Contributions and Party Donations policy defines responsible approaches to be used in connection with grants, donations to political parties, and other instruments for representing the company’s interests in the political realm.
The company also has a Donations and Sponsorships Policy in place. This policy states that any monetary donations to political partners above a net value of € 50,000 and any donations in kind to political partners above a gross value of € 50,000 must be approved by the full Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. Political contributions must be assessed by External Affairs regardless of their amount.
Employees can find the policies in the policy database on the Social Intranet.
Mercedes-Benz Group AG did not make any financial or non-financial contributions to political parties during the reporting period. This decision was not based on current political or economic events. The corporate citizenship activities focused on other areas.
The receipt of public funding by the Mercedes-Benz Group in Germany can be viewed in the Lobby Register of the German Bundestag. The receipt of public funding within the European Union (EU) can in turn be viewed in the EU Transparency Register.
Positions on relevant sustainability issues
For the Mercedes-Benz Group, stakeholder engagement is one of the keys to achieving a sustainable transformation. Discussions with individuals involved in political
decisions preferrentially focus on finding sustainable solutions for addressing social challenges. engagement is a key to sustainable transformation for the Mercedes-Benz Group. In discussions with people involved in political decision-making, the priority is to find sustainable solutions to societal challenges. The common interest in effective climate protection is a priority for the Mercedes-Benz Group in this regard: The Group meets its customers’ expectations of emission-free mobility with forward-looking technologies and progressive luxury.
In the following, the focal topics of political representation of interests chosen in line with the sustainable business strategy of the Mercedes-Benz Group are explained in more detail.
In line with the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Mercedes-Benz Group has set itself ambitious targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions along the entire value chain. These targets are based on, among other things, the latest climate research findings. In accordance with the requirements of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the Group has defined a concrete CO2 reduction path and has determined the measures it will implement to progress along this path. The conformity of this plan with the Paris Climate Agreement was confirmed by the SBTi. By joining this initiative, the Mercedes-Benz Group is underscoring its commitment to the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.
In “Ambition 2039” the Mercedes-Benz Group has set its own targets, which are consistent with those of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Group aims to achieve CO2 neutrality on the balance sheet partly including offsets in its entire new car fleet in less than 20 years. This ambition encompasses all stages of the vehicle value chain – from development and the extraction of raw materials to production, use and recycling of the products. In doing so, the Mercedes-Benz Group also involves its partners and suppliers.
Renewable energies play an important role in achieving CO2 neutrality on the balance sheet partly including offsets: The Mercedes-Benz Group already produces on a CO2-neutral on the balance sheet basis in its own plants worldwide. Since 2022, all of Mercedes-Benz AG’s own production plants worldwide have been sourcing electricity exclusively from renewable sources. The Mercedes-Benz Group is pursuing the goal of covering more than 70% of its energy requirements in production with renewable energies by 2030 – in addition to electricity, this also includes gas and district heat, for example. The Group also aims to generate more renewable energy itself at its locations. By 2025, the Mercedes-Benz Group will invest a three-digit million euro amount in the installation of photovoltaic systems.
The Mercedes-Benz Group also plans to invest in new Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) of wind turbines worth € 1 billion by 2025: In September 2022, the Group began planning the installation of a wind farm at its test site in Papenburg. This is where several wind turbines with an output of more than 100 MW, covering more than 15% of the annual electricity requirements of Mercedes-Benz Group AG in Germany, are to be erected by 2025.
The Mercedes-Benz Group welcomes all political activities worldwide that accelerate the transformation of the energy sector. The aim is to harmonise regulations across regions and countries and to enable rapid support for the expansion of renewable energies through German federal and state policy or the EU – for example in the form of loans.
Improve air quality
The corporate responsibility of the Mercedes-Benz Group as an automobile manufacturer includes reconciling climate protection, air pollution control and individual mobility. Inner-city air quality is an important environmental aspect for the Group.
The Mercedes-Benz Group therefore supports the plan to revise the Air Quality Directive in the EU. However, a broad political discourse on the objectives of future air quality targets in cities should be held in the run-up to the decision. Among other things, it is important to present the levers and possible effects transparently. When designing future European air quality limit values, the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) should be taken into account in the legislative process as part of an extended impact assessment. The timeframe for their introduction must be carefully weighted against the technical effort and benefits. It must also be investigated which technological approaches, innovations and intermediate steps can be used to sensibly implement the EU Commission’s strategic goal of ensuring pollutant-free air by 2050.
The transport sector has already initiated a host of measures in recent years to reduce the impact on air quality. The continued replacement of fleets by very low-emission or electric vehicles is part of these measures. The Mercedes-Benz Group therefore advises weighing up in advance which contributions from the individual sectors are realistic and possible, and at what cost.
The Group also argues in favour of dispensing with more severe restrictions by expanding entry bans into cities also to vehicles with extremely low to zero emissions. In the view of the Mercedes-Benz Group, a policy of prohibition is not the right way forward, as individual mobility is a valuable asset for customers and for society as a whole. Rather, each sector should make its own meaningful contribution to achieving good air quality in cities.
Making cities more liveable
Clean, safe, generally accessible and affordable mobility is a prerequisite for high quality of life in cities. To make this possible, intelligent systems are needed in order to link and coordinate the use of all modes of transport. The various means of transport should preferably be used where they offer the most benefits.
If locally emission-free individual mobility is to have a firm foothold in cities, the public charging infrastructure must be expanded in cities and along major transport arteries.
The transformation of mobility in cities is a task for society as a whole. That is why the Mercedes-Benz Group is involved in the German Urban Mobility Platform, among other things, and works on the Agora Verkehrswende Council. On this platform, representatives of industry and cities discuss urgent aspects of the mobility transformation and cooperatively derive measures.
Accelerate the expansion of charging infrastructure
The availability of charging infrastructure plays a decisive role in the spread of electromobility, not only locally in the cities, but above all nationally. The expansion of the charging infrastructure must keep pace with the growing number of electric vehicles in order to make electric drive a real alternative to the conventional combustion engine. The Mercedes-Benz Group therefore welcomes the proposal of the EU Commission to make the installation of public charging points mandatory throughout the EU.
In order to further advance the expansion of the charging infrastructure, Mercedes-Benz AG is pursuing strategic partnerships – for example with the Charging Interface Initiative e.V. (CharIN), founded in 2015. This worldwide alliance with members from the entire cross-industry value chain is driving forward the deployment of electromobility on a global scale. Mercedes-Benz AG is a founding member and a member of the CharIN steering committee. Within the framework of this partnership, it advocates internationally uniform charging standards for electric vehicles of all types – cars, trucks and buses.
Improving traffic safety
Vehicle and traffic safety were, are and will remain focal points in the development of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. With its political advocacy, the Mercedes-Benz Group is helping to set the framework for further improvements in traffic safety, for example through automated driving.
Assistance systems and automated driving can help to make road traffic safer and take the strain off drivers. The Mercedes-Benz Group is therefore committed to further developing the legal framework for the use of assistive and automated driving systems and harmonising it across borders. The Group is taking a leading position in the development and introduction of suitable technologies for this purpose and is striving to expand the range of possible applications responsibly. At the end of 2021, the Mercedes-Benz Group achieved another milestone on this path and became the world’s first car manufacturer to receive an internationally valid system approval for highly automated driving SAE Level 3. At the end of 2022, the Group received the world’s first approval for the standard operation of an autonomous driverless parking and manoeuvring system SAE Level 4 in a multi-storey car park in Germany.
In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Group is participating in the Verification and Validation Methods (VVM) research network for automated vehicles of SAE Level 4 and 5. As part of a project, the network is developing a system and methods to ensure the safety of fully automated and driverless driving functions and vehicles in urban areas. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection.
Respect for human rights and due diligence in the supply chain
For the Mercedes-Benz Group, respect for human rights is a fundamental component of responsible corporate governance and is anchored in its sustainable business strategy. It is its aspiration and a concrete goal that human rights should be respected in all corporate companies and observed by suppliers.
In February 2022, the EU Commission presented a legislative proposal on rules for respecting human rights and the environment in global value chains: the EU Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence. Similar to the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG) of July 2021, the EU bill aims to prevent human rights and environmental abuses in companies’ value chains. The Mercedes-Benz Group welcomes the introduction of the German LkSG and supports the EU’s goal of establishing due diligence obligations on a common basis throughout the EU accordingly.
The Mercedes-Benz Group also promotes respect for human rights along its supply chains through its policy initiatives and partnerships. At the same time, it is further developing its own Human Rights Respect System (HRRS) and adapting the related internal processes to enhanced corporate due diligence requirements.
For the Mercedes-Benz Group – as a globally positioned Group with sales, production, procurement and research and development in a large number of markets – the international exchange of goods and services is of great importance. It therefore supports free, fair and rule-based trade.
In order to maintain and expand the multilateral trade order, the Mercedes-Benz Group is in favour of strengthening the World Trade Organization (WTO) – especially against the background of increased protectionist developments on the world market. This is essential for ensuring certainty in the trade of vehicles and primary products. Free trade agreements also play an important role in this context. The abolition of tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers, as well as cooperation on standardisation, investment protection and protection standards, commitments to protect the climate and workers’ rights, benefit businesses and consumers alike.
The Mercedes-Benz Group supports the EU’s goal of building a corporate sustainability framework that facilitates investment for sustainable growth. In its view, the EU taxonomy should therefore support business in financing the transformation by providing reliable access to the capital market.
At the same time, there are uncertainties as to how the EU taxonomy should be implemented and interpreted. External Affairs is working within the European industry associations to draw the attention of the European Commission to this shortcoming. It calls for important and reliable guidelines and clear rules.
Dialogues and events
Within the framework of the responsible political representation of its interests, the Mercedes-Benz Group continuously seeks to establish and maintain a dialogue with government representatives and politicians at its locations worldwide, and it continued to do so in the reporting year. The Mercedes-Benz Group also shares ideas and information with other interest groups and individuals, including groups that are active in politics and society, opinion leaders, experts, citizens, representatives from business and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Together with these stakeholders, the Mercedes-Benz Group supports the opinion-forming process at both national and international level in order to promote the sustainable business goals and the transformation of the automotive industry. It also addresses future-oriented questions relevant to the Group that go
beyond the core automotive issues and feeds these back to the Group management in the context of strategy work.
To this end, the Mercedes-Benz Group addresses the public at its own events on current topics. Depending on the communication format, either the specialists of the External Affairs department or other employees who act as political stakeholders for the Mercedes-Benz Group conduct the respective event – managers from individual locations usually also participate.
At the same time, the Group ensures a continuous exchange of knowledge with a wider community through participation in external dialogue formats. The involvement of the Mercedes-Benz Group in various associations, committees and sustainability initiatives also contributes to this exchange. In addition, Group representatives hold subject-specific expert discussions with politicians.
The Mercedes-Benz Group engages in dialogue on its own initiative with stakeholders who wish to work with it on the sustainable transformation of the automotive industry. In order to facilitate open discussions with a wide range of interest groups, External Affairs also conducts its own events at regional, national and international levels.
Within the framework of its responsible approach to the representation of its interests and the forward-looking handling of risks, the Mercedes-Benz Group engages in a targeted dialogue with local stakeholders from government and society when planning new projects or when the need arises to address issues relating to its sites. Board members are also involved in the local dialogue.
Through stakeholder mapping, the positions of relevant stakeholders are analysed in advance. The main objective here is to reconcile the interests of the sites in question with the wishes and concerns of local residents and establish conditions that benefit all of the parties involved.
Further information on stakeholders along the supply chain can be found in the chapter Social Compliance.
The Regional Political Dialogue is a long-standing event format from External Affairs. The challenges and opportunities associated with the transformation of the automotive industry, as well as the current corporate strategy were discussed with representatives of state and local governments in July 2022.
At the end of May 2022, the Mercedes-Benz Group also laid the symbolic foundation stone for a new centre of excellence on the site of its main plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim together with the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg and other local politicians. In future, research will be conducted there on batteries and battery cells and new battery generations will be developed. The "Mercedes-Benz eCampus” is to be gradually put into operation from 2023 and will initially house, among other things, a factory for the small-scale production of battery cells.
In September 2022, the Mercedes-Benz Group opened the “Mercedes-Benz Digital Factory Campus (MBDFC)” in the presence of the Governing Mayor of Berlin: with a series of state-of-the-art pilot lines and test cells, the campus bundles the development, testing and worldwide introduction of software applications for vehicle production. At the same time, the campus will become a training and qualification centre for innovative approaches with regard to the digital transformation in the global production network of the Mercedes-Benz Group.
The Mercedes-Benz Group also engaged itself at the national level. In May 2022, the Mercedes-Benz Group presented its vision of advanced, self-determined and more sustainable mobility in Berlin with its “Vision EQXX” experimental vehicle. It discussed the performance parameters such as energy efficiency or range, which set new standards, with the invited representatives of NGOs, foundations, associations and science. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Group discussed together with those present the political framework conditions that are necessary to accelerate the transition to electromobility and to support the transformation of the automotive industry.
The Mercedes-Benz Group also cultivates political exchange outside Germany and is committed to environmental and climate protection with innovative solutions.
For example, in April 2022, the first renewable natural gas plant in South Carolina was inaugurated at the Mercedes-Benz Vans plant in Charleston together with the governor of the US state of South Carolina. This gas is used to maintain the temperature of the building and in the operation of the paint shop.
In August 2022, the Mercedes-Benz Group and the Canadian government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to deepen cooperation across the automotive value chain. As part of a business delegation, the Group’s Chief Development Officer travelled to Toronto together with the Chancellor and the Minister of Economics of the Federal Republic of Germany. The aim of the MoU is to utilise economic opportunities within the Canadian supply chain and thus to promote the development of electromobility.
In addition, the employees of Mercedes-Benz China are committed to dialogue between science and business: At the end of September 2022, a discussion round was held with professors and students from Tsinghua University in Beijing. Representatives from Mercedes-Benz China presented the sustainable corporate strategy and explained the challenges in global supply chain management.
The annual “Sustainability Dialogue” is another example of a Mercedes-Benz Group event format at the international level. In its “Partnerships” workshop in 2022, External Affairs worked with stakeholders from society, politics and industry to develop criteria for good, targeted partnerships.
Along with its own events in connection with the political representation of its interests, the Mercedes-Benz Group also participates in external events in order to engage with various stakeholders. Among other things, the Group participates in the platform for the state government of Baden-Württemberg’s strategic dialogue for the automotive industry.
With the title “On the road to climate neutrality: Powering zero-emission vehicles”, the online political exchange format “POLITICO Spotlight” took place in March 2022. The topic of this event, initiated by Shell plc and the Mercedes-Benz Group, was the “EU Regulation on the Development of Alternative Fuel Infrastructure (AFIR)". Against this background, the EU Transport Commissioner, the rapporteur on the AFIR Regulation in the European Parliament and the CEOs of Shell plc and the Mercedes-Benz Group also discussed the question of how the development of a public charging infrastructure in the EU can be accelerated.
Furthermore, the Mercedes-Benz Group participates, among other things, in the platform “Strategic Dialogue for the Automotive Sector Baden-Württemberg”. At the kick-off dialogue in Stuttgart in May 2022, the focal points for the year were defined. At the suggestion of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, the mission “Transfer Qualification and Readiness for Change” was launched. This will address qualification concepts, changes in the focus of activities and the strengthening of employees’ willingness to change.
In addition, Mercedes-Benz Group AG took part in a follow-up event – the Top Level Meeting of the Strategy Dialogue – in Brussels in November 2022. This conference brought together experts, decision-makers and an interested public to exchange views on current challenges, possible solutions and best-practice examples with respect to the transformation.
In April 2022, the German Climate Economy Foundation (Stiftung KlimaWirtschaft) invited representatives from politics and business to a panel discussion. Together with the German Federal Minister of Economics and Climate Protection, the President of the Federal Environment Agency and other participants, the Chairman of the Board of Management of the Mercedes-Benz Group there discussed the question: “How can we achieve success in transforming our economy towards climate neutrality?"
The Group was also involved in the expert panel “Transformation of the Automotive Industry” of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection. This panel is part of the strategy platform envisaged in the coalition agreement and consists of a total of 13 members. External Affairs is actively involved in two working groups: “Decarbonisation of automotive value chains” and “Smart car: software, digitisation, automation”. The working groups are to develop specific recommendations for action on ways of achieving the goal of climate neutrality and securing added value as well as jobs and training places in Germany as a location for the automotive industry.
At the “Future Mobility Summit” in September 2022 in Berlin, a congress for mobility decision-makers, the Mercedes-Benz Group presented its interpretation of innovative and sustainable “last mile delivery” by means of its SUSTAINEER concept vehicle and discussed further ideas for solutions with representatives from politics and business.
The Mercedes-Benz Group was also involved in the political dialogue at the international level: in June 2022, the electric vehicle symposium “Charging Forward” took place in Washington D.C. Representatives from the US Department of the Environment and the Department of Energy had the opportunity to examine various electric vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz EQS. Afterwards, representatives of the ministries exchanged views with experts from the automotive industry on the ramp-up of electromobility and the expansion of the charging infrastructure. A representative from the External Affairs office in Washington D.C. represented the Group in the discussion.
Expert discussions with politicians
What framework conditions are necessary to achieve climate neutrality? Ongoing political dialogue on this issue with decision-makers is a cornerstone of the Mercedes-Benz Group’s representation of interests.
At the beginning of the reporting year, representatives of the Mercedes-Benz Group spoke with a member of the European Parliament as well as a member of the German Bundestag from Bündnis 90/Die Grünen about the Group’s “Electric only” strategy and the necessary political framework conditions. The focus of the discussion was on the challenges and expectations of the government regarding a Europe-wide charging infrastructure.
In June 2022, a representative of the External Affairs department accepted the invitation of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Sustainable Development of the German Bundestag and, as an expert on sustainability in the transport sector, presented the “Electric only” strategy of the Mercedes-Benz Group. He pointed out the importance of sustainability for the Mercedes-Benz Group along the entire value chain.
The head of External Affairs also discussed the Skilled Workers Immigration Act with the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in July 2022. In doing so, he pointed out the problem of a lack of political and legal framework conditions in the area of remote working: Tax, social security and labour law risks make it difficult for the Group to recruit skilled workers abroad whose know-how is needed to implement the transformation as quickly as possible.
In September 2022, the Mercedes-Benz Group exchanged views with representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union on sustainable financing and the reporting requirements of the EU taxonomy. The Group considers reliable guidelines and clear rules to be imperative for the correct implementation and reliable comparability of the reporting.
In November 2022, the External Affairs office in the USA took part in the “Roundtable” of the US Treasury Department together with other representatives of the automotive industry. The topic was the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act. This law includes a large package of energy- and climate-related regulations as well as tax incentives aimed at strengthening the US market for electric vehicles and the supply chain for greener vehicles.
Engagement in sustainability initiatives
In addition to the direct dialogue with politicians and government representatives and representatives of interest groups, who promote sustainable development, the Mercedes-Benz Group remained active in various sustainability initiatives and networks in 2022. Some of the most important initiatives here are the UN Global Compact (UNGC), econsense – Forum Nachhaltige Entwicklung der Deutschen Wirtschaft e.V. – Forum for Sustainable Development of German Business, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The Mercedes-Benz Group’s commitments with these engagements also serve as guiding principles in the representation of interests.
Engagement in associations
The Mercedes-Benz Group also represents its interests by participating in working groups of various associations – for example the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, the Alliance for Automotive Innovations, the German Association of the Automotive Industry and the Agora Verkehrswende transport transformation initiative.
The latter is a think tank for climate-neutral mobility. In dialogue with politics, business, science and civil society, the organisation works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector to zero. To this end, the Agora Verkehrswende develops scientifically based analyses, strategies and proposed solutions.
The Mercedes-Benz Group is convinced that associations play a key role in the political opinion-forming process. Therefore, it uses their platforms to engage with policy-makers and other stakeholders. In doing so, it advocates for cleaner, safer and smarter transport.
Associations represent different industry positions: Some are very ambitious, others are moderate, and in some cases they represent only the lowest common denominator of an industry made up of competitors with sometimes very different business strategies. However, the coordinating function of associations is always of high importance – not only for the position of the industry, but also for data collection and for the provision of information for policy-makers and regulatory authorities.
In crisis situations, such as the gas supply in Germany during the 2022/2023 heating season, instruments were developed together with associations to support the government’s supply goals on the one hand and at the same time to secure the energy required for the productivity of the economy. In addition, the associations play a crucial role in initiating and steering joint activities. For example, they can play an important role in the development of charging infrastructure by arranging self-commitments.
Effectiveness and results
Effectiveness of the management approach
External Affairs reports on its activities to the Integrity and Sustainability Advisory Board; feedback from members of this board is incorporated into its planning. In addition, the department’s activities and analyses are a regular part of the Board of Management’s reports to the Supervisory Board of the Mercedes-Benz Group.
The effectiveness of dialogue and active participation is particularly evident in the debate on draft legislation and political projects at the association level: Through its association work, the Mercedes-Benz Group ensures that the legitimate interests of the Group can be taken into account in the legislative process, and it can also address future regulations at an early stage and set the appropriate strategic course. This gives companies and politicians the opportunity to develop concepts for the sustainable transformation of the automotive industry.
This management approach, which aims at a constructive exchange between stakeholders and the Mercedes-Benz Group, is effective when the Group is economically successful, is perceived as sustainable and its products are accepted as part of the solution to existing challenges.
Results of the lobby evaluation
During the reporting year, the Mercedes-Benz Group achieved its goal of making lobbying activities comprehensible and verifiable on the basis of defined evaluation criteria. The Group developed a catalogue of criteria that can be used to assess whether its lobbying positions correspond to its strategy, for example.
The Mercedes-Benz Group also achieved another milestone in 2022 — “continuing stakeholder interviews and deriving necessary measures for the future political representation of its interests”. In the reporting year, the Wittenberg Centre for Global Ethics (WZGE), which was commissioned with the evaluation, conducted 20 anonymous interviews with representatives of various stakeholder groups – including from academia and politics as well as from NGOs and with investors. The stakeholder interviews revealed that the Mercedes-Benz Group is viewed as a trustworthy discussion partner in the political realm. Nevertheless, the interviews still revealed potential for improvement. The interviewees saw potential for improvement with regard to transparent communication of advocacy positions, the publication of positions on the role of Mercedes-Benz in society, the topics of human rights and data protection, and the introduction of a code of principles for responsible representation of interests.
In order to effectively utilize its potential for improvement, the Group already took numerous measures in 2022 to strengthen the credibility of the Mercedes-Benz Group through transparency of its political positions on sustainability issues: for example, the Mercedes-Benz Group published further information regarding its advocacy positions on the most important issues affecting the Group and its stakeholders on the Internet. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Group published and established its advocacy principles.
In the context of the representation of interests, the Mercedes-Benz Group brings its expertise to bear in order to achieve the greatest possible intersection between its own interests and those of the public – and thus to be part of the solution. With the aspiration “the broader the better” and “the earlier the better”, the Group wants to be an honest advisor. As an internal guideline, the Mercedes-Benz Group also strives to be able to answer questions about its activities convincingly at all times.
All these measures – as well as the “Mercedes-Benz Group Climate Policy Report” published for the first time in March 2022 – promote transparent communication within the framework of a credible and trusting political representation of interests.
Results in partnerships
The Mercedes-Benz Group is also continuously further developing its partnership portfolio in order to achieve its sustainable business targets. During the Sustainability Dialogue in 2022, participants in the Partnership workshop – including representatives of the Advisory Board for Integrity and Sustainability as well as from politics, business and NGOs – defined criteria for ensuring effective partnerships. These include the following: a clear target for the partnership, a systematic approach, defining performance measures, building up mutual trust, an open exchange of knowledge (open source) and the scalability of the approaches to a solution.