Interview Society

Sabine Heißing

Head of IT and Member of the Management Board for the Business Area

"Do good things and tell people about it."

For Sabine Heißing, the Business Area's commitment to social causes has to be seen in the context of the wider charitable activities of the Körber Foundation. In this interview, she highlights the role of employees as initiators, appeals to their sense of community and calls for more active communication.

How can the Business Area benefit from taking a proactive approach to social issues?

I don't think that our focus here can be on benefits for the Business Area. It should be natural for a successful company to return some of the benefits of its commercial success to the community. One way it can do so is through social action. And this is precisely the example that our founder Kurt A. Körber encouraged us to follow. To a remarkable degree. He anchored a commitment to society firmly in the company's DNA and, through the Körber Foundation, ensured his legacy would be continued.

How do you determine the priorities for your social projects at the Bergedorf site?

Our sustainability concept gives us a framework and also anchors the social issues at the level of the Business Area. The processes are bundled under the responsibilities of our Sustainability Manager. That makes sense because it creates synergies. Many of our campaigns, such as the project for donating reconditioned computers, are initiated there and then supported by the departments. In this case, by the IT department.

What are the important issues for you in the Business Area?

Training young people is definitely one of our top priorities. Not that we have to do a great deal more in this area. On the contrary, the Business Area already offers excellent training for which it receives many awards. We train more people than we need, are closely involved in school initiatives and thus contribute to education in society. So I think that the Business Area is much more involved than many people realize. That's why we should perhaps overcome our north German reserve at times and talk about it when we do good things.

Why is a commitment to society important to you as a citizen and manager?

I firmly believe that participation is one of the cornerstones of our society. It cannot function effectively without it. We must not start believing that everything will be organized for us simply because we are German citizens. We have to contribute to our society every day. That could be through voluntary work or donations which enable others to perform that work – there are many ways to make a difference. But it should be an important issue for every citizen. Furthermore, volunteers deserve our respect every day. There are some awards for their work but these are essentially too few and far between. Perhaps we take it too much for granted at times.

What was your experience of the "Wi mook dat!" day of action last year? You took part in it yourself.

These "Wi mook dat!" projects are very impressive because we show that many hands can make light work even of major tasks. Firstly, it is enormous fun but you also go home feeling good because you have been able to give something back to society. At the post-event get together that evening you could tell that everyone had a very deep feeling of satisfaction. There is a celebratory mood to the event which makes participating a badge of honour. The company also does a lot to create good conditions for volunteering in others ways, e.g. by offering flexible working time models which allow employees to do voluntary work alongside their jobs.

What personal experiences have shaped your understanding of a commitment to society?

I had one experience with a colleague, many years ago. He had just returned from a trip to India and spoke about the deprivation and suffering of the people there at a company meeting. He spontaneously set up a foundation which the company – and we as employees – also helped to support. And I have sponsored children in India regularly ever since. My point is that a lot of ideas and projects are initiated by employees themselves. It is important that the company then supports these activities either financially or through a time budget. It is important to recognize and value social commitment but there are limits to what a company can do.

Employees always need to get involved?

The example I just gave shows how enduring a project like this can be. The foundation is still active and many employees still contribute to it regularly. So all I can do is echo the appeal: above all we need employees to be aware of the purpose of engaging with society. But, of course, there is already a very high level of awareness. The Business Area can only create the conditions for it to flourish. Experience shows that this approach works. After all, a very large number of our employees do volunteer for social projects.

How important is the issue of digitization in social projects to you as the person responsible for IT in the Business Area Tobacco?

The Körber Foundation's social projects are a good example. The Foundation has already taken up the challenge in this area through its "Digital Literacy" project. It has a broad portfolio of activities including topics such as education, research and international socio-political questions.

Contact

As Sustainability Manager for the Business Area Tobacco, Dirk Kronenberg is your contact for any questions and comments regarding sustainability (tel. +49 40 72 50-29 22), e-mail

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