WBS Training AG has just posted their first Common Good Balance Sheet. This has brought transparency to their ethical business focus, clarifying their stance on the environment as well as job quality and equal opportunities. We requested an interview with its Chairman Heinrich Kronbichler, who initiated the ECG reporting process at WBS Training AG, and Executive Officer, Eva Asmus, who was responsible for preparing the company's Common Good Balance Sheet. This is a shortened version of the interview. You can read the full interview in PDF format here.
How did you hear about Economy for the Common Good?
Heinrich Kronbichler (HK): In 2014, I attended a summer camp organised by the Center for Experimental Cultural and Social Design (ZEGG), which I had attended in previous years. That year, Christian Felber gave a presentation on Economy for the Common Good in a very inspiring workshop. After talking to him in person a few times, it quickly became clear to me that I wanted my company to join the movement. We had already been operating with some of the principles of ECG and I wanted to explore the other areas further.
What do you think of the basic ideas of ECG, and about transforming our economic system?
HK: It is absolutely necessary that we develop a new economic system and new ways of working together. This topic should be high priority in all areas of society, be it in politics, business, or in each individual's personal life. Economy for the Common Good encompasses many constructive approaches and offers a promising and credible foundation on which to build.
What led you to create a Common Good Balance Sheet?
HK: Initially, I wanted to be able to better assess where our company stood, how ECG driven we really were. Of course, we were also interested in finding out our development potential and using it for further improvement.
What has your company gained from preparing a Common Good Balance Sheet?
HK: We had intensive discussions on various topics and issues during the preparation of the balance sheet, and this has given us an increased awareness of ECG related topics. Many of our stakeholders now have a greater awareness of sustainability, not just because of the results but also from the discussions and research that went into the balance sheet.
What will you do with the results? What kind of potential for improvement do you see for WBS Training AG, and how are you going to implement them?
EA: We are happy with our first results and see that we are on the right track as an ECG driven company. Of course, there are still various areas where we want to improve on. For example, we already have many sustainability initiatives and campaigns running, but they're not enshrined in our code of practice yet. We should integrate these more into our business processes and make it mandatory for all our employees to comply. We will be developing concrete measures to implement this in small workshops with our senior colleagues.
In which areas is WBS Training AG already doing well?
EA: Our customer services did particularly well. We provide personal consultations with individuals, to help them find suitable courses or combinations of modules tailored to their needs. Even during the course, our students receive extensive support from our instructors and additional lecturers in our virtual classroom, as well as on-site support from our colleagues in their respective locations. Aside from this, the balance sheet has confirmed our strength when it comes to the social environment we operate in, for example, regarding our social and ecological commitments, which are of course carried out by numerous colleagues.
How did you find the process of preparing a Common Good Balance Sheet? What were the good points? What improvements would you like to see?
EA: ECG's requirements and standards for the reporting process were new territory for us, so we sought external advice from the ECG Association in Berlin. The consultants helped us to ask the right questions and of course, their own experiences with the self-assessment were helpful. When we originally tried to do it ourselves, we found we had no feel for the benchmark set by ECG in relation to other companies of similar size and complexity. We only started to see our strengths and development potential when our consultant cast what was often a very critical eye on our assessment.
The manual on creating an ECG balance sheet left a lot of questions unanswered and it was sometimes difficult to sift through the large amount of information to find what we were looking for...I’m still not sure how we might find a good balance of resources to help us better meet the various requirements the next time round.
How does WBS Training AG intend to boost its ECG drive?
EA: The important thing is that each individual colleague feels a sense of responsibility towards sustainability. The ECG drive must be supported and adhered to by colleagues. With this in mind, we are developing agile working practices. This means for example, that colleagues will take on greater responsibility and initiative in their respective fields. Given a wide enough scope for, and positive feedback on their own initiatives, colleagues will find the freedom to bring in their own ECG driven ideas to the table and bring about improvements. At the same time, we also wish to embed our ECG ethos into our code of practice.
In your opinion, what are the basic conditions that would enable companies to operate more in the spirit of ECG?
HK: The value system in our society needs to change. We must give higher priority to the environment, our social coexistence, animal welfare and the future of the planet. We shouldn't let mass media influence us so much, or be forced into fierce competition in business and politics. Rather, we should base ourselves on something that truly benefits all of us that makes for a healthy, conscious life and one that is in harmony with our environment....
Thank you for talking to us!
WBS Training AG (WBS) is one of the largest private further education providers in Germany, with approximately 180 locations nationwide. It reported an annual turnover of approximately EUR 85 million. The company employs more than 1,000 people and has approximately 1,400 instructors employed on a regular basis. Heinrich Kronbichler and Joachim Giese are directors of WBS TRAINING AG.