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    Open-mindedness as the basis of our success

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    02. April 2024
    5:50 min.
    A plea for democracy and diversity: In the interview, Krones’ CEO Christoph Klenk speaks candidly against the noticeable shift to the right in Germany.
    • Stand together for democracy, diversity, and respectful coexistence: Krones’ board members Ralf Goldbrunner, Markus Tischer, Thomas Ricker, Uta Anders und Christoph Klenk (v. l.)

    Germany is experiencing a noticeable shift to the right: How does Krones deal with it? And how does this societal development impact the economy? We posed these questions to CEO Christoph Klenk and engaged in a conversation about democracy, values, and the boundaries of political neutrality. Originally conducted for our internal employee newspaper, we have chosen to share it publicly due to its timeliness and relevance.

    Article 39587

    Mr Klenk, let me ask you directly: Where does Krones stand politically? 

    In general terms, the question is an easy one to answer: on the side of neutrality. We do, of course, follow political trends very closely, particularly at international level, because developments on the world stage can have a direct impact on our business. But we don’t get actively involved in political processes. We don’t do any lobbying, nor do we support any particular party. The latter is, by the way, also set out clearly in our Group-wide Donation and Sponsorship Policy, which prohibits giving money to political parties.

    It sounds as if there's a big “but” coming ... 

    Indeed. There is a clear limit to how far ideological neutrality can extend. If fundamental values of our free and democratic coexistence are threatened, that's no longer a question of politics, but rather one of moral responsibility.


    That we have to adopt a consistent position in this regard emanates directly from our target picture, which defines our mission clearly: We use our creative strength to protect and preserve nature and society. 

    Quite apart from that, if nationalist and antidemocratic ideologies are propagated in our society, that is a catastrophe not simply from a human point of view – it also poses a very real risk for our economy. That’s why it is in the vital interests of our company to counteract these trends and defend our values with all our strength.

    What do you mean by that? What specific risks are we talking about here? 

    For Krones, tolerance and open-mindedness are not abstract ideals, but rather the unshakeable foundation on which we build our future. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, we collaborate with customers and suppliers all over the world. We realise the lion’s share of our revenue outside Germany. Nationalist endeavours that would lead to us leaving the EU, for instance, would be just as much an economic disaster for us as for other exporting companies.

    Secondly, our outstanding position on the market is a direct consequence of the corporate culture we embody. Or, in other words, we have only come this far because we treat each other with respect, esteem and unprejudiced interest across all sites, departments and hierarchical levels.

    Our teams are made up of specialists, each of whom have their own life stories, qualifications and ways of looking at things. In the German plants alone, we have employees from more than 60 different nations. This diversity doesn’t just enrich our dealings with each other, though: It is also the fertile soil in which our “Solutions beyond tomorrow” grow – and hence our success as a company, which now offers more than 18,000 people a secure job going forward. Anyone who excludes or discriminates against people on the basis of their ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation or other characteristics of their individual personality is literally biting the hand that feeds us all.


    Doesn’t this also set up a conflict for our international business? After all, the values that you are talking about here are not held to the same extent everywhere.

    The answer to that has a number of dimensions, which we on the Executive Board constantly think about in every facet. 

    The very first things we ask ourselves is: What country does the order come from? And who is actually behind the particular company? We need to know this in order to assess whether there is any state involvement at work – although this is only the case for a tiny fraction of our customers. What we also have to bear in mind in this regard is whether there are any sanctions in place for the particular country that we need to comply with, or other legal factors that have a restrictive effect.

    Alongside this holistic view, of course, the Krones target picture also plays an important role. As you know, in it we have undertaken to make a significant contribution to feeding the world's population. Our solutions are in use in more than 150 countries, making us part and parcel of a value chain that supplies millions of people with food and beverages every day. At the same time, though, we shouldn't forget that it is precisely those of our customers who are active in regions with weaker economies and poor infrastructure who play an essential role for the basic provision of the local population, not only because they produce the necessities of day-to-day life, but also because in doing so they are generating jobs. In terms of our overall vision, then, that means the more markets and countries we reach with our solutions, the better. Nevertheless, some other factors also flow into the decision on where and to whom we supply our products.

    And they probably impose further constraints, don’t they? 

    Yes, and sometimes considerably so, as I stated earlier. First and foremost, we should mention provisions of foreign or security policies. If individual countries or regions are subject to international economic sanctions or even embargoes, we naturally abide strictly by the applicable measures. However, there are also other legal regulations that it is absolutely essential to observe. Among these is the German supply chain act, which obligates us to comply with human rights and environmental standards – right along the entire value chain. What’s more, from our point of view the specifications mentioned above are just minimum requirements. That's because some of our Group's own compliance regulations extend far beyond what is required by law.


    This is also precisely why we are valued in the industry as a trustworthy partner who acts with integrity: Because we stand for clear values – and also actively expect them of others. That’s why we also take a very close look at what our business relations would get us involved in. Among the things, we review with every potential customer is who is the actual owner behind the particular company. Should it turn out that the people concerned have problematic connections with others, we will not accept the order. The same applies for countries whose government has crossed a red line. We will consistently decline projects in these cases, too.

    Let’s close by taking another look at where society is in Germany: What do you want to see in the future – both as a private individual and as CEO? 

    There’s no big distinction to make there, because the answer is the same from both perspectives. It has two main elements:

    Firstly, that our democracy fights back. And that requires each and every one of us. We must not allow hate and intolerance to destroy our society. You cannot build a future worth living on xenophobic slogans. Real solutions only arise where people deal with each other openly and want to make progress together. I think that we at Krones are the best evidence for this.

    Secondly, that our democracy acts clearly and rationally. What I mean by this is that the elected government creates reasonable and realistic parameters for citizens, institutions and businesses. And that it really tackles the existing problems in order to improve the future prospects for all of us.

    02. April 2024
    5:50 min.

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