Normally, the balance sheets are all the sign of success a company needs, but numbers are just one fixation. A world in flux needs a business community willing to take a stand and support certain values. Regardless of party politics, when issues are being debated that will affect all of society in the future, the voice of business leaders is indispensable today.
It’s not true that politics are of little interest for managers. On the contrary: when there are pending political decisions that will impact their own company, they take the stage, front and center. Businesses employ legions of lobbyists, whose job it is to influence the final wording of a draft bill or proposed regulation. And if things do get tight, the company bosses do all in their power to get an appointment in the chancellery.
They use this to explain to the German chancellor personally why a buyer’s premium for electric cars is absolutely essential or why coal-fired power plants need to keep running. The calendar lists of meetings between DAX-listed company CEOS and the highest level of government are dozens of pages long. And these meetings work, like in 2010, when a group of executives led by the then CEO of energy giant RWE, Jürgen Großmann attempted to force an extension of the working life of Germany’s nuclear power plants with a large scale advertising campaign.
But this had little to do with political stance. Instead, it had more to do with furthering business interests, more with weakening state regulation and thus, ultimately, with maximizing profit. This isn’t a sign of taking responsibility for the progress of society. Those moments are few and far between, when broader social issues flare up for the business community, like the swell of refugees entering Germany in 2015 and 2016.