China is Germany's most important economic partner in Asia. Exports to the People's Republic account for about 2 percent of Germany's gross domestic product. For many companies, however, China has long been more than just a market. German enterprises are getting involved and supporting Chinese society, and a number of them have now been recognized for their efforts.
For the first time, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the German Chamber of Commerce in China and the German Consulate General have recognized companies from the Federal Republic for their social engagement in China. The companies were honored today in Shanghai as part of the More than a Market initiative, which was launched in early 2015. The prizewinners include chemicals and pharmaceutical companies Bayer and Merck and mechanical engineering specialist Krones. The "More than a market-initiative" is being used to promote responsible entrepreneurship in China.
Bayer was honored for developing a platform for volunteers that allows 5,000 Chinese employees to participate in social projects - for example, by assisting the blind. Krones, the midsized mechanical engineering company, introduced a "dual system" of vocational training at its Chinese sites; the system is based on the German model and offers both classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Merck is carrying out an educational program at Chinese schools that includes providing safe drinking water, thereby addressing an acute problem affecting millions of Chinese.
A fourth award was given to Taicang Sino-German Handicapped Technology Company, China's state-of-the-art workshop for people with intellectual disabilities which is located in the eastern city of Taicang. More than 80 German partners based in Taicang helped establish the company, leading the way in efforts to integrate people with disabilities into China's workforce.
"These days, German companies are at home everywhere they have employees, customers and partners. Over the long term, only those companies will be successful that are also willing to assume social responsibility," emphasized Liz Mohn, vice-chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board, in Shanghai.
In addition to the four prizewinners, 15 other finalists were also honored, including Siemens, Volkswagen, Continental and Freudenberg.
The prizewinners were selected by an independent jury made up of political, business and civil society leaders from Germany and China. The competition was open to all German companies present in the greater Shanghai area, China's economic hub. More than 2,000 companies from the Federal Republic are active in the region. The coming year's competition will be open to all German companies active in the People's Republic.
Responsible entrepreneurship with a focus on China
China is Germany's main trading partner in Asia and 5,000 German companies are currently present there. As part of its political reforms, China is intensively debating which role business organizations can play in society. The social market economy, Germany's economic model, is a much discussed approach to achieving social justice, promoting equitable opportunities and increasing social cohesion. Responsible entrepreneurship is set to become a key factor in realizing those objectives.
The More than a Market brochure provides an overview of the areas in which German companies are getting involved in China. It also profiles the initiatives launched by the prizewinners and finalists.