Lignite power plant in NRW
Photo: Jochen Tack / imago images / Jochen Tack
Leading listed companies in Germany must be made more responsible for the common good - this is the demand of the citizens' movement Finanzwende and Oxfam Germany to the new federal government.
"Companies could set other priorities if they wanted," said the business expert from Oxfam Germany, Barbara Sennholz-Weinhardt, on Thursday.
Politicians, however, allow large companies to "slip out of responsibility".
As a current study of the two organizations shows, 30 DAX companies are distributing an ever-increasing share of their profits to their shareholders or increasing their own financial reserves.
The organizations criticize in their report that there is a lack of money elsewhere and important investments, for example in climate protection, are not being made.
Ever plumper financial reserves
Between 2009 and 2020, the profits of the 30 DAX companies analyzed rose by an average of 48 percent - the distributions to shareholders increased almost twice as much with a plus of 85 percent.
Companies like RWE, E.on and Thyssenkrupp transferred money to their shareholders even in years of losses.
At the same time, the financial reserves of companies grew between 2014 and 2020, according to the report, from 122 billion to 200 billion euros.
Investments in climate protection fell short at all of the companies examined: Finanzwende and Oxfam Germany had each sector calculate how much money the corporations would have to invest in order to make their business models climate-neutral by 2050. The investments would therefore be financially feasible for all companies even without state subsidies or tax breaks. However, they would not be done, according to Finanzwende and Oxfam.
In the transport sector, for example, the investment gap for climate neutrality by BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Lufthansa will amount to 13.8 billion euros per year by 2050, and their profits have recently been on average more than double.
If the corporations were to make the necessary climate investments from this, they could on average still distribute profits at the level of the years 2009 and 2010, explained the organizations.
"Damage in many places"
The financial market expert from Finanzwende, Michael Peters, sees the reason for the flow of money in the direction of the shareholders instead of in the direction of climate protection in the management floors of the companies: There, the interests of the shareholders in increasing dividends still dominate.
The remuneration of top managers with bonus payments and share packages provide an additional incentive for this.
"The focus on the interests of the shareholders leads to damage in many places," said Peters.
"Profits are being privatized again and again and damage to people and the environment is socialized."
Finanzwende and Oxfam Germany therefore demanded that the interests of the company, to which supervisory and executive boards are obliged, also include observance of human rights and planetary boundaries in the future.
Anyone who is negatively affected by a company's business should also be able to take legal action against the company.
Affected interest groups should also be able to exert greater influence on the business policy of companies.
In particular, this applies to workers, suppliers and local communities along the supply chains.
Companies should also be obliged to publish strategies for the implementation of their public service obligations, the organizations demanded.
Property is committed to the common good, they argue with reference to the Basic Law.
Before companies distribute profits to shareholders, they must ensure that their business model does not harm the common good - that is, neither aggravate the climate crisis nor violate human rights.
beb / afp