BDI Director-General Kerber: Those who wish to be understood must be comprehensible

Markus Kerber © Christian Kruppa

Markus Kerber © Christian Kruppa

Those who wish to convince the politicians must not forget the voters. Because above all it is the voters to whom the politicians are accountable. Conscious of the opportunities offered by digital change, the Federation of German Industries (BDI) will in future appeal even more strongly to all those for whom a liberal democratic basic order and market economy principles are a heartfelt concern.

The umbrella organization of German industry and of Germany’s industry-related services does not merely represent the interests of over 100,000 enterprises with a good eight million employees. It also sees itself as representing the interests of all those who follow the guidelines of the social market economy. Marcus Kerber’s new strategy for explaining industry:

BDI: Herr Kerber, you once said that basically the BDI is only a “non-government organization” and consequently “in the same camp as Greenpeace”. So are you saving jobs instead of whales?

Markus Kerber: If we are, then only indirectly. Because, as is well-known, it is only business enterprises themselves that can rescue jobs or make them safe. And, for that to happen, the framework conditions must be right and they are devised by the politicians. So it has been and still is our task to ensure that these conditions are paid proper attention. After all, as an umbrella organization we speak for 37 trade associations of industry and industry-related services. That means 100,000 firms with a good eight million employees. In order to cover all working areas, we have set up diverse specialist sections. They are concerned with taxation and finance policy, law and insurance, energy and climate policy, innovation and health sector, mobility and logistics and many others besides.

That sounds like a bulk tanker difficult to manoeuvre

A tanker with great expert knowledge. But it is true that the medial change is also changing the BDI. We must get quicker and we are getting quicker. For us this is more of an opportunity than a risk. Due to the depth of our expertise in all areas of economic policy, we can find and supply answers that are quick and well-founded. In future we want to convey this knowledge more to society at large.

And how do you want to manage that in concrete terms?

We must become more to explain how business works. And do that for all those in Germany who are politically interested. The challenge this poses is to express matters that can be very complex in terms that are also intelligible for non-experts. With this aim in mind, we have completely reworked our website. Starting with the design, it is now not only state-of-the-art but also clearer and thus easier to understand – the design as a reflection of the content as you might say. So the content has also been revised to a great extent with the aim of enhancing intelligibility and stimulating interest. For example, we have opened up to new formats, such as reportage, graphics or videos and present them in an intelligible and visually appealing way. On our website you will now find a broad mix of content being conveyed. Yet something else which is also important is that we do not wish to simplify when the issue is a complex one. There are also topics on the website which are mainly of interest for specialists. That is good and right and important.

And how do you propose to measure the success of this broader strategy?

We have been and still are successful when legislation and regulations reflect the view that industry is not seen as an opponent but as a partner. So seen in that light, the goal remains the same. We wish to constantly convince the policy-makers anew of the advantages of the market economy in general and of the importance of industry for prosperity in Germany. It is just that in future the path towards the goal will be a broader one. We wish to be a credible representation of the interests of all those who follow the guiding principles of the social market economy.