Ulrich Grillo – A Call for a Committed Business Community (2013 – 2016)

Ulrich Grillo © Christian Kruppa

Ulrich Grillo © Christian Kruppa

During his four-year Presidency Ulrich Grillo campaigned for business to play an active role in socio-political debates. He believed that for business activities to be successful it was crucial to be both accepted and trusted by people. He saw an imaginative and creative business community as part of an open society.

Ulrich Grillo’s Presidency was characterised by dramatic political events. As a result of the financial crisis, trust in German industry had been lost. At the same time, German industry had to deal with the consequences of the crisis in Greece and the resulting deepening discourse on Europe’s future. Global developments, such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the increasing number of migrants entering Europe, also required answers.

In view of these challenges Ulrich Grillo was strongly committed to encouraging business to play an active role in socio-political debates. Grillo also considered the general public’s image of business crucial – as an employer, as a business partner and also as the biggest taxpayer in the home region. Whether the contribution that business makes to the community is recognised depends on this image.

Even in his first speech as BDI President at the “Day of German Industry“ in 2013 Ulrich Grillo called on businesses: “We must make it clear to the general public once more that industry is of fundamental importance to our society and that we are ready to take on this responsibility.“ (Quotation from the speech at the Day of German Industry, 11 June 2013)

To be accepted by the whole of society and to have its trust is also crucial to the success of business activities. Ultimately, the necessary openness to new technologies and innovative ideas – the foundations of digital transformation – is also dependent on this. Germany has to keep pace with tough international competition.

In the light of this expectation of responsible business activities, Ulrich Grillo defined the guiding principle of his presidency – a “committed business community“. He therefore called on all the forces of society to also support our open society, even against growing resistance. With countries in Europe increasingly drawing back and focusing on national interests, as well as increasing protectionist tendencies in global trade, Grillo made it clear that our open society is critically dependent on an open exchange of goods and services – which is why free trade is also so important to us.

We cannot allow there to be any doubt that we will work to safeguard the western values of freedom, humanism and the rule of law, whenever these values are threatenened – whether by religious fanatics or populist adventurers. We – German industry – want an open society: innovative, imaginative, inspiring and integrative. Germany has such a business community, such an industry.“ (Quotation from the speech on the Day of German Industry, 6 October 2016)