What is the significance of the green transformation for you personally?
"The green transformation of thyssenkrupp is more than just a job for me – it's something that is very close to my heart: climate protection, sustainability and responsibility for future generations are of great importance to me. And I'm sure I'm not just speaking for myself here, but for a great many people at thyssenkrupp.
Europe, Germany and the Ruhr region in particular are nuclei of industrialization and have a special status with regard to the green transformation. By focusing on climate-friendly industry at an early stage, we are creating opportunities and competitive advantages for our Group and our region.
I am convinced that those companies that first manage to operate sustainably and profitably will set the tone. This secures and creates jobs for the future.
We are already a "transformation enabler", i.e. an enabler which plays a decisive role in shaping the green transformation through our own innovations. Climate-friendly technologies and carbon-neutral products thought up and tested by thyssenkrupp are already being supplied all over the world. This means we are entitled to claim with a healthy portion of self-confidence that we are part of the solution for the overall system of green transformation. After all, with our technology and innovation expertise, we have the right capabilities for this. Not only for ourselves, but also for our customers!
Leading thyssenkrupp into this exciting change and through challenging times at the same time is an honor for me!"
From a CEO's perspective, what are the 5 most difficult challenges in the green transformation?
"To name them all in detail here would go beyond the scope of this article. I will therefore tell you what I consider to be the decisive challenge: no one can master the green transformation alone. It is a challenge for society as a whole, and its success is linked to the successes and actions of all of us – nationally and internationally. So with such a complex task, it is not enough for everyone to just try to optimize themselves.
Of course, we all have to do our homework: We at thyssenkrupp are also well on the way to making a significant contribution to the green transformation with our solutions. But taken in the round, the challenges are simply too great to solve them all on our own.
For example, in my view, the decisive factor is the rapid ramp-up of the hydrogen infrastructure. This can only succeed if we synchronize the demand, supply and infrastructure sides across sectors and countries. For this, we need efficient cooperation between politics and business to optimize and accelerate the necessary development of the entire infrastructure. We need to look for new partnerships, but without creating new dependencies. That's what we're working on."
Only a very small part of tk's business contributes to the topic of the green transformation. Is that enough for the entire tk Group to achieve a convincing position? The danger of "greenwashing" is obvious.
"I see it differently: we have a real trump card in our hands at crucial points, namely hydrogen. This will play a decisive role on the way to a more sustainable world, and is one of the energy sources of the future.
Sufficient quantities of hydrogen are central to the success of the green transformation, and as a Group we are already playing a key role at crucial points. We refer to this as the hydrogen triangle, i.e. the connection between demand, supply and infrastructure.
Demand: with our solutions for green steel production, we will use large quantities of hydrogen to make a significant contribution to reducing climate-damaging emissions.
Supply: with our electrolysis business, thyssenkrupp nucera, we are one of the few suppliers in the world already offering technologies for the production of hydrogen on a gigascale level.
Infrastructure: our plant engineers at thyssenkrupp Uhde are experts in the construction of ammonia and methanol plants – the transport media for the import of green hydrogen. And with our innovative slewing bearings from thyssenkrupp rothe erde, we are making the boom in wind energy possible in the first place.
In addition, we have other promising products and solutions that make will make the green transformation possible: Think of our drive-independent components in automotive engineering, intelligent supply chains at Materials Services or carbon-reduced cement from thyssenkrupp Polysius.
The green transformation is therefore a huge opportunity for our Group, and as an enabler of the transformation we are already doing our part."
To what extent does thyssenkrupp's wellbeing depend on the success of the green transformation?
"I see this very positively: the green transformation is a huge opportunity for our Group and we will play our part in its success. We are firmly committed to national and international climate targets, and we want to make a substantial and rapid contribution to decarbonization. It is our goal to maintain an efficient industrial region here in Europe, in Germany and in the Ruhr region in particular. So for us, it's not just about becoming climate neutral ourselves. We go one step further and are firmly resolved to be part of the solution for the overall system of green transformation. We have the technological expertise, the innovations and very talented and experienced employees that are essential for success!"
Do we have the necessary skills in the organization to manage the green transformation?
"I am firmly convinced of that! Our technological expertise and our very talented and experienced employees will play a central role here. This makes all the difference and gives us advantages that we must exploit. To clarify our ambitious targets and put them on a scientific footing, we had our climate targets validated in 2019 by the renowned Science Based Target initiative, or SBTi. This means that our targets are independently recognized as realistic – of course in relation to the businesses in which we operate.
But naturally our commitment goes even further. The goal must be to massively reduce the carbon footprint of entire value chains. Of course, the first step will be to reduce not only our own emissions, but also those of our suppliers and customers. But all this can only be achieved in a network and with the efforts of all those involved– suppliers, customers, society in general, politicians and, of course, our workforce.
Incidentally, our commitment in recent years has been regularly recognized in various sustainability ratings. For the sixth time in a row, we are on the "Climate A-List" as rated by the renowned Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP. Only 12 companies in Germany achieved this last year."
How far has implementation progressed on the subject of "green steel"?
"The future of steel is green, that's clear. What is also clear: thyssenkrupp has a key role to play in this. We want to achieve climate-neutral production at our Duisburg steel mill by 2045 at the latest. That's certainly ambitious, but I'm convinced we can do it.
I am very pleased that we reached an important milestone last week: The decision to build Germany's biggest direct reduction plant for low-CO2 steel at the Duisburg site. This is a clear commitment to green steel - and it comes in the middle of the restructuring of our company and despite the very challenging environment in which we are currently operating. I am absolutely convinced that Duisburg is in an excellent position to become the leading European location for green steel. This is also a great opportunity for the region.
However, we are not just looking ahead, we are already taking action: about a year ago we launched bluemint® steels with up to 70% lower CO2 intensity. Already today more and more customers are ordering these CO2-reduced products. In addition, we have introduced an innovative process for recycling high-quality scrap in the blast furnace. This strengthens the circular economy and reduces the consumption of carbon-containing reducing agents.
In the long term I see thyssenkrupp in a very good position because we are pursuing a convincing technological path."
If sustainability is given such high priority, why is there no separate sustainability department at the AG or in the segments?
"It is absolutely right that we prioritize sustainability very highly. Because it is an integral part of our corporate strategy: We offer innovative products, technologies and services worldwide that contribute to the sustainable success of our customers. We want to be a "transformation enabler" for our customers so that the green transformation can succeed.
But I also think that sustainability is an interdisciplinary task involving many functions. Strategy, communications, human resources, controlling, purchasing, investor relations - they all have an important role to play when it comes to setting up a company for sustainability. That's why I'm not a fan of concentrating the multitude of tasks in one integrated department.
What does make sense, however, is to manage and develop sustainability activities within the Group. To this end we have established a Sustainability Committee made up of the Executive Board of our Group, the CEOs of the segments and the heads of the Corporate Centers. This committee makes key decisions on our sustainability strategy and sets targets."
How high do you prioritize sustainability for our business and how is that reflected in investments for this area?
"The green transformation is a huge opportunity for our group of companies. Look at the growth markets of the future: That's above all hydrogen, that's renewable energies, that's e-mobility. We aim to make a significant and rapid contribution to decarbonization and at the same time maintain a high-performance industrial region here in Europe, in Germany.
It is not just about becoming climate-neutral ourselves. We are going one step further and claiming to be part of the solution for the overall system.
Regarding the specific investments: a group of companies is characterized by the fact that each segment is responsible for its own business model. The decision whether investments are worthwhile lies with the businesses. But it is clear that sustainability is very important, and not just because of the rapidly increasing demands of our customers. All stakeholders, including the capital market, rate sustainability as extremely important.
I am very optimistic about the future, because we already have very promising sustainable solutions in our portfolio."
Apart from hydrogen and the steel conversion, what green potential do you see in the individual segments?
"Take renewable energies, for example. The share of wind power in the energy mix has grown noticeably in recent years. This requires ever larger and more powerful wind turbines. At Bearings, we produce components precisely for this. In cooperation with a major customer, we developed and supplied blade and rotor bearings for the world's largest wind turbine in Østerild in Denmark. A turbine with an output of 14 megawatts. That covers the electricity needs of 18,000 average households. We are therefore supplying the world's largest mass-produced rotor bearings.
Another example: Our engineers at thyssenkrupp Uhde are experts in the construction of ammonia and methanol plants - in other words, the future transport media for importing green hydrogen. These plants are also the starting point for important processes in the chemical industry and thus the basis for the green transformation of this sector.
And let's look at Automotive Technology: Sustainable mobility and more efficient resp. alternative drive systems are the future. With our automotive business we are already very well positioned for the transformation of the entire sector. This is because we generate 80% of our sales with products that are independent of the type of drive. We can serve all model platforms - highly efficient internal combustion engines, hybrids and electric motors. At the same time, we are pleased about a steadily growing number of orders for e-vehicles and are continuing to expand our product and service offering in this direction. Our know-how from the production of components for internal combustion and hybrid engines is even helping us here. Take rotor shafts for e-drives, for example. We manufacture these in very similar production processes and in some cases even on the same equipment.
So, we have enormous potential and must take advantage of the opportunities it offers."