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Impulses #17: Do not stall, but act!

24 October 2022

Ukraine conflict, gas shortage, economic slump - times are challenging, even appear threatening. In the new "Impulse", Manfred Schmitz, CEO of ENGIE Deutschland, describes his view of the current mood and outlines the attitude and solution approaches that can lead out of the crisis.

"What is certain is that nothing is certain. Not even that." You maybe know this saying by German writer and cabaret artist Joachim Ringelnatz. Again and again it comes and came into my head in the past months in view of the current events. The speed is immense; to my mind, events are virtually overflowing. Every day we receive new news, most of which is unfortunately of a negative nature. Like many of you, I was particularly struck by the latest figures from the Ifo Business Climate Index, which forecast an extremely pessimistic mood for the German economy. As a result, uncertainty continues to grow. But what to do? How do we get through these times as unscathed as possible?


Quo vadis, locomotive Germany?

Dear readers, let me be frank: I am worried - as a private person, as CEO of ENGIE Deutschland and as a member of our society. I have never experienced a situation like the current one. And I am - please allow me to put it casually - shocked not only because I read newspapers and watch news broadcasts every day. I am also shocked because my work on committees means that I am close to political events in Berlin and can therefore see how quickly solutions are being sought there and how serious the situation really is. One of the major tasks I see at present is to keep industry and trade in Germany competitive - and, if worst comes to worst, to keep them alive. Our small and medium-sized businesses must be protected. On the one hand, to protect our own economy from an even greater economic slump from within. On the other hand, however, just as much because Germany is an export nation, and SMEs in particular are strongly export-oriented. We can hardly do well if the rest of the world is doing badly; our position would therefore be weakened in the face of a global recession, perhaps even more than many others! Until now, Germany has been regarded as the "economic locomotive" of Europe, indeed of the whole world. I fear that this phenomenon may soon be a thing of the past. I fear that we will not be able to preserve German prosperity in view of the tense situation.




"We at ENGIE Deutschland want to be part of the solution in the current crisis. To this end, we bring expertise, but also the necessary innovative capacity and financial strength."



Through the crisis with prudence and stability

Times are not likely to get easier anytime soon. Further challenges seem inevitable. I expect the pressure on the middle class in particular to increase enormously, both in an entrepreneurial sense and in terms of social class. Not to mention the lower income classes, which are in urgent need of special support; we must succeed in ensuring that these people continue to see meaning and added value in doing what they do. In my function as Managing Director, this is a personal concern for me; all employees can rely on me to find appropriate solutions within ENGIE Deutschland. It means a lot to me that we maintain justice and balance in our country. Not least because this could otherwise play into the hands of political fringe groups - see the state elections in Lower Saxony as a current example. We absolutely need political stability in Germany to be able to face the current challenges.


Accelerating the "Transition"

But what is the solution? Probably neither a good, nor a simple, nor a quick solution exists at the moment. It is obvious that many companies are fighting for pure survival. Security of supply and affordability of energy and materials are the challenges of the hour. Solutions need to be found as quickly as possible - and the first political measures are now underway. I see this as a step in the right direction. And: Without a doubt, the first priority is to provide support in the acute emergency. Nevertheless, I still see climate neutrality as a key part of the long-term solution. Likewise, it remains important for me to see energy efficiency as a central adjusting screw for climate protection. For me, all investments in sustainability, environmental protection and renewable energies are automatically investments in energy security and independence - in short, investments in the future. We must therefore stick to the overarching climate protection goals and not lose sight of them. Because I am convinced that the transition will become increasingly important. "Transition" I mean in the sense of energy turnaround (“Energiewende” in German); however, I have never liked the term "turnaround." Because turnaround basically provides for the possibility of a jibe; and I don't see such a turnaround here at all. There is no going back, there is only going forward. The task is to prudently shape the transition to a new economy and society - prudently, albeit under immense time pressure. In my opinion, however, this can only be achieved if we allow ourselves to think in terms of many alternatives in the short term and use all available energy generation methods to survive the next two to three years economically. And at the same time, we must be open to the use of various new technologies.


ENGIE Deutschland takes responsibility

As ENGIE Deutschland, we will face this task and remain the reliable partner for our stakeholders. Our team can and wants to be part of the solution. To this end, we bring a great deal of expertise, but also the necessary innovative capacity and financial strength. The former in particular should not be underestimated, I believe. We absolutely need courage, innovation and creativity. After all, technical solutions and future technologies must be the answer, not restrictions and prohibitions. Only in this way will it be possible to find and maintain a balance between cost burdens, technical innovations, stability and comfort. Or to put it another way: "Constructive instead of destructive" is the order of the day. To freeze in fear now would be understandable in view of the threats - but the wrong reaction. And on this point I am truly certain, even if beyond that nothing seems certain. Politics, business and society must get to work, must stand together. Because we certainly have room for maneuver. I believe that companies in particular are now called upon not just to wait for political decisions. Instead, they need to make the most of their own opportunities and take on even more responsibility - alone, in partnerships, in alliances. And perhaps to leave our comfort zones if necessary. After all, nothing less than the future is at stake. If a new "locomotive Germany" can emerge from this, we will have achieved our goal.

I invite you to share your thoughts on this topic with me. How do you assess the current situation? What solutions do you see or need in your companies - in the short term, but also in the long term? Let's not freeze, but think a bit into the future together through constructive and creative exchange!

Your  Manfred Schmitz
CEO ENGIE Deutschland


Our Expert

Manfred Schmitz
Once a month, Manfred Schmitz, CEO of ENGIE Deutschland, shares his view on current topics in our column Impulse.

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