Transformation Quarterly

We put three questions about the key transformation themes of our time to Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, Board Spokesperson for the state-owned German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ):

The survey carried out exclusively for Trans­formation Quarterly indicates that climate action is not top of the agenda for executives and self-employed people. Do you understand their position?

Digitalisation and climate change are the two great trans­formation topics for society, industry and individuals. This has not changed as a result of the Covid pandemic and the Russian war against Ukraine. On the contrary, they are accelerating the trans­formation world­wide. It would be smart not to let current short-term concerns lead to a loss of focus on what is funda­mentally important. That would only increase the problems and make them more expensive. In the medium term, that wouldn’t lead to success.

The GIZ is a big employer, with 25,000 staff world­wide, so it has considerable re­spon­sibility in the area of sus­tain­ability. How important is sus­tain­ability to you and how do you communicate this to your colleagues?

It is our mandate to work towards a better future world­wide. The United Nations‘ Sustainability Goals provide the frame­work for this. We are communi­cating this on an ongoing basis – after all, it is part of our corporate identity.  

What are the key aspects of crisis management from the perspective of an institution like GIZ?

In 2023, the guiding focus of GIZ will be strengthening resilience. I mention that because our very success­ful performance during the pandemic has something to do with it. Top manage­ment collaborated very closely, working together quickly and trust­fully. This led to regular orientation and decisions. Especially in crisis situations, orientation is extremely important, as you have to deal with real uncertainty. But we also listened in to the organisation very care­fully and heard a lot. This led to many measures, particularly in the company’s health manage­ment. As a result there was a real contribution to our performance, which is also why we have chosen our guiding focus, because we want to roll it out systematically.