Gütersloh, 06/13/2023

Bertelsmann Executive Board Launches ‘ESG Next_’ Project

Subject: Society
Country: Germany
Category: Project

To meet the increasing transparency requirements on corporate responsibility topics throughout the Group, the Bertelsmann Executive Board has launched the “ESG Next_” project. For Bertelsmann, the new rules mean that CSRD requirements must be complied with for the first time in the reporting for fiscal 2024.

With the new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which came into force in January of this year, the EU pursues the political goal of contributing to a more sustainable economy and society. With this in mind, the existing requirements for mandatory ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) reporting were further tightened. Companies like Bertelsmann will have to comply with the increasing transparency requirements for corporate responsibility matters throughout the Group starting from the 2024 financial year. To this end, the Bertelsmann Executive Board launched the “ESG Next_” project.

“The professionalization and standardization that took decades in financial reporting must now be established in the area of so-called ‘non-financial reporting’ in the shortest possible time,” says Rolf Hellermann, Bertelsmann’s Chief Financial Officer. The CSRD leads to greater transparency in corporate responsibility and allows an improved comparability of companies’ ESG performance. The information needs of stakeholders, such as current and potential employees, customers, and financial market participants, will thus be better served.

Implications for Bertelsmann

For Bertelsmann, the new rules mean that CSRD requirements must be complied with for the first time in the reporting for fiscal year 2024. The additional effort compared with previous reporting arises, among other things, from the new mandatory reporting standards (“European Sustainability Reporting Standards”, ESRS), which cover topics such as responsibility in the supply chain, environmental pollution, and human rights. What is new is that Bertelsmann must report both on the implications of ESG issues for the company, and on the specific effects of its own business on people and the environment. Like financial reporting, ESG reporting must be approved by auditor

Implementing the CSRD at Bertelsmann

The information and key figures required by the new reporting standards must be compiled at Group level for the new “Non-financial Statement.” The “ESG Next_” project serves this purpose. As was the case with the development of the Bertelsmann ESG Program (2021-2023), which was co-created by the divisions and Corporate, “ESG Next_” also requires the support of colleagues in the various divisions and companies. Bertelsmann’s CHRO Immanuel Hermreck emphasizes: “We see the CSRD as an opportunity to further develop our corporate responsibility.

What we are currently accomplishing in a joint effort as part of the 'ESG Next_' project will enable us to continue to confidently represent our responsibility for people and the environment to the outside world.”

The members of the Bertelsmann Corporate Responsibility Council, which is chaired by Immanuel Hermreck, are responsible for implementing the project in their respective divisions. The “ESG Next_” core team is jointly led by Marie-Luise Kühn von Burgsdorff, Head of Corporate Responsibility (Z-CR), and Nico Wegmann, Head of Corporate Financial Reporting & Accounting (ZK).

Background to existing sustainability reporting

Bertelsmann has been voluntarily reporting on progress in its Corporate Responsibility efforts since 2005. Since 2010/11, Bertelsmann has been reporting in accordance with the international standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). And since 2008, as a member of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the company has submitted an annual Communication on Progress to inform about its efforts to implement the 10 principles of the UNGC.

In addition to its voluntary reporting, Bertelsmann has published a mandatory annual “Non-Financial Statement” since 2017, which can be found in Bertelsmann’s Annual Report under this link. It focuses on the ESG priority topics such as Climate Change, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), Fair Working Conditions, Learning, and Content Responsibility.