In November 2021, a new scientific project on the role of decarbonization (i.e., the reduction of carbon) in family firms was started by Prof. Dr. Miriam Bird, Prof. Dr. Gunther Friedl and the two PhD students Alexandra Knoth and Johanna Schulze-Berge. The project is generously funded by the Dr. Hans Riegel-Stiftung which is represented by Dr. Henning Hues. The 3 years research project aims at generating scientific knowledge on the role of decarbonization in private German family businesses and thereof derive managerial recommendations.
Importance of Decarbonization in family firms
Companies in Germany rapidly and substantially must reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG). This mindset could be an enabler for climate mitigation success as it potentially translates into a more flexible and open-minded approach towards the GHG neutrality transition resulting in alternative measures (Matijas 2020). Family-owned companies are an important backbone of the German economy and are characterized by long-term orientation, which is often reflected in their corporate sustainability activities. The particular characteristics of family firms make them particularly interesting to investigate the phenomenon of decarbonization and the influences it has on accounting, reporting and investment decisions. The importance of climate protection for family firms is also highlighted by the quote of a next generation family member:
“Consequence of our own contribution to climate change: In this situation, as medium-sized independent entrepreneurs, we have the freedom to make decisions regardless of shareholder value. As a rule, we are only responsible to our co-partners, and if there are none, we are only responsible to ourselves for making the right and responsible decisions. This also gives us the liberty to increase our own contribution to climate protection in our company as quickly as possible. And who, if not us, are endowed with this liberty, should take on a pioneering role in climate protection (Generation Verantwortung, Buhck, 2021).”
Family businesses can take advantage of their the long-term orientation and therefore develop more targeted and sustainable measures. Previous research with regard to GHG criteria has mostly focused on large publicly traded companies (e.g. DAX 40). However, large public companies might be considerably different from private firms (e.g. with regard to their ownership structures). The research project therefore has four important aims:
Within these three years, the project team will conduct research on private German family firms and decarbonization employing various research methods within the different work packages.
About the Dr. Hans Riegel-Stiftung
Dr. Hans Riegel stipulated in the statutes how the foundation should support children and young people. There are a set four different goals in the statutes: The core tasks of the foundation are the promotion of school and professional education as well as research and teaching in the areas of natural sciences, technology and economics.