One of the world's leading companies offers young people the opportunity to veto projects that damage the climate


In an open letter on Sunday, CEO Joe Kaeser said the German mechanical engineering company would set up a new committee, made up of young people from outside the company, to "pay more attention and priority to environmental issues in the future." The committee can block projects for "sustainability reasons".
Demonstrators have recently approached Siemens offices in Germany for their role in a coal mining project led by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani. The mine is expected to produce 10 million tons of coal a year for export to India. An increase in CO2 emissions that activists warn of will exacerbate the climate crisis and lead to fires similar to those in the devastating parts of Australia.
The young climate activist Greta Thunberg called on Saturday Siemens (SIEGY) to make the "only right decision" and to abandon the contract to supply signaling equipment to the railroad that will transport coal from the mine to the Australian coast.

Siemens is one of the largest engineering companies in the world and employs 379,000 people worldwide.

In his letter, Kaeser wrote that he was concerned about the fires and expressed sympathy for people who had lost family members or their homes. However, the managing director said there was "practically no legally and economically responsible way to terminate the contract without neglecting the fiduciary duties." That is, he felt he could not cancel the Australian contract while fulfilling his obligation, protect the company from financial losses.

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Instead, Siemens announced the establishment of a sustainability committee that "has the ability to stop and escalate critical projects regardless of whether we are directly or indirectly involved."

"I will also open the doors to young people and the concerns that young people around the world have brought to the table to sit at the table," wrote Kaeser.

A Siemens spokesman said the goal was to prevent cases like the Australian mine from happening again, but he couldn't specify when the committee would be formed or how it would work.

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Siemens seems to have been surprised by the mine controversy. In his open letter, Kaeser said that he was not aware of the contract for the supply of signaling devices.

It's a rare misstep for a CEO who, in recent years, has emerged as one of the few business leaders willing to comment on political controversy.

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Last year, the German executive said that President Donald Trump had become a symbol of intolerance after his attacks on four Congressmen.
Siemens denounced xenophobia in a letter to the Saxon workers in 2018 after protesters against immigration were photographed there to express the Nazi outlaw greeting. Earlier this year, Kaeser sharply criticized a right-wing German legislature and said nationalism would harm the country's prosperity.
Kaeser also made a public statement when he left Saudi Arabia's future investment initiative after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

"When I heard about his death, it was clear to us that we couldn't just go on and do business as usual," said Kaeser in October 2018.