German CEO Takes Lead in Local Reforestation
Mercedes-Benz Taiwan, the country’s leading seller of luxury automobiles, continues to rack up sales records year after year. Despite being a foreign corporation, MBT has given back to society through two locally attuned programs.
German CEO Takes Lead in Local ReforestationBy Kuang-ying Liu
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 629 )
Mercedes-Benz Taiwan has recorded robust growth in recent years. To wit, nearly 25,000 new Mercedes vehicles were registered in Taiwan in 2016, a sixteen-percent increase over the previous year and a new company record. Mercedes-Benz has also been the top luxury automobile seller in Taiwan for the last eight years.
Not many people know that, in addition to selling cars, Eckart Mayer, overseeing Mercedes-Benz Taiwan as president since 2013, helped guide the company to earn the top place in the foreign corporation category of the 2017 CommonWealth Corporate Social Responsibility Awards.
Apart from continuing its longstanding sponsorship of golf tournaments and concerts, Mayer introduced two programs that have brought the company closer to Taiwan. The German company president has quietly gone about planting trees in the hillsides of Miaoli, as well as running weekend basketball events for underprivileged youths. What makes him tick?
“Beginning in 2013, Mercedes-Benz Taiwan announced that corporate social responsibility would be an important mission,” related Mayer during an interview. “We found that the younger generation of Taiwanese consumers not only care about the products themselves, but the kinds of values enterprises exemplify.”
10,000 Native Tree Varieties Planted
In the effort to identify resonant issues, Mercedes-Benz Taiwan conducts annual CSR workshops, drawing volunteer participation from among staff members regardless of rank to discuss what programs to implement. This was how the company’s Formosa Forest project came about.
Since 2015, Mercedes-Benz Taiwan has allocated NT$1 million each year towards the adoption of 10 hectares of hillside land in Miaoli’s Tungluo Township. In concert with the HIMA Foundation, the project will create the world’s first medium-elevation Taiwan native variety tree conservation zone. In the future, the preserve will feature 200 varieties and over 10,000 trees native to Taiwan, including Formosan gum trees, Taiwan persimmons, Swietenia mahagony, and the Japanese blue oak.
A nature lover, Mayer admits deep connections to the environment. “When I first got to Taiwan and saw all the green mountain forests, I was quite excited. But only after participating in the tree planting project did I learn that many of Taiwan’s unique varieties are endangered,” he relates.
It turns out that extensive bamboo coverage of hillsides and mountains is a sign of habitat degradation, and that monoculture, lack of biological diversity, and shallow root systems of bamboo threaten soil and water conservation. Mayer has made four visits to Tungluo over the past three years. On one such visit several months ago, he found that the seedlings he first planted had already grown several meters tall, attracting numerous insects and animals and making him feel that his efforts have been rewarded.
Brightening the Next Generation’s Future
Mayer’s other project involves working with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation to hold weekend charity basketball events.
Mayer’s relationship with Laureus goes back nearly a decade. Then at Mercedes-Benz South Africa, he worked closely with the foundation to run team-building training for underprivileged youths, building fitness and fostering their interpersonal skills at the same time.
Following two years of discussions, this past April Mercedes-Benz Taiwan launched a public service program with the Taiwan Laureus Foundation in conjunction with the Chinese Christian Relief Association. Under the leadership of former national team basketball player Rosa Chien and the Taipower women’s basketball team, 115 teenagers have joined the program, slated to continue for at least three years via weekend sports and reading groups across six cities around Taiwan.
Camille Yang, director of Mercedes-Benz Taiwan’s Department of Public Relations and Communications, relates that the company decided to focus on youth issues after a violent incident on the Taipei MRT system two years ago. Reflecting on those acts, they observed that adolescence is the critical period for personality development, and that sound personality development can reduce potential social costs in the future.
The king of expensive luxury automobiles, Mercedes-Benz Taiwan has gotten a better handle on the pulse of Taiwanese society through the promotion of local events.
Translated from the Chinese by David Toman