Würth letter: How much does an anti-AfD stance cost companies?

This is original Capital branded content.

Würth letter: How much does an anti-AfD stance cost companies?

This is original Capital branded content. This article is available for ten days on stern.de. You will then find it again exclusively on capital.de. Like stern, Capital belongs to RTL Deutschland.

In March, veteran entrepreneur Reinhold Würth broke with one of the principles of his screw empire: instead of keeping his distance from political events, he took a clear stand. In a letter, the company patriarch warned his employees about the AfD - five pages that were tough. A huge media response followed.

The incendiary letter against the AfD cost the Würth company dearly. Reinhold Würth now talks about this in an interview with the “Handelsblatt”. Some customers have announced that they no longer want to buy from Würth. The company had to accept a loss in sales of 1.5 million euros. A loss that Reinhold Würth is happy to accept. “We probably gained significantly more orders out of sympathy than we lost,” he summarizes in the interview.

Würth is not alone with his clear words. In view of the rise of the AfD and right-wing extremism, many entrepreneurs have taken a clear stand. But how much does it cost to take a stand? Capital asked a few companies.

Nomos from the small Saxon town of Glashütte has been setting standards in watches for years - and for a long time in its commitment to democracy. The factory, which now has around 200 employees, took a stand against racism for the first time in 2015, says managing director Judith Borowski in an interview with Capital. Since then, the company has regularly spoken out against the AfD and organized workshops on how to deal with conspiracy stories or hate speech. “And every time the press reports about us, we receive letters that may indicate whether our customers share this attitude or not,” says Borowski. "There is criticism, of course. But the bottom line is that we receive significantly more praise than blame."

Depending on where an article appears, differences would become noticeable: The Post always fully approves of articles in the national press. Regional media in Saxony report that the mood is rather different - Nomos is located in the Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains constituency, where the AfD won 33 percent of the vote in the last federal election. No economic damage could be identified as a result of the commitment; “Most of our customers around the world appreciated a clear position here.” A while ago, an applicant dropped out when he found out about the company's attitude. “The bottom line is that this is also good for us,” says Borowski. "Because at Nomos we want a climate of cosmopolitanism and tolerance."

The Coatinc Company galvanizing plant is located in the west of the Republic, in Siegen in North Rhine-Westphalia. Your boss Paul Niederstein has already taken a stand against the AfD several times on the career network Linkedin and in various media such as the “Handelsblatt” and called for dialogue. The reactions to this were generally positive, says Niederstein Capital. "I'm not worried about losing customers or alienating employees, although that may be the case right now."

According to Niederstein, it is part of his corporate responsibility to point out the dangers to society and the economy that radical parties bring with them. He is committed to the background of the surface refiner's centuries-long company history and the experiences of his predecessors - Niederstein runs Germany's oldest company in the 17th generation. Looking back on historical events, a clear stance against radical parties is actually a protection for employees and customers, says Niederstein. "If such forces gain power, the damage will be many times greater than the risk of losing a few customers or upsetting a few employees who may not understand my position."

The office outfitter Soennecken also comes from North Rhine-Westphalia. In January, CEO Benedikt Erdmann appealed to business in a guest commentary in the “Handelsblatt” to “take a clear stance against the AfD’s anti-people and therefore anti-investment slogans.” This didn't hurt the company from Overath. The Soennecken company is committed to an open and democratic Germany, Erdmann said when asked by Capital. "We are not seeing any negative impact on our commitment." On the contrary, there was and still is “a lot of encouragement and recognition”. Erdmann reports that some employees even had the desire to do more in their private and professional contexts. “We support them in this,” says Erdmann. "I think it's important to take a stand as a company and encourage employees to get involved."

Alicia Lindner sees it similarly. The co-managing director of the natural cosmetics manufacturer Börlind in Baden-Württemberg, for example, called on Linkedin for entrepreneurs to take a position against the AfD: You have to “stand up for our democracy and for diversity” and enter into the discourse. Lindner confirmed to Capital that her contribution to the career network had “no negative feedback or economic impact.”

This is also reported by the press department of Siemens Energy. In an interview with the news agency "Reuters" in January, its supervisory board chairman Joe Kaeser appealed to the German economy to openly point out the consequences of AfD election successes. The media response had “no negative effects” for the energy technology manufacturer.

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