«Migros does more than people think»
Social commitment is as much a part of Migros as is its iconic Kult Ice Tea. As the person at the top of the chain, Sarah Kreienbühl explains the areas on which Migros intends to focus in the future.
Sarah Kreienbühl, a large number of companies are committed to social causes. What is Migros doing differently?
Migros has been committed to society ever since it was founded, which is remarkable. With the Cultural Percentage, Gottlieb and Adele Duttweiler established two extremely courageous points in the Articles of Association in 1957: The amount of money provided for funding social commitment will be determined as a share of sales – regardless of the actual profits generated. And it should be an independent goal, on an equal footing with Migros' commercial activities. Both were incredibly visionary at the time and evidenced the seriousness of the idea. Since 1957, we have thus invested just under five billion francs into social commitment. It is fair to say that this makes Migros one of a kind throughout the world.
Social responsibility is a broad term. What does Migros want to achieve and what can it achieve?
Essentially, we always want to give people access to services and offerings. The aim is to improve cohesion in our increasingly fragmented society. Individualization is on the rise and therefore also the risk that we are losing sight of the realities faced by our fellow humans and that our common understanding is dwindling away. This is where we want to start and close any gaps that arise in areas other than the state and the private sector. One example would be in the social area, where we could help by establishing «Caring Communities» in which people help each other in their day-to-day lives.
We also want to close any gaps in the social area.
Judging by its more than 60 years of existence, the Cultural Percentage's offerings could also be better known among the population, couldn't they?
Indeed, surveys have confirmed that many people don't know Migros' areas of commitment. However, they are thrilled when they do find out. As it is easy to lose track of this in light of the wide variety of offerings, we are now building a new home for Migros' social commitment at www.migros-engagement.ch. In addition to this, we are launching a visual symbol of recognition so that you can tell at a glance that the service or offering bearing the symbol is a Migros commitment.
But, the Cultural Percentage will continue to exist?
The Cultural Percentage, the Pioneer Fund and the Support Fund will remain unchanged. We will now bring together the three funding instruments under the umbrella of «Migros-Engagement» and launch a shared online platform. The improved overview will make it easier for our customers to find relevant and interesting offers. At the same time, this will allow us to increase transparency with regard to how our extensive funding is used for each year.
You've probably heard this before: Why not just make bread cheaper?
Through its commitment, Migros invests some of its sales in society. Our customers therefore don't have to pay higher prices for bread and Migros, as a cooperative, also gives something back to its customers and thus to society. We remain committed – even during the pandemic. In order to support artists during these difficult times, we have paid the fees for already planned events, even if they have not been or will not be able to be held.
Even less well known than the Cultural Percentage is its little brother - the Pioneer Fund. How do the two differ?
The Cultural Percentage is funded from the sales generated by Migros, whereas the Pioneer Fund is the social commitment of Migros Bank, Denner, Migrol and Migrolino. The Pioneer Fund focuses on providing funding to bold ideas that have the potential to further society. What's more, its not that little! Since 2012, we have invested an impressive total of 100 billion francs in 100 projects.
Are there any pioneer projects that you find particularly impressive?
One project that is close to my heart is the «Stop Hate Speech» initiative. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of hostility and abuse on the Internet. Using artificial intelligence, «Stop Hate Speech» identifies hate speech and raises awareness of how to respectfully communicate with others on the Internet. There is also another project set to make a breakthrough in the development of a recycling concept for furniture. While recycling concepts have already been established for other products, there is still potential in the area of furniture. The Migros subsidiary Micasa has already indicated that it is interested in this prospect and is hard at work on a mattress recycling project. If everything goes well, it will be launched this year.
How does the third funding instrument – the Support Fund – work?
The Support Fund has been promoting social and environmental development assistance projects in Switzerland and abroad since 1979. In doing so, Migros has donated CHF 41 million over the years. A working group from the Assembly of Delegates of the Federation of Migros Cooperatives meets three to four times a year to decide about the applications it has received.
Sarah Kreienbühl (50) is a member of the Directorate General of the Federation of Migros Cooperatives (MGB). As Head of the Human Resources, Communications, Culture and Leisure Department, her area of responsibility includes all aspects of Migros’ social commitment at national level.
What are your personal highlights from the many Cultural Percentage offerings?
I can say that so far every offering I have attended or visited has provided me with an enriching experience in its own way or with a different perspective. The «United by AIDS» exhibition in the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Contemporary Art Museum), for example, made me reflect and think. Another example is our Steps dance festival, where I saw performances that were so impressive and innovative that they will be imprinted in my mind forever. I've also been able to attend concerts by little known talents that still inspire me when I think about them. I also feel that the Tavolata and Generationen-Jass meetings are wonderful. When I think about Monte Generoso in Ticino or Gurten in Bern, I associate these two with fantastic memories of fun times together with my family and close friends. Our offerings are incredibly diverse and can be found in every corner of Switzerland.
How does Migros decide what to do with the CHF 159 million every year?
This question is indeed asked again and again. Society is constantly changing and as it does, so do its needs. Culture and education remain important pillars of our commitment. Every one of the 40'000 courses and seminars that you can take privately at the Club School is subsidized by the Cultural Percentage. By doing this, we aim to make education affordable for everyone. In the future, we aim to further expand our current commitment in the area of social integration and also set up bodies in which our customers can help decide how to use the funds. They will work in a similar way to Migipedia, where our customers can vote about which products will be sold in stores.
What do you mean by social integration?
We also want to close gaps in the social sphere and, in doing so, improve social cohesion. In particular with an offering for young people who are at a disadvantage on the labor market, if for example family problems put them at a disadvantage for meeting the normal criteria for an apprenticeship. This initiative is very close to my heart. By offering special programs, we want to give them the opportunity to enter working life and, in doing so, provide them with concrete support to help them get integrated. Individual projects have already been successfully launched in two cooperatives and we want to expand this commitment.
Photos: Jorma Müller