Play it safe

30.01.2020 | Text Iris Mydlach | Photo Daimler AG/Michael Dannenmann

Renata Jungo Brüngger is standing in front of a dark wall and smiling into the camera.
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Renata Jungo Brüngger is a board member and risk manager at Daimler. We talked with her about the pros and cons of new mobility, and about being bold at work.

Ms Jungo Brüngger, you describe yourself as a risk manager. What exactly do you mean by that?

The automotive industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation process. Our mobility is becoming smart, electric, autonomous, digital. And with these changes come more room and opportunities for entirely new business models. We don’t want to let these opportunities slip away. But at the same time, we have to be aware early on of the risks they entail and have to ask certain questions. How can we cope with the fact that an international legal framework for autonomous driving has yet to be developed? How can we make electric vehicles sustainable? In my department, our job is to work with engineers and developers to bring these topics of the future to the roads, and to make sure they are legally airtight.

Let’s look at a concrete example: raw materials for batteries. These materials are often extracted under questionable conditions. How do you ensure that Daimler AG is engaging in clean practices?

Where we get our resources has a huge impact on the cleanliness of electromobility. Cobalt, for example, often comes from regions where the protection of human rights is inadequate. On the other hand, it is our goal to only use raw materials that were extracted without human rights being violated. To ensure this, we have implemented the “Human Rights Respect System”, with which we systematically conduct risk-based evaluation of raw materials and, if necessary, define measures to be taken and monitor their progress.

How exactly do you do this?

It’s a complex undertaking; our supply chains can have up to seven sublevels. Legally speaking, we only have access to the direct suppliers. But we require our suppliers to adopt our standards for working conditions, human rights, environmental protection, safety, business ethics and compliance, and to ensure that their suppliers also adopt these standards.

But how can you guarantee this? Is it enough to just look at supply chains?

Our efforts must go beyond the supply chains. It’s important to also consider the social aspects. That’s why, at the beginning of this year, we decided to work with Good Shepherd Foundation in the Congo. Our shared goal is to improve living conditions for people in mining regions by supporting children in attending school and promoting ecological agricultural practices. This is our way of making a positive contribution to the area.

But there’s one other commodity that electromobility needs: data. Customers expect all sorts of features and services in their new cars, but this is only possible if they fork over their personal information. Not everyone is so keen to do this. How do you handle this predicament?

Data is the future, which is why we are working so intensively with it. Our customers trust that we’ll have their well-being in mind, as we do with all of our products and services. I firmly believe that the responsible handling of data is a sign of quality. At Daimler, we follow three clear principles: Firstly, we create transparency by telling the customer what types of data we use. Secondly, customers can decide for themselves which services they want to use and which they don’t want to use. And thirdly, it is important to us to keep data secure.

Do you yourself guard your personal data any more or less than a few years ago?

Honestly, when a company updates their terms and conditions for the 150th time, I just scroll to the bottom and click “Accept”. But when it comes to social media, I proceed cautiously. I made the deliberate decision to not have a Facebook profile, but I’ve had a LinkedIn account for quite some time. I really enjoy that platform; you post something and hear unexpectedly from colleagues you haven’t spoken to in years. That’s a personal win.

Renata Jungo Brüngger is sitting in a room with bright blue walls, talking, and looking off to the right.

A lot of people see legal affairs and compliance as rather dry. How do you get your employees excited about the things you’re working on?

We’re not those boring lawyers that people might have in mind. We have people from all sorts of professional backgrounds – be it compliance management or data protection, and also engineers who support us in the technical aspects of our work. We’re well connected throughout the company, we work in interdisciplinary teams, and we’re involved in product development from the earliest stages. Our colleagues in other departments are grateful for our expertise.

You became a board member in 2016 and, along with Britta Seeger, make up the female minority on the Daimler AG Board of Management. What do you do to support younger female employees and managers?

As an executive, I think it’s important to find time to have personal conversations. It’s especially important to encourage women to get out of their comfort zone. That’s always rewarding. Women tend to be more hesitant and doubt their abilities. As a mentor, I’m happy to help them overcome these hurdles. At Daimler, we’ve established an internal goal: by 2020, we want at least 20 per cent of our management positions to be filled by women. We’re currently at 18.8 per cent, so we’re on the right path, and we’re already well over this mark today in my division.

Is it true that you spent more time playing piano than doing homework back when you were in school?

Yes, I come from a musical family. I’d always imagined myself being a concert pianist. I practised so much that I began to neglect school. But at some point, I realised that I wasn’t quite good enough to be a professional pianist. I always say, if you’re going to do something then you’ve got to do it right. These days, I don’t have much time to play piano, but I still love music.

How do you stay connected to your home country of Switzerland?

It’s difficult during the week, but I like going back home at the weekend. My husband still lives in Switzerland. We go to the mountains whenever we can. That’s something I really need.

Does that keep you grounded?

Yes. I work long hours during the week, so I don’t have much time for myself or for my friends. It helps to keep this distance to my work at the weekend. I actually think that’s something everyone should do: take a day or two to look at things from another point of view and then start again with new ideas.

And you probably don’t get great reception there… 

No, that’s not the case! There’s terrific mobile reception in the Swiss mountains! Unfortunately! [laughs] Sometimes it’s even better than at my flat in Stuttgart.

The Swiss native studied international trade law and joined Daimler AG in 2011 as Group General Counsel. As a member of the Board of Management since 2016, she is responsible for Integrity and Legal Affairs.

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