Siemens is one of the world’s biggest engineering companies, employing 379,000 people in business operations all over the globe.
Kaeser wrote in his letter that he was concerned by the fires and expressed sympathy for people who have lost family members or their homes, but the chief executive said there was “practically no legally and economically responsible way to unwind the contract without neglecting fiduciary duties.” That means he felt he couldn’t ditch the Australian contract while fulfilling his obligation to protect the company from financial losses.
Instead, Siemens said it would establish a sustainability committee that has “the power to stop and escalate projects of critical nature to sustainability, no matter whether we are directly or indirectly participating.”
“I will also open the doors to the youth, and the concerns young people have taken to the streets around the world, to sit at the table,” wrote Kaeser.
A spokesperson for Siemens said the goal was to “prevent cases” like the Australian mine from happening again but he was unable to provide more specifics on when the committee would be formed, or how it would function.
Who is Joe Kaeser?
Siemens appears to have been caught off guard by the mine controversy, with Kaeser saying in his open letter that he had not been aware of the contract to provide signaling equipment.
It’s a rare misstep for a CEO who has emerged in recent years as one of the few corporate leaders willing to speak out on political controversies.
“As soon as I heard of his death, it was clear to me that we couldn’t simply move on and do business as usual,” Kaeser said in October 2018.