“A better future for children and families”
In 2018, the Vaillant Group and “SOS Children’s Villages worldwide” agreed to continue their existing partnership. Petra Horn, Managing Director of “SOS Children’s Villages worldwide”, and Dr Jens Wichtermann, Director Corporate Communications, Sustainability & Politics at the Vaillant Group, have jointly reflected on the past and attempt to forecast the future.
Ms Horn, Mr Wichtermann, “SOS Children’s Villages worldwide” and the Vaillant Group will continue to work together. Why?
Ms Horn: In 2013, we concluded a five-year agreement with the Vaillant Group and are extremely pleased that we have been able to extend it by – at least! – a further five years. It is essential that we have partners we can depend upon. The Vaillant Group is exactly this kind of partner.
Mr Wichtermann: Absolutely! We are convinced that in this partnership we are using what we do best, namely supplying efficient and environmentally friendly heating technology, to provide assistance where it is needed. That’s how everything started in Hungary. The local colleagues refitted a children’s village in which the decrepit heating systems stopped working shortly before the onset of winter, replacing them with new technology. We realised very quickly that a partnership with SOS Children’s Villages would perfectly fulfil the criteria that define how we as a company wish to show our social commitment. As a family-owned business, we appreciate long-term partnerships that match the goals of both organisations.
When you look back at the past years, what were the highlights for you?
Mr Wichtermann: I immediately think of France, because just last year two newly built SOS Children’s Villages were fitted with a total of 15 heat pump systems. Heat pumps rely on environmental heat, thereby protecting the climate. That was a truly wonderful project that we completed together on our fifth anniversary. I also remember when a heating system was given to an SOS Children’s Village in St Petersburg in Russia. I attended that event personally.
Ms Horn: Because of this collaboration, the SOS Children’s Villages in many countries have meanwhile received new, top-quality heating systems. But there were numerous other wonderful projects, such as #vaillantsmile. People could upload a selfie of their smile; in return, Vaillant provided support for various SOS projects. Not only the company’s own employees took part in this; Vaillant’s customers were also very active.
What are the characteristics of a good partnership?
Ms Horn: A good partnership is always a win-win situation. In my view, it is important that the partners openly communicate what they expect from such a collaboration and that both sides trust each other. In a good partnership, both sides are prepared to courageously blaze new and sometimes unconventional trails.
Mr Wichtermann: The same applies for us. Furthermore, we believe it is important that what we bring to this partnership is what we do best, namely providing the technology and know-how for a warm and cosy home, and not just simply transferring money to an account. We take the idea of providing children with warmth quite literally; it reflects the Vaillant family business.
Nothing is so good that it couldn’t be made even better. Ms Horn, where do you see opportunities for enhancing this partnership?
Ms Horn: We feel that it would be extremely useful if we could enhance the support we are receiving by providing heating technology in more countries, namely everywhere where there is a real need. But naturally, we can always use financial support as well. We could envisage implementing creative ideas in other countries, such as the “On Hold” campaign in Austria. Recently, we started the “YouthCan!” programme with corporate partners. We could well image involving the Vaillant Group in this programme as well.
What is “YouthCan!”?
Ms Horn: The purpose of YouthCan! is to facilitate young people’s start in the working world. This programme is for young people who experience difficulties here, for example because they don’t know what it’s like when their father or mother go to work. Vaillant’s employees, who work throughout the world, could become mentors for these young people. It might even be possible to extend this to include customers as mentors.
Mr Wichtermann: That sounds exciting! It would be wonderful if we could include our customers, i.e. the installers. In our industry, installers are desperately searching for trainees. If we could manage to meet these needs by bringing both sides together: how fantastic would that be?!
In some countries, your partnership functions perfectly; in others, it still needs to grow. Why is that?
Mr Wichtermann: Basically, it is easier for our larger sales companies to provide assistance for SOS Children’s Villages, because they have both the financial means and the human resources. What would be helpful for us to activate this partnership in those countries that have not yet taken part would be a comprehensive evaluation, a systemisation that would clearly indicate what SOS Children’s Villages will require in the coming years and in the individual countries.
Ms Horn: It’s the people involved who are so decisive. I believe that if we could manage to bring together the employees from both Vaillant and SOS Children’s Villages, enabling them to get to know each other, we would experience a more intensive collaboration. An evaluation would be a good opportunity for this. I’m happy to take this suggestion on board.
The Vaillant Group has decided to make an active contribution in those geographical areas in which it operates. Do you also look beyond those borders?
Mr Wichtermann: Well, we’re very active in many countries throughout the world, where we use our know-how and our products to provide assistance. But we have also supported projects in other places, for example by using donations from our in-house Football World Cup. In 2014, it was a project in Syria; in 2018, one in India. There were also projects such as “Clowns without Borders” in Bolivia. When SOS Children’s Villages indicates that they require urgent assistance, we discuss with them what we could do.
What role does this partnership play in your company?
Mr Wichtermann: It is highly popular with our employees; we have seen a lot of personal commitment. And I have some very nice examples of this for you: together with SOS employees, our colleagues organise excursions, leisure activities and small parties for the children … Furthermore, in Germany, we have what we call the Spare Cents initiative. Our employees can donate the cent amounts from their monthly salaries to SOS Children’s Villages. In the meantime, many of our colleagues think of SOS Children’s Villages when it comes to private donations.
What would you like to achieve together over the next five years?
Mr Wichtermann: We wish to maintain our support in the field of heating technology and even expand on this, where possible. It would be wonderful if we could manage to further systematise the requirements so as to better understand what SOS Children’s Villages need. In addition, it would, of course, be good if we could implement projects together in which we can help to integrate young people in the working world. The ideal thing would be to include our customers and partners in this, especially the installers.
Ms Horn: There’s not much I can add to that. I am extremely pleased that we have the support of such a wonderful partner. As a charitable organisation, we want to provide children and families with a better future. The Vaillant Group as a family-owned business has taken over responsibility and supports us in our efforts. I think that’s great!
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