Corporate responsibility at EOS: Debt collection means taking responsibility.
The EOS Group is resolutely pursuing its corporate responsibility (CR) agenda. But climate protection is not the only goal. The Group’s CR strategy focuses above all on social and corporate engagement, to set an example in respect of sustainable receivables management.
At many companies, the COVID-19 crisis has honed the mindset for corporate responsibility.
Based on its new claim “Changing finances for the better”, the EOS Group has developed a CR strategy that makes a strong case for more responsibility in the debt collection sector.
The CR strategy focuses on four actionable areas: Responsible Collection, Joint Progress, Financial Sustainability and Environmental Protection.
When companies assume responsibility for a sustainable future, many people immediately think about the lowering of CO2 emissions and other measures to protect the climate. Major automakers like Audi and BMW recently announced that in future their fleets would consist increasingly, or even entirely, of electric cars. Moreover, companies are setting themselves more and more ambitious goals of achieving climate-neutral production by a certain date. But what options do companies have whose business is not in the manufacture or sale of emission-intensive products? What kind of contribution can financial service providers like EOS make, for example?
“ I personally want to work only at a decent company."
Klaus Engberding, CEO of the EOS Group
What many people forget is that sustainability does not stop at climate protection. Rather, corporate responsibility consists of three fundamental pillars that provide the foundation for building the sustainable world of the future. In the financial sector, this is now referred to as ESG, i.e., environmental, social and governance. Apart from environmental aspects, a company’s sustainability credentials are judged mainly on the basis of their social and corporate responsibility.
The relevant criteria, and the extent to which they are important, vary from sector to sector. Whereas in the case of the abovementioned automakers, the environmental aspects are clearly to the forefront, financial service providers like EOS primarily need to demonstrate sustainable corporate governance and social responsibility. With its new claim “Changing finances for the better”, EOS has embedded its sustainability ideals into a CR strategy. “I personally would only want to work at a reputable company,” says Klaus Engberding, CEO of the EOS Group.
Corporate responsibility: EOS focuses on four key actionable areas
Responsible collection: Responsibility and debt - how does that match?
In its capacity as a debt collection service provider, EOS always operates in that sensitive interface between debt and finance. “On the one hand you have the interests of your clients, and on the other the interests of the defaulting payers, who wish to be treated fairly and respectfully,” says Ben Kleinebrecht, Head of Debtor Centricity and Communication at EOS. “Only by accommodating everyone’s needs do we get a workable and sustainable solution that can result in complete debt relief.” EOS meets everyone’s needs by communicating on equal terms, considering debt cases individually and using artificial intelligence. AI helps EOS staff to make the best possible decision about which collection step makes most sense for the defaulting payer and when. Drawing on its robust database, the collection software suggests the most expedient approach.
In Bulgaria, the team is also working very successfully using the “nudge method”, where you try to positively influence someone’s behavior by giving them a “nudge” in the right direction to get them out of their debt. This might take the form of letters of encouragement sent by EOS to defaulting payers, or negotiations between collection agents and late payers that motivate the latter to settle. In the process, staff always take the respective life circumstances of the defaulting payers into account and adapt the payment plans for their outstanding payments accordingly. There may also be reasons why someone cannot even settle debts over the long term, for example in the case of serious illness or occupational disability. To deal with such cases, EOS in Germany has established the “hardship case community”, in which colleagues ensure that these cases are handled in the best possible way, always in the interest of the defaulting payer and always with respect and courtesy.
Joint Progress: Why even children should develop financial literacy.
Sebastian Richter, managing director of the finlit foundation gGmbH, a financial education initiative specially developed by the EOS Group, knows only too well how important that is. “Our ideal of a debt-free world obligates us to take action,” he says, “but that is not just achievable through our business operations. We need to tackle excessive debt proactively, through social engagement in the area of financial education.” The aim of finlit is to remove the stigma from money and debt and give people basic financial knowledge for their everyday lives, so that they don’t get into debt in the first place. “Financial education starts as early as elementary school,” Richter says. This is why last September, he and his team launched ManoMoneta, a multimedia teaching package for German schools. This type of program, which is still in its infancy in Germany, has been running in Slovenia for almost two years now. Since September 2019 EOS KSI has been supporting the “Financial School”, a non-profit initiative to provide financial education for adolescents, millenials and other adults. And EOS is also pursuing social responsibility in-house, on behalf of its own employees. Individual strengths, capabilities and personality traits are being put to better use, and staff are being given more visibility. Employees are being encouraged to take responsibility for this goal themselves. Initiatives like Queer@EOS and W:isible, which have been developed from within the workforce, are therefore already sending out a message about diversity and equal opportunities at EOS.
We need to tackle excessive debt proactively, through social engagement in the area of financial education. Sebastian Richter, managing director of the finlit foundation GmbH
Financial Sustainability: How the debt collection sector is being driven by values.
If you look at the business environment in which EOS operates, it is especially important to not merely formulate standards for fair collection practices and responsible action. “These standards need to be transparent, tangible and realistic,” says Engberding. This is why EOS is a strong advocate of ethical and professional conduct in the sector, as demonstrated by its work in domestic and international debt collection associations like the Federation of European National Collection Associations (FENCA) or the German Association of Debt Collection Companies (BDIU). EOS is also a signatory to the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest initiative for responsible corporate governance. The Global Compact asks companies to commit to clear overarching goals and principles. EOS has its own Code of Conduct, where its employees find the rules and principles necessary for their own day-to-day activities. The aim is to offer the best possible service to creditors, customers and consumers alike, deal with irregularities and generally ensure economic liquidity. “The Code of Conduct is not constantly changing but we do understand it to be a living document,” says Sibylle Weingart, Senior Compliance Officer at the EOS Group. “It is intended to map the changes in our corporate culture and the societies we live and work in. Accordingly, we need to scrutinize it critically and constantly adapt it. This helps us with our daily work routines again and again.”
Environmental Protection: How can debt collection companies help protect the climate?
EOS is working with its parent company Otto Group to achieve climate-neutral status by 2030. Since as far back as 2006, cutting CO2 has been one of the corporate goals that Otto Group aims to achieve through group-wide guidelines for doing business sustainably. With this in mind, EOS has defined focused measures that can be implemented quickly such as switching to 100 percent green electricity for more energy efficiency, reducing office space for optimized use of resources, having electric cars in its company car fleet and using digital communication channels for an improved CO2 footprint. These are measures with which EOS aims to pursue its climate and environmental protection goals and that are an integral part of its CR strategy. “Only when they leave the paper, so to speak, and become part of the DNA, not just of the organization but also of every individual within it, will responsible debt collection become a reality,” says Klaus Engberding, CEO of the EOS Group. Thanks to debt collection, the world can therefore become a little more responsible.
Photo credits: Andreas Wemheuer, Matthias Oertel, EOS