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BONN: Running a business based solely on shareholder interests is an out-dated strategy according to a new study by Deutsche Post DHL (DP DHL).

The company says its poll of 1,200 opinion leaders in Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, India, the U.K. and U.S. suggest the vast majority think corporations should proactively take into account the interests of shareholders, customers, employees and other stakeholders.

The respondents also endorsed the need for ongoing dialogue between business and society and noted that those companies maintaining a "bona fide relationship with stakeholders tend to be more attractive as provider, employer or investment".

Commenting on the study – the fourth in a series about how DP DHL sees the future – CEO Frank Appel says he's convinced his company will not be able to maintain its economic strength unless "we truly understand our environment and practice responsible business to set ourselves apart" He adds this means "redefining our understanding of sustainability so that it is consistent with society's expectations and is integrated into all value-adding processes".

OctapharmaAppel says many of the logistics company's customers have also realised that their "license to operate" is no longer based on just what they produce or what services they offer, but equally what their values are and what impact do their business practices have on global supply chains.

The new DP DHL commentary includes insight from various though leaders in a bid to determine how companies and their stakeholders can jointly and sustainably profit through a systematic dialogue. According to Edward Freeman, professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, a good starting point might be for corporations to end the separation of business and ethics:

"We need to see consumers as fully moral human beings," he explains. "Brands become promises. Markets are societal institutions where human beings create value and trade. Suppliers are part of the value chain, yes, but they are also part of the chain of responsibility for which more and more iconic brands are being held accountable. Changing the unit of analysis to the stakeholder relationship makes it easier to put business and ethics together."

An example of stakeholder relationships is the opening this week of a new pharma facility in Leipzig by DHL and its customer Octapharma. Covering nearly 3,000 square meters, it serves as a competence center for the transport, transport preparation, temporary storage, and transport follow-up of active and passive temperature controlled pharmaceutical products. 

Angelos Orfanos, president, Life Sciences and Healthcare, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation noted that "providing quality service to life-saving products is a big responsibility". Marc Rechsteiner, global senior director of Operational Excellence at Octapharma added: "Our products based on human plasma have to be delivered to customers reliably, fast and on time, without fluctuations in temperature." He said he was delighted to have a logistics partner "versed in industry requirements".

The DP DHL study is available here:

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