Environmental Management

The Volkswagen Group has a long tradition of commitment to environmental protection. Our environmental strategy sets binding, measurable targets at every stage of the value chain, aimed at further improving environmental protection within the Group.

Action areas covered by this chapter in line with the materiality analysis

  • Resource conservation across the life circle
  • Environmentally friendly products/electrification
  • Climate and environmental protection
  • Intelligent mobility and networking

In implementing and reviewing our Group-wide Environmental Strategy, Volkswagen has set itself the goal of becoming the environmental leader of the automotive industry. This strategy provides a framework for driving forward environmental protection within the Group.

As part of our commitment to becoming an environmental leader, we have defined the following targets:

  • To continuously reduce our carbon footprint
    Our products unite world-class technology, comfort and safety with steadily declining fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Our focus is on developing technologies associated with electric vehicles. Our long-term goal is to achieve CO2-free mobility.
  • To minimize resource consumption
    We consider the environmental footprint of our products at every stage of their life cycle. Climate protection and, in particular, the conservation of finite resources, is our overriding concern. The steps we have taken focus on efficient product and process design, the use of innovative environmental technologies, and sustainable energy supplies.
  • To embed environmental awareness throughout the Company
    The Volkswagen Group’s employees are well-qualified and ecologically responsible. Our strength lies in pooling our employees’ expertise across brands and regions with the aim of sharing best practices that can be leveraged throughout the Group.

We are currently working on updating our environmental strategy. This includes investigating ways in which we, as a global player, can continue to actively support implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our Group targets state that all newly developed vehicles should improve on the environmental performance of predecessor models in every respect over the vehicle’s entire life cycle. In production, by 2018 we aim to reduce the five key environmental indicators – energy and water consumption, waste for disposal, and CO2 and VOC emissions – by 25% per manufactured vehicle compared with the 2010 baseline. 

Organization – Policies and Guidelines

We can only reach our ambitious targets if environmental issues are firmly entrenched in our organizational and decision-making processes. Our long-established environmental management system provides the basis for this. 

All environmental protection activities in the Volkswagen Group are centered around our global principles, which have been expanded and improved over the years, and which are binding for all Group brands:

All those responsible within the Group, within the brands and at our locations are required to comply with these environmental principles. The environmental policies and targets of the VW Passenger Cars/VW Commercial Vehicles brands, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, MAN, Porsche, ScaniaŠKODA and SEAT.

 GreenFuture strategy by ŠKODA

The ŠKODA GreenFuture strategy integrates environmental factors, defining measures at product, production and process level. Sustainability aspects are considered by ŠKODA AUTO through all phases of the product life cycle, guided by various standards such as ISO 14001 (environmental management) and – since 2013 – ISO 50001 (energy management). All investment projects are also evaluated for environmental impact. The strategy combines all our environmental activities under one roof supported by the three pillars of GreenFactory, GreenProduct and GreenRetail, each with its own specific targets.

As at the end of 2015, out of a total of 119 Group production sites, 96 held a valid ISO 14001 certificate. Alongside the Volkswagen brand’s production locations, Audi, Lamborghini and Porsche have also had their locations’ energy management systems certified to the relatively new ISO 50001 standard. All Porsche subsidiaries are additionally audited under Germany’s Energy Services Act (EDL-G). At our Wolfsburg location, home of the Technical Development department, it was decided to temporarily suspend EMAS registration for 2015. In 2016, the Technical Development department’s environmental management system was successfully recertified to the new ISO 14001:2015 standard. Key features of the new ISO standard include the introduction of the so-called “High-Level Structure” (HLS), greater consideration for environmental factors throughout the value chain, and an integrated approach to competitive context based on opportunities and risks. The Technical Development department’s environmental goals are likewise anchored in the environmental management system. We ensure these processes are regularly validated by submitting them to environmental certification procedures and external audits, as was the case in the reporting period. Our energy management system, which has been systematically rolled out to all locations since its inception in 2010, has held ISO 50001 certification since 2012. 

Since 2009, the “Integration of Environmental Factors into the Volkswagen Brand’s Product Development” in the Technical Development department has also been certified to ISO/TR 14062.

Sites with Environmental Certification

(previous year in brackets)

EMAS ISO 14001 ISO 50001
22 (22) 95 (89) 35 (22)
Some locations apply both EMAS and ISO 14001.
A list of all certified locations can be found on the internet.

Group Environmental Protection Bodies

The Group Board of Management is the highest decision-making authority on environmental matters. Since 2012, it has simultaneously functioned as the Group’s Sustainability Board. The CSR and Sustainability Steering Group reports directly to the Sustainability Board on a regular basis, and is made up of representatives of Group units, brands and companies. The Group-wide management of environmental protection is the responsibility of the Corporate Environment and Energy Steering Group, with input from numerous specialist bodies such as:

  • the Corporate Life Cycle Engineering Working Group
  • the Corporate Resource Efficiency Working Group
  • the CO2 Steering Group
  • the Vehicle Recycling Steering Group, and   
  • the Corporate Energy Working Group

These committees assess and analyze opportunities and risks. The brands and companies are independently responsible for environmental organization at their headquarters and locations, but base their activities on the principles that apply across the Group. In the Corporate Environmental & Energy Steering Group, the Company’s various business areas are covered by individual modules embracing the entire value chain (life-cycle approach).

2014 saw the inception of the Environmental Task Force, mandated with identifying and implementing potential savings. This team of analysts from Group Research Environment acts as a networking intermediary between planning, maintenance and operation, closing any gaps with additional capacity and knowledge from the various locations.

The broad-based knowledge of the Environmental Task Force, the many ingenious solutions and ideas from our colleagues in the locations, and the transfer of measures via the massnahmen@web program, all help to promote a lively Group-wide dialog.

At the VW brand’s component-manufacturing locations, the team works hand-in-hand with the energy management experts in component planning to identify further potential for optimization.

By the end of 2015, the Environmental Task Force had visited 16 sites worldwide, identifying potential savings worth €4.6 million.

Engaging the Workforce

Only a well-informed, qualified workforce can implement the specific measures derived from our Environmental Strategy and achieve the set targets. Since 1976, Environmental Officers at our European locations have regularly convened to share their knowledge and experience. Regular Group Environmental Conferences were introduced in 1998 as a forum for the Group’s Environmental Officers and experts to discuss strategies, measures and projects, and draw up joint action plans. 2013 saw the introduction of “Ambassadors”, as specially trained environmental experts. Worldwide, more than 1,000 ambassadors are now operating as front-line contacts and multipliers for production employees. So-called “Energy Experts” (SfE) receive special advanced training in energy saving. The Wolfsburg facility alone has more than 70 SfEs helping their colleagues to save energy. Cross-brand, inter-departmental steering committees and working groups also operate at both management and expert level. Employee engagement is supported by an intranet portal showcasing best-practice examples and facilitating direct contact with all the relevant colleagues. The portal also outlines fundamental energy-saving guidelines and tips, including a number generated by the central Ideas Management program. 

As a further element of organized workforce involvement in meeting the Volkswagen Group’s environmental targets, a “Works Agreement on Environmental Protection” has been in place at Volkswagen AG factories (including the Technical Development department in Wolfsburg) since 1995, and was most recently updated in 2013. It motivates employees to incorporate environmental protection into their day-to-day work, so that environmental management objectives and measures become an integral part of production reality at all our factories and throughout all our development activities.

Climate Change

Volkswagen welcomes the outcome of the UN’s COP 21 Climate Change Conference in December 2015, at which those present at the negotiations agreed the ambitious target of limiting global warming to just 2°C.

Our calculations indicate that our most effective lever for reducing our global carbon footprint is to optimize CO2 emissions from the vehicle fleet. This estimate is supported by the Scope 3 GHG Inventory we have been publishing since 2012, according to which 75% of total CO2 emissions are generated during the use phase.

Our powertrain and fuel strategy is therefore crucial in pointing the way ahead for CO2-neutral, sustainable mobility. At the heart of our approach is a commitment to significantly enhancing our competencies in the e-mobility sector. Fundamentally, our approach is based on the massive expansion of our expertise in electric mobility.

In 2015 we launched five new models with alternative drive systems, so that the Group now offers more than 20 all-electric, plug-in hybrid and natural-gas models. By 2025, the Group brands intend to launch a further 30 or so electric or plug-in hybrid models.

The Group made a commitment to reducing the CO2 emissions of its European new-car fleet to 95 g/km by 2020 at an early stage. We also undertake to uphold CO2 specifications in general, including those affecting light commercial vehicles.