Social Responsibility

The Volkswagen Group has long been committed to local well-being beyond the factory gates. As well as promoting developmental, educational and social welfare projects, we see ourselves as a source of economic impetus for local structural development and equal opportunities. Over the reporting year, we have been involved in around 200 projects worldwide designed to enhance economic and social structures. We place special emphasis on continuity and sustainability in our work, and our aim is that employees, shareholders, local communities and customers should all benefit from what we do. We also provide rapid, emergency assistance to the victims of natural disasters and support volunteering by our employees. This good corporate citizenship and our partnerships with a wide variety of organizations demonstrate our commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The following fundamental principles underpin our choice of CSR projects:

  • They are in line with the Group’s Basic Principles and address a specific local or regional issue.
  • They involve a close stakeholder dialogue with local players, who are also involved in carrying out the projects. 
  • They reflect diversity within the Group and in the social environment in which the projects are sited.
  • Project management is based locally and overseen by local units.

Commitment to the Regions

We are committed to the regions in which our sites are based. A sustainable environment that is pleasant to live in gives a region an edge in the competition for skilled employees and makes us more attractive as an employer. This is why, for example, Volkswagen AG supports regional growth initiatives in such fields as education, health, leisure, energy and mobility, alongside a broad range of measures for promoting local business development.

Wolfsburg AG, based at the Group headquarters, is a beacon in this respect. This public-private partnership with the city of Wolfsburg is involved in pioneering projects focusing on the important issues of employment and quality of life. And the entire region now benefits from our experience in developing structures and local amenities. Wolfsburg AG works closely with Allianz für die Region GmbH – the Regional Alliance – which embraces the towns of Wolfsburg, Braunschweig and Salzgitter and their surrounding areas, as well as regional businesses.

During the reporting year, Wolfsburg AG helped revamp the e-mobility station, a “Filling Station of the Future”, with new exhibitions on intelligent mobility and bidirectional charging. The exhibitions show what e-mobility of the future and regenerative energy might look like. They provide an interactive experience, allowing visitors to explore a range of topics related to e-mobility illustrated with selected exhibits.

VW e-Golf – energy consumption in kWh/100 km: 12.7 (combined); CO2 emissions in g/km: 0 (combined); CO2 efficiency class: A+

Educational Initiatives

As part of a community initiative organized with Allianz für die Region GmbH (the Regional Alliance), Volkswagen has introduced a program of career guidance modules for students from age 14 onward that is now in use in all kinds of secondary schools across most of the region. The initiative helps young people in the region choose an occupation or profession that reflects their interests and abilities, and has reduced the numbers dropping out of vocational training programs.

Another project supported by Volkswagen is the “Neue Schule Wolfsburg” (www.neue-schule-wolfsburg.de), a primary and secondary school founded by the Company and the city of Wolfsburg. The school designs its curriculum around five key themes – a strong international focus, science and technology, business, the arts and culture – and aims to foster talent. The school has a total of 776 students enrolled in the 2015/2016 academic year, with the first cohort now studying at secondary level. This is the only general school in Lower Saxony offering an Abitur – the school-leaving qualification that entitles German students to enroll in higher education – that includes “Technology/Mechatronics” as a subject.

In Ingolstadt, a model project for gifted children and young people – the first of its kind in Germany – was launched at the start of the 2014/15 academic year with support from Audi. The aim of this collaboration between the Bavarian government, the city of Ingolstadt, the Roland Berger Foundation and Audi AG is to help gifted, committed, eager-to-learn children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to study through to Abitur. Its motto is “Kein Talent verlieren” (fostering every talent), and it devises a tailored plan for each student, geared to his or her talents and needs. In the 2015/2016 academic year, 60 students are attending a preparatory course for the primary and secondary school in Ingolstadt.

We also support young people’s development around the world. Over the last three academic years, for example, the Volkswagen Group South Africa has paid school fees to enable employees’ children to attend good schools. Since 2011, we have provided a total of €280,000 in support of 34 children. Thirteen of them are now at university.

Plant-for-the-Planet

The “Plant-for-the-Planet” initiative aims to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by planting trees. The aim is to plant some 1,000 billion trees by 2020. On the initiative of the Works Council, Volkswagen is supporting this project, which has also been recognized by the German UNESCO Commission. The program includes Academies for children and young people at which they learn key facts about climate change and global fairness, and have the opportunity to take part in a plant-a-tree event. Almost all Volkswagen sites in Germany have already hosted such Academies and plant-a-tree events, and these activities will be continued.

Refugee Support Coordination Point

ΩTaking in and integrating refugees is a significant challenge for the whole of society, and Volkswagen and its employees are playing their part. A coordination point has been set up, based within the office of the Managing Director for Personnel and Organization, to collect together the wide range of activities run by brands and companies, employees and employee representatives at the various Volkswagen Group sites, and oversee joint central programs. These include an information platform and volunteering database
­(vwag-hilft.de), loans of vehicles and donations in kind across Germany, and access to training in language skills, integration and careers guidance run by Group Academy, the in-house training provider.

Volunteering at Volkswagen

Volkswagen is immensely proud of its employee volunteering initiative “Volkswagen pro Ehrenamt” (Volkswagen Supports Volunteering), which is embedded in the personnel management function. The initiative brings together volunteering activities and provides targeted support. The many Volkswagen employees who volunteer are also ambassadors for our corporate values. Since 2007, Volkswagen pro Ehrenamt has matched over 2,200 volunteers with vacancies in community initiatives. Employees wanting to volunteer in their spare time can register, and the initiative’s database will match them with an appropriate project. The program also sets a good example for other employees, encouraging more employees to volunteer.

Volunteering also boosts key competencies, especially professional and interpersonal skills, and strengthens team cohesion. The program is therefore also an important personnel development tool and helps bring out employees’ potential.

During the reporting year, 15 current and former Volkswagen employees received special recognition. They work as volunteers with organizations including the German Red Cross, Malteser International and the Wolfsburg women’s refuge, as well as youth outreach projects. Along with 4,500 other volunteers, the Volkswagen contingent were the guests of Germany’s President Joachim Gauck at his official residence, Bellevue Palace, where he presented them with awards acknowledging their commitment to volunteering.

Foto: Ehrenamtliche zu Gast beim Bundespräsidenten

Making use of Senior Experts

Employees looking for a new challenge once they have retired can volunteer with the in-house “Senior Experts” scheme. This initiative offers them an opportunity to serve the community regionally or globally by passing on their know-how within the Company or by volunteering with external organizations. In 2015, around 250 Senior Experts were able to choose projects in which they could put their specialist knowledge to good use and create a valuable exchange of experience between older and younger people. During the reporting year, 57 departments and more than 20 Volkswagen sites have benefited from the program. The knowledge transfer it facilitates is a key element in our personnel management policy and reflects former employees’ continued bond with the Company.

Civic Engagement Week of Action

As a member and cooperation partner in the German National Network for Civil Society (BBE), Volkswagen pro Ehrenamt opened the 11th nationwide Civil Engagement Week of Action at the DRIVE Volkswagen Group Forum in Berlin. To mark the citizens’ fair hosted by Germany’s President, Volkswagen pro Ehrenamt nominated 15 employees, who then received personal invitations. These employees represent Volkswagen employees’ civic engagement across all our German sites.

Foto: Foto: Auszubildene helfen im Erstaufnahmelager

Help for Refugees

Volkswagen pro Ehrenamt is also active in providing assistance for refugees and runs many different refugee support initiatives in regions where Volkswagen AG has sites. These initiatives are enthusiastically supported by Volkswagen AG employees, including a number of apprentices who have chosen to donate their time. For example, apprentices currently work as volunteers at the refugee reception center in Ehra-Lessien in Lower Saxony. They help sort donated clothing and shoes according to size and condition, and can also be found assisting with meals, preparing food for over 1,000 refugees and washing up. Volkswagen pro Ehrenamt also supports employees and organizations near other Volkswagen sites who are working with refugees through a special program providing vehicles and transportation.

Fairtrade

At the suggestion of the General Works Council, Volkswagen has been supporting the sale of products with the Fairtrade (formerly TransFair) seal in Company restaurants and cafes via its catering provider, Service Factory Gastronomie und Hotellerie, since 1999. By selling fairly traded products, Volkswagen AG is helping producers in developing countries earn a decent living. In 2015, for example, the Company bought 79 tonnes of fairly traded coffee, 32% more than in the previous year. Since late 2014, Company restaurants have also been serving three varieties of fairly traded rice, with catering facilities across our sites using a total of 14 tonnes of Fairtrade rice in 2015.

Company Donations

The Volkswagen Group’s donations and sponsorship activities are an important reflection of our commitment to fulfilling our corporate social responsibility. We support a wide range of organizations and events around the world. The principles underpinning donations and sponsorship are governed by our Group-wide Code of Conduct, which stipulates that we give donations in cash and in kind for activities and projects primarily devoted to research and education, the arts and sports, and social causes. Donations are given only to organizations that are recognized as non-profit or authorized by special provisions to accept donations. Volkswagen does not donate to political parties, party-affiliated foundations or individual politicians. In the reporting year, Volkswagen AG donated a total of €60.4 million.

Last year, the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand once again donated €250,000 to the RTL TV network’s fundraising event. The non-profit “RTL Foundation – We Help Children” has been supporting disadvantaged children and young people in Germany and abroad for the past 20 years. The Company also donated two Volkswagen Golf GTEs and a Passat estate GTE to the prize draw. The proceeds of the RTL telethon go directly toward improving the prospects of children and young people, fighting child poverty and providing emergency aid in humanitarian crises. The projects it supports include initiatives for improving educational opportunities and medical care for refugee children in Germany, language classes to boost the integration and equal opportunities of socially disadvantaged children, and construction of classrooms for children living in slums in Argentina.

The Volkswagen Group donated €200,000 to the German Red Cross in 2015 to support its relief efforts after the massive earthquake in Nepal. The money was used to provide assistance to Nepalese people in devastated areas who were forced to live in tents or on the streets. Volkswagen AG and the German Red Cross have had a strategic partnership since 2014 which, among other things, is campaigning for a sustainable emergency service in Germany and innovative models for teaching first aid. A particular focus of collaboration between the two organizations is the strengthening of voluntary and emergency services.

Employee Donations

For decades, Volkswagen employees have been taking social responsibility for those in need. In 2015, employees of Volkswagen AG alone donated more than €1.6 million. Workforce donations help support those in need in the various locations where Volkswagen AG companies and business units operate. One example is the €25,000 donation by the Wolfsburg site to the non-profit association “Wolfsburg hilft” (Wolfsburg helps) in support of its fight against leukemia. Support for projects that improve people’s situations and quality of life creates long-term prospects for project participants. The aim is to help disadvantaged groups and boost social cohesion.

In the “One Hour for the Future” campaign, Volkswagen and Audi employees donate one hour’s pay to help street children, raising substantial amounts for those in need. Since the summer of 2003, this initiative has also included the collection of “spare cents”: Volkswagen AG employees donate the odd cents that appear in their monthly pay slips.

The Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation

The Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation was set up by Volkswagen AG in 2011 as a charitable foundation with the aim of promoting initial, continuing and vocational training, as well as education and youth outreach, with a particular focus on improving the living conditions of children and young people regardless of their origin, background or religion. To achieve this effectively, the Foundation restricts its activities to areas surrounding the Group’s sites worldwide. It partners with the children’s and young people’s charity “terre des hommes” to implement projects. Since 2011, the Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation has launched or supported 13 projects in Germany and elsewhere.

For example, the “Perspektivwechsel” (A Change of Perspective) project is enabling 20 young people in Zwickau to train in logistics or as machine and systems operators. The Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation, the “Gemeinsam Ziele Erreichen” (Achieving our Goals Together) association, and nine companies in the German state of Saxony are working together to help disadvantaged young people access quality training that will enable them to enter the world of work and counter the effects of long-term labor market exclusion.

The Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation is currently supporting two projects run by the city of Wolfsburg to help refugees living in Wolfsburg integrate into society. Both projects target refugees aged between 11 and 14 years. The “Alphabetisierungsgruppen” (Literacy Groups) project supports language learning courses and also involves parents. And to make it easier for children to integrate into mainstream education in Germany, the city of Wolfsburg is running “Step by Step”, a three-month intensive integration program for refugee children.

Voluntary Projects

The Volkswagen Group initiates voluntary projects around the world, or contributes its own resources to voluntary projects. In the reporting year, for the first time, the Group used a specially developed list of criteria to record and classify these voluntary projects. In terms of both content and geographical scope, the Volkswagen Group’s 12 brands, various companies and different regions are involved in an impressively diverse range of projects. It is clear that not all project descriptions can reasonably be expected to meet identical standards of quality right from the start. Furthermore, in some cases, a single project heading may conceal a large number of separate subprojects, which are then described in detail on the individual brand portals. We have no doubt that project descriptions will steadily become more informative in future years.