“Our controls are clearly insufficient when it comes to ethical judgment. We recognize that we have to question with much greater sensitivity whether content could potentially be discriminatory, offensive, or disturbing for people,” says Jürgen Stackmann, member of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars Board of Management responsible for Marketing and After Sales.
The actions in detail:
- Improvements in processes by establishing a permanent approval checkpoint at our company and on the agency side. To this end, we will create a board with diversity experts outside of the creative process, who will review creative content for potentially offensive, discriminatory and otherwise critical elements.
- Significantly boost training on ethics and culture in our own team and on the agency side.
- Ensure heterogeneity and greater diversity in our teams.
- Create a horizontal social media organization for better response and control.
At its last meeting, the Group Board of Management discussed the results of Group Audit’s investigation and resolved to take action. “On behalf of the Board of Management, I want to formally apologize for offending people as a result of a lack of intercultural sensitivity. This was a violation of values for which Volkswagen stands,” explains Hiltrud D. Werner, member of the Volkswagen Group Board of Management responsible for Integrity and Legal Affairs.
As part of the investigation, Group Audit analyzed around 400 files with a data volume of more than 16.5 GB and conducted interviews with employees, primarily in marketing, procurement and the legal department, as well as with the external agencies involved. “On this basis, we can state that racist intentions did not play any role whatsoever. We found a lack of sensitivity and procedural errors. And we are now taking targeted steps in response,” continues Werner.
Jochen Sengpiehl, Chief Marketing Officer, confirms: “The critical point is that we failed to spot the racist elements of this video. I want to apologize for this error of judgment, also on behalf of the team. A key finding of the investigation is that we need an out-of-context review. Each individual clip must be unequivocal and non-critical, even without the general context. I will personally make sure that the actions resolved will be implemented in day-to-day business operations.”
One of the seven Volkswagen Group Essentials is “We live diversity”. This is a crucial part of the Group’s DNA. Volkswagen stands for humanity and diversity and speaks out strongly against racism, discrimination and xenophobia.