Ms Werner, what did you and the board of management undertake for the elucidation?
I can well understand the public reaction to the short video. I along with the entire Board of Management have been committed to investigating as quickly and fully as possible, how this mistake could occur and why our control processes failed. Also on behalf of the Board of Management, I want to formally apologize for offending people because of a lack of intercultural sensitivity. What happened violated the values Volkswagen stands for.
What does Volkswagen stand for?
Volkswagen stands for humanity, diversity and tolerance. The company and the entire workforce speak out strongly against racism and discrimination.
When you say that the employees speak out strongly against racism, what specifically do you mean?
Our employees are demanding a full investigation and explanation of what occurred. Many comments expressing outrage about the campaign have been posted on the Volkswagen employee portal. Many have stated their opinion very clearly and are calling for changes. However, that also shows me that Volkswagen is in the midst of a cultural change.
What did the report by Group Audit reveal?
All processes and decisions relating to the video were looked and analyzed. The most important finding first: Group Audit’s investigations did not find that racist motives played a role in any form whatsoever. Yet the video was still produced. Many interviews with employees from Marketing, Procurement and the Legal department, as well as with the external agencies involved were conducted. And also400 files with a data volume of more than 16.5 GB were analyzed. The cause is a lack of sensitivity at Volkswagen and on the agency side as well as mistakes in the process chain.
Can you be more specific?
We analyzed process-related errors. They include the fact that in some quarters there was not an appropriate response to the first warnings from social media or the warnings did not reach the people responsible. I feel it’s important to emphasize that there were no racist motives.
What consequences is Volkswagen drawing from the situation?
Some people are publicly calling for the dismissal of the people responsible as a consequence of the video. Disciplinary and personnel committees at our company decide whether there are consequences for staff in connection with process-related errors and I have great trust in their work. However, we would only take such steps if our Code of Conduct and values have been violated knowingly and intentionally – if it were not just a mistake, but if gross negligence or even willful intent were revealed.
As you know, I’m also responsible in my function for the issue of integrity and therefore for a healthy error culture. It’s important to learn the right lessons from mistakes; mistakes will always occur and what counts is to learn from them.
And Integrity also means that we as managers and as a company stand by our employees even when mistakes were made. Therefore there will be no “sacrificial lamb.”
We have to significantly enhance intercultural, ethical and moral sensitivity at Volkswagen and on the side of all affiliated agencies and organize internal processes in such a way that content of this sort cannot be produced again. That means specifically that we will consult with independent experts and as a next step provide more intensive training, sensitize employees more keenly and impose tighter controls.