Mr. Stackmann, how did you react when you learned about the video?
When a colleague called me at 11 p.m. on May 19 and then sent me the link, my first thought was: That must be a fake. My second thought was: Someone has hacked our account. I was deeply shocked and asked myself: Was it sabotage or have we really made such a huge blunder unintentionally?What happened next?
We examined the matter so that we could understand what exactly had happened and what action we need to take so that something like it doesn’t happen again. And I’ve thought a lot about the incident. Because one thing’s clear: Even though the investigation did not reveal any indications of racist intentions, we rightly stand accused of a lack of intercultural sensitivity and lack of knowledge. And, as member of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars Board of Management responsible for Sales, Marketing and After Sales, I take responsibility for that. I will personally make sure that the actions resolved will be implemented.
How do you explain the video – and why was it published in the first place?
It seems very clear that, apart from mistakes in the process chain, there were also shortcomings in creating sensitivity among employees. Despite our diverse and international teams, a racist video was produced. Our investigations revealed no indications of racist intentions on the part of the team and the people involved. But that doesn’t make things much better.
Where were mistakes made?
Our controls are clearly inadequate 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. Those are the guidelines we have to set ourselves.
A second lesson learned is that there are too many cracks in the process. There’s no comprehensive overview of our digital communication. As we saw from the example of my own Twitter account: The team responded to the negative comments right away, but the warnings weren’t pursued further in the process chain. We need simpler, more transparent processes, holistic responsibilities and a better response to reports from the community.
It’s also my conviction that we need greater diversity and internationality in our teams. Heterogeneous teams offer the opportunity to enhance cultural sensitivity. We need to tackle that issue as quickly as possible.
What consequences will there be precisely?
We have to address a number of things:
- Improvements in processes by establishing a permanent approval checkpoint at agencies and at Volkswagen. To this end, we want to create a board with diversity experts who have nothing to do with the creative process, but check and filter creative content for potentially offensive, discriminatory and otherwise critical elements – both at Volkswagen and on the agency side.
- Significantly boost training on ethics and culture in our own team and on the agency side.
- Ensuring heterogeneity and greater diversity in our teams.
- Creation of an horizontal social media organization for better response and control.
However, we are not only relying on ourselves: We will obtain help and support from independent NGOs that explicitly deal with the issue of racism, as well as other topics relating to diversity and discrimination. We have contacted various organizations in the past week. We will also integrate such experts in our teams. Volkswagen lives from diversity.
I again wish to apologize to everyone whose feelings have been hurt by this thoughtless spot. That was a wake-up call. It’s our duty to fight racism every day.