For assistance on strategic topics of sustainability and societal responsibility, the Volkswagen Group appointed an international Sustainability Council in September 2016. The renowned experts from business, politics, science and society advise the company on the topics of sustainable mobility and environmental protection, social responsibility and integrity as well as the future of work and digitization. They act independently, are not bound by instructions and have extensive rights of information, consultation and initiative. The Council meets regularly with the Group Management Board as well as the employee representatives and also ex-changed perspectives with the Monitor team. The Council advises the company and makes recommendations as to what steps it considers necessary to become a world-leading provider of sustainable mobility. In 2020, the Volkswagen Group extended the mandate of the Sustainability Council until 2022.
“In the Sustainability Council we interpret our mandate as tasking us to articulate our demands clearly and communicate them to be addressed by the company. We see that sustainability as a strategic goal is now firmly anchored in the Volkswagen Group. We are delighted to be continuing our support, because the best contribution Volkswagen can make toward climate protection is to assume a pioneering role and demonstrate that climate protection works.”
In spring 2021, the Council took stock of the company’s sustainability and decarbonisation progress. The Council members in particular discussed human rights and compliance, sustainable supply chain activities, carbon pricing, CEO Alliance and energy solutions with company experts and executives. During the meeting with the Board of Management the topics ESG, global policy landscape, social responsibility and purpose were addressed. In a letter to the Board of Management they summarized their observations and recommendations. The letter is available in the download section below.
Above that, the Council agreed on a new project “Work and Qualification 2030: Resources and strategies for sustainable work and qualification within and for an innovative transformative change”.
In 2020, the Council oversaw the start of the new e-mobility era – by visiting the first ID.3 production plant of Volkswagen in Zwickau as well as the Gläserne Manufaktur and by test-driving the ID.3. The Sustainability Council also talked with the Volkswagen Group Board of Management and the Group Works Council about the opportunities and challenges accompanying the workforce transformation. In September, the Volkswagen Group extended the mandate of the Sustainability Council until 2022. The Council will expands its roles as a driver of new topics and pain point issues and as a challenger for Volkswagen’s strategic initiatives on sustainability. Furthermore, Rebecca Harms, former Member of the European Parliament, and Magdalena Gerger, CEO and President of the Swedish enterprise Systembolaget AB, have become new members of the Council. The focus of the autumn meeting was the reconstitution of the Council and the future orientation. In addition to the meeting with the Group Board of Management, the Council gained insights into the sustainability requirements of the capital market and sus-tainability in China, South Africa and Scania.
Some Council projects were finalized in 2020: The study on employment effects of e-mobility and digitization published its project results by the end of the year. The internal project team on the development of a comprehensive sustainability narrative, supported by the Council, integrated their findings and concepts in the Group strategy. The Open Source Lab on Sustainable Mobility developed a prototype mobility emission tracking application “MECO2”, an open mobility taxonomy, and a sustainable mobility kit. Additionally, they published further research on mobility partnerships between the public and private sector. They finished their work by providing all project resource online in an open source format and integrating their efforts in the DFKI. The research project on transport policy instruments for reaching international climate goals released further scientific results, policy briefs, and public simulation tools on their final project website. At the same time, the project team began their work on the new study on fiscal reforms for inclusive mobility.
In 2019, the Council meetings focused on the social aspects of the transformation as well as mobility services and the planned software organization. They also organized two stakeholder roundtable on decarbonization and commuter mobility. Meanwhile, the projects started in 2018 showed first results: The Open Source Lab on Sustainable Mobility organized dialogue events and published first white papers. The international program on Forecast-based Financing implemented first mechanisms. The research project on transport policy instruments for reaching international climate goals published its first policy briefs. The professorship on Open Science commenced their efforts.
The Council also agreed on new projects starting in 2020: a study on the employment effects of digitization and e-mobility at Volkswagen, a research project on the distributional effects of fiscal policies for climate protection, and support local efforts for a sustainable cobalt supply chain. Above all, the Sustainability Council provided further recommendations on how to real-ize the necessary technology, policy and culture shift to achieve a successful transition.
In 2018, the focus was on the topics Future Pact, integrity and cultural change as well as e-mobility. In this context, the Council received insight into the Roadmap E and the I.D. models and participated in the Volkswagen Future Mobility Days alongside the Group Management Board. Furthermore, the Sustainability Council implemented the three projects decided in 2017 and decided on three further initiatives: a project on a sustainable battery supply chain, a visit-ing professorship on open labs and cultural change, and the development of a comprehensive sustainability narrative for the Volkswagen Group.
In 2017, the Council focused on the global CO2 regulations for the automotive industry as well as the transformation process of the company. The Sustainability Council initiated and moderated an open exchange between Volkswagen representatives and NGOs through two meetings in form of a stakeholder roundtable on global emission standards in the passenger car and truck sectors. In addition, the Council launched three projects: a dialogue platform on innovation and cultural change in the field of sustainable mobility, an international program to mitigate the effects of climate change through forecast-based financing of disaster prevention, and a scientific study on future transport policy frameworks in line with international climate targets.
In 2016, the Sustainability Council met the Volkswagen Group Board of Management for their inaugural meeting in Berlin. The Council members received first insights regarding the strategic initiatives and sustainability at Volkswagen.
Projects of the Sustainability Council
Effects of electric mobility and digitization on the quality and quantity of employment at Volkswagen
How will the structure of automotive employment change during the transformation towards e-mobility? What impact is digitization having on jobs within the next years? How are both trends and their effects interconnected? The Fraunhofer IAO together with the Volkswagen Human Re-source and Production Department performed joint data collection, analysis and modelling to evaluate qualitative and quantitative employment effects of e-mobility and digitization. The findings of the project shall serve as a valid basis for identifying and developing measures for a successful workforce transformation. The project results can be found at: Beschäftigung 2030 - Auswirkungen von Elektromobilität und Digitalisierung auf die Qualität und Quantität der Beschäftigung bei Volkswagen; Abschlussbericht. (Available in German only)
Start of the project: 10/2019, finalized 12/2020
How will future CO2 regulation and decarbonization affect the automotive industry? How should Volkswagen participate in the political debate? What solutions are there for the tense field of commuter mobility? The Sustainability Council brought together NGOs and representatives of Volkswagen management to discuss these questions in an open and trusting dialogue and to critically reflect on the respective points of view.
- Stakeholder Roundtable: CO2 regulation - 23.05.2017
- Stakeholder Roundtable: CO2 regulation - 20.11.2017
- Stakeholder Roundtable: Decarbonisation - 26.02.2019
- Stakeholder Roundtable: Commuter mobility - 22.05.2019
- Stakeholder Roundtable: CO2 regulation - 23.05.2017
Open Source Lab for Sustainable Mobility
What innovative ideas are there for sustainable mobility of the future? The Open Source Lab provides a platform for an innovative stakeholder dialogue about sustainable mobility solutions for the future. The project aimed to explore innovative scenarios in the interface of open source and mobility and to discussed possible approaches with experts from a wide variety of disciplines and sectors. Besides that, the Open Source Lab on Sustainable Mobility developed a prototype mobility emission tracking application “MECO2”, an open mobility taxonomy, and a sustainable mobility kit. Additionally, they published further research on mobility partnerships between the public and private sector. They finished their work by providing all project resource online in an open source format and integrating their efforts in the DFKI.
The executing project partner was the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). More about the project in their blog at: Open Source Lab
Start of the project: 06/2018, finalized 09/2020
Transformation Towards Sustainable Transport Systems – The Next Generation Policies
What are effective policy and legislation to help the transport sector limit global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees? The project explores different policy approaches on the decarboniza-tion of mobility. It examines
- the effects of different decarbonization strategies,
- the related climate-policy and economic challenges, and
- the effectiveness of different policy instruments.
Especially innovative is the evaluation of large datasets. In June 2020, the project team released its scientific results, policy briefs, and public simulation tools on their final project website.
Project partners were the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). More about the project at: Next Generartion Policy Project
Start of the project: 06/2018, finalized 06/2020
Forecast-based Financing – Combat Climate Change Impacts in Asia-Pacific
How can we protect people before a climate-related natural disasters hits? How do we help mitigate the effects of climate change on vulnerable regions? Forecast-based financing aims to increase the effectiveness of disaster prevention measures. Through a transfer of financial aid, prior to the catastrophe, people can be protected in time and relief supplies can be provided in advance.
Project partners are the German Red Cross (DRK) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). More about Forecast-based Financing.
Start of the project: 03/2018, duration: 2018-2022
Guest Professorship at ECDF on Open Labs and Cultural Change
How can open labs and new concepts of collaboration help shape the working world of the future? The Council financed guest professorship at the Einstein Center Digital Future at the University of the Arts in Berlin aims to increase the knowledge of the academic community on the subject of "Open Science" in its various forms, taking into account aspects of sustainability, diversity and the creative experiment. It is examining the potentials, challenges and framework conditions of open labs, think tanks and other forms of interdisciplinary collaboration, that are already found in practice.
Start of the project: 04/2019, duration: 2019-2022
Fiscal Reforms for Inclusive Mobility
How will fiscal policy instruments, targeted at promoting e-mobility and decarbonization, ef-fect vulnerable groups? How can negative effects be mitigated by corresponding legislation? The project sheds light on various policy instruments on e-mobility of selected EU countries with regard to their effectiveness for reaching climate targets, distribution effects (especially regarding disadvantaged population groups) and social acceptance. In addition to the analysis, the project includes dialog formats for the integration and information of the relevant stake-holder groups.
Start of the project: 06/2020, duration: 2020-2022
Work and qualification 2030
How can changes in employment through e-mobility and digitisation be managed? How to best use the employees’ potential? Which forms of qualification can help shape the transformation? Under the leadership of the Chair of Sociology at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, the German research team is addressing these questions in cooperation with the Volkswagen Human Resources Department. The research project builds on the findings of the "Employment 2030" study and aims at the depth, potential and resources of people, organization and learning to shape the digital and ecological transformation. The results of the study are expected to be published in 2022.
Project duration: 2021-2022
“Sustainability is a key factor for the success of our company. Volkswagen will only confidently stride into the future if we undergo a transformation. The independent Sustainability Council acquires even greater significance for our Group as we make this transition. We want to intensify our dialog – a debate that also embraces criticism. With its independent expertise, the Sustainability Council is a driver and a corrective for our strategy.”
Members of the Sustainability Council
Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer – Co-Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer is professor for Economics of Climate Change at the Technical University Berlin, co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC).
Professor Ottmar Edenhofer (born 1961 in Bavaria) studied economics and philosophy at the University of Munich and holds a diploma in economics from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and a B.A. in philosophy (“summa cum laude”) from the Munich School of Philosophy (Hochschule für Philosophie). In 1999, he wrote his Ph.D. thesis in economics (“summa cum laude”).
Among others, he is member of the German National Academy of Science Leopoldina, the German National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech, the Academy of Sciences Hamburg, the International Association of Energy Economics (IAEE), the Advisory Committee of the Green Growth Knowledge Platform as well as Council Member for the Climate Change Advisory Council in Dublin (Ireland) and member of the Advisory Committee to Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative CMI (USA).
Being one of three co-chairs of WG III, Ottmar Edenhofer led the assessment cycle of the IPCC Working Group III from 2008 to 2015 which produced the Fifth Assessment Report "Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change" in April 2014.
Ottmar Edenhofer authored a considerable number of articles published by Science, PNAS, Nature Climate Change and in various high-ranking environment, energy and resource economics publications and various books.
Magdalena Gerger – CEO & President, Systembolaget AB
Magdalena Gerger is the President & CEO of Systembolaget AB. Systembolaget is a Swedish retailer of wines, beers and spirits, with sales of over 3 billion Euro and 5,500 employees and it is a State-owned enterprise. Magdalena holds non-executive board positions with Investor AB and Humana and previously held board positions with Ingka Holding BV (IKEA), Husqvarna AB and Ahlsell AB among others. She is also on the non-executive board of a number pro-bono organisations and academia. Prior to joining Systembolaget, Magdalena held positions as Senior Vice President of Arla Foods with responsibilities for Global Fresh Dairy and Nordic Marketing & Innovation. Magdalena held positions as Category Head at Nestle UK - for Retail Coffee. At Tambrands (now Proctor & Gamble) she held the position as UK Marketing Director and at ICI Paints UK as Marketing Director. She was responsible for launching Häagen-Dazs in the Nordics as European marketing Manager at Grand Metropolitan Ltd. She graduated with an MBA from Stockholm School of Economics in 1989.
Rebecca Harms – Former President of the European Green faction in the European Parliament
Rebecca Harms was a member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2019. In this period, she served as President of the European Green fraction in the European Parliament for eight years. Before that, Rebecca Harms was a longtime member of the Parliament of Lower Saxony for Germany‘s Green Party and the Leader of the Green fraction from 1998 to 2004. Until 2017, she also was a member of the Green Party Council.
Prior to joining the Green faction, Rebecca was co-founder of the citizens’ initiative Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Lüchow-Dannenberg, which became an influential grassroots organization in the German Anti-Nuclear-Movement. She was involved in projects in her home region for sustainable development and ecological farming and held different leading positions in the German anti-nuclear-movement.
In 2020, Rebecca Harms will become a member of the Assembly of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
Connie Hedegaard – former EU Commissioner for Climate Action
Connie Hedegaard is chairwoman of the board at Aarhus University and chairwoman of the KR Foundation, an international climate foundation. From 2010 to 2014, Ms. Hedegaard was European Commissioner for Climate Action and from 2004 to 2009 Danish Minister for Environment and Nordic Cooperation as well as Minister for Climate and Energy.
Ms. Hedegaard was born in Holbæk (Denmark) in 1960 and graduated in 1991 with a master‘s degree in literature and history. She started her political career as a member of the Danish Parliament for the Conservative People’s Party in 1984. From 1990 to 2004 she worked as a journalist for various media outlets before she continued her political career.
Among others, Ms. Hedegaard is Chairwoman of the OECD Round Table for Sustainable Development, Member of the Board of Directors of the companies Danfoss and Nordex, Chairwoman of Berlingske Media Group.
Connie Hedegaard was awarded with the Ebbe Munck Award, the Christian Listeners and Viewers Association Award, the People’s Education Association Culture Award and the National Press Club of Denmark Award.
Georg Kell – Founding Director UN Global Compact
Georg Kell is Chairman of Arabesque, a technology company that uses AI and big data to assess sustainability performance relevant for investment analysis and decision making. He is also Co-chair of the DWS ESG Advisory Board.
Georg Kell is the founding Director of the United Nations Global Compact, the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative. During his career of almost three decades at the United Nations, working directly with former Secretary Generals Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Kell built the UN Global Compact and oversaw the launch of its sister initiatives, including the Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI), the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), and the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE).
Mr. Kell started his career as a research fellow in engineering at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Innovation in Berlin. He then worked as a financial analyst in various African and Asian countries before joining the United Nations in 1987. A native of Germany, Mr. Kell holds advanced degrees in economics and engineering from the Technical University of Berlin
Margo T. Oge, former Director of Transportation Air Quality, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Margo T. Oge is the former Director of the Office of Transportation Air Quality of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where she served for 32 years. She was the key architect of some of the most important achievements in reducing air pollution from cars, trucks, locomotives and marine vessels and off road equipment. She led the implementation of the EPA’s first-ever national greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and heavy-duty trucks to double fuel efficiency by 2025 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. Also led the implementation of the US Renewable Fuels Standard and was instrumental in establishing the United Nations process on global harmonization of transportation emission standards worldwide.
She is the author of the book “Driving the Future: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars” and serves as a Distinguished Fellow with the ClimateWorks Foundation. She is also the Chairwoman of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) Board, member of the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), member of the National Academies of Science Advisory Committee for the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program.
Ms. Oge was born in Athens, Greece and holds a master‘s degree in engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
She received Presidential Awards from Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as well as numerous environmental and industry awards.
Prof. Ye Qi, Director of Institute of Public Policy at Hong Kong University Science and Technology
Ye Qi is Professor of Public Policy and Director of Institute of Public Policy at Hong Kong University Science and Technology. Prior to joining HKUST in January 2019, he was the Cheung Kong Professor of Environmental Policy and Management at Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management, and the Volkswagen Professor of Sustainability at Schwarzman College. From April 2014 to January 2019, he was Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Director of Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy. He was appointed as Cheung Kong Professor of Environmental Science at Beijing Normal University from 2002-2005. Before returning to China in 2003, he taught ecosystem management and climate change science at the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at University of California, Berkeley from 1996 through 2003. Ye Qi received his Ph. D. in Environmental Science in 1994 jointly awarded by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Syracuse University.
His research areas include the governance and policy of the environment, energy, climate change and urbanization. His current research focuses on the energy transition and low-carbon development in a rapidly urbanizing world. Ye Qi led China’s first low-carbon development plan for the city of Baoding. He has been leading the research and writing of the Annual Review of Low-Carbon Development in China since 2010. He has over 200 publications on peer-reviewed journals, books, newspapers, think tank outlets and other magazines.
Michael Sommer, former President of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB)
Michael Sommer is Deputy Chairman of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and former Chairman of the Confideration of German Trade Unions (DGB).
Michael Sommer was born in Büderich (Germany) in 1952. He studied german and political sciences at Free University Berlin and holds a degree in political science. From 1980 to 1993, he was Trade Union Secretary in various positions at Deutsche Postgewerkschaft (German posts and telecommunications trade union) in Bremen and Frankfurt/Main. Afterwards, he was a member of the executive committee and deputy chairman of Deutsche Postgewerkschaft as well as deputy chairman of trade union Ver.di. From 2002 to 2014, Mr. Sommer was chairman of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) and – between 2010 and 2014 – president of the International Trade Union Confederation.
From 2002 to 2014, he was Chairman of the trade-union linked Hans Böckler Foundation, which is close to the trade unions. Since 2003, he controls the affairs of Germany's largest television broadcaster - until 2015 as a member of the Television Council and since 2016 as a member of the Board of Directors of Second German Television (ZDF). There he chairs the Finance and Investment Committee.
Michael Sommer was a long-standing member of Supervisory Boards of private and public companies. For twelve years, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Germany's largest public bank, the KfW Development Bank, Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Postbank AG from 1997 to 2013, a member of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Telekom AG from 2000 to 2019 and of Salzgitter AG from 2006 to 2011.
He was also a long-standing member of the Board of Trustees of the Volkswagen Foundation, the Administrative Board of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Innovation Advisory Council of the German Federal Government.
He was awarded the first-class Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Grand Gold Medal of the Republic of Austria and the Order of Merit of the State of Berlin.
Elhadj As Sy, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation Board, Co-chair of the WHO/World Bank Global Pandemic Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB)
Elhadj As Sy is the Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation Board, and Co-chair of the WHO/World Bank Global Pandemic Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB). In addition to these functions, Mr. Sy is also a Commissioner for the Global Commission on Climate Adaptation, Governor at the Wellcome Trust, and a member of numerous other boards and organizations.
Mr. Sy has extensive experience in leadership roles in the humanitarian, health, environment, development sectors, and has previously served as the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) IFRC ‐ the world’s largest humanitarian network. Prior to this appointment, he served at a senior level with UNICEF, UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and other agencies for more than 25 years.
Mr. Sy was UNICEF’s Director of Partnerships and Resource Development in New York. He has also served as UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa and Global Emergency Coordinator for the Horn of Africa.
From 2005 to 2008, Mr. Sy was Director, HIV/AIDS Practice with the United Nations Development Programme in New York. Before that, he worked with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as its Africa Regional Director and later as Director of Operational Partnerships and Country Support in Geneva. Mr. Sy has also held the position of UNAIDS Representative in New York and Director of the New York Liaison Office.
From 1988 to 1997, he served as Director of Health and Development Programmes with Environment and Development Action in the Third World in Dakar, Senegal.
Mr. Sy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and Human Sciences from the University of Dakar. He then pursued Master’s studies in Arts and Germanistik at the University of Graz, and graduated from the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. He was also awarded a post graduate diploma in Education from the École normale supérieure in Dakar. He speaks English, French and German and is a national of Senegal.
Letter from the Sustainability Council to the Board of Management
Press release on the continuation of the Sustainability Council
October 2016 – October 2018 – A brief interim report
First Interim Report of the Sustainability Advisory Board of the Volkswagen Group
Letter from Dr. Herbert Diess to the Sustainability Council with the desire to expand cooperation
Written recommendations of the Sustainability Council on a technology, policy and culture shift
Written recommendations of the Sustainability Council on environmental leadership