Dialog with stakeholders
Responsible action requires entering into dialog with stakeholders and taking their interests seriously. That is why Audi launched a stakeholder management system in 2012, based on the AccountAbility 1000 (AA1000AS) standard.
The Company holds regular discussions with all relevant stakeholders. This includes the “Responsibility Perspective” lecture series, which Audi began in 2013 and which promotes dialog between Audi employees and representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutes and the world of politics. The aim of these exchanges is to take a differentiated but critical look at various viewpoints on the subject of sustainability. At Neckarsulm, environmental discussions with the public have been held since 1993 and there have been so-called neighborhood dialogs for more than a decade, the most recent at the end of 2013. The Audi Innovation Dialog gives students and employees in Audi Production a platform for open and creative discussion. The aim is to promote innovation. For the first Stakeholder Forum in 2012 at the Ingolstadt site, AUDI AG held open discussions with more than 60 stakeholders.
The “Responsibility Perspective” series of lectures offers Audi employees the opportunity to enter into dialog with representatives from NGOs, academics and politicians on the subject of sustainability. The discussions focus on future issues, social developments and the associated opportunities and challenges.
Guests included Dr. Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace International from 2001 to 2009, and Prof. Hubert Weiger, Chairman of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND). With this series of presentations, AUDI AG is encouraging the regular exchange of opinions with interesting personalities in the field of sustainability, offering a platform for a constructive exchange of ideas with employees.
“Connected vehicles – how will Audi shape the future of mobility?”
Digitalization and connectivity are two major topic areas that are set to have a profound influence and change the face of mobility in the years to come. The company decided to put these vital future-oriented topics on the agenda for discussion at the Audi Stakeholder Forum 2014. For Audi, corporate responsibility primarily means interlinking social and economic benefit, and safeguarding the company’s lasting competitiveness by acting in a forward-looking manner.
The Audi Stakeholder Forum 2014 was therefore entitled “Connected vehicles – how will Audi shape the future of mobility?”. Around 120 participants from the fields of business, science, politics and society came together to discuss the future of mobility. These included representatives from Siemens, Greenpeace, the Association of the German Automotive Industry (VDA) and the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA). The composition of the group of participants provided for animated and constructive debates.
Key findings and theses
“Communication between vehicles and other vehicles, vehicles and infrastructure or vehicles and the internet can greatly enhance safety on our roads,” emphasized Axel Strotbek, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG. Digitalization and connectivity offer great new development opportunities for the future of mobility together with superior quality of life, Strotbek went on to say. He also pointed out the challenges involved with the usage of data.
According to tech blogger Sascha Pallenberg, the car will not disappear from our cities – instead it will evolve into a central network node. In his keynote speech, Pallenberg highlighted how global developments revolutionize mobility on the one hand, while, on the other, the car can itself be the trigger for revolutionary developments. He appealed for a bolder approach when dealing with topics such as digitalization and data connectivity, saying that the digitalized car had the potential to become “the next big thing”. The onus to act is not just on the automotive industry, though: Pallenberg sees the car as increasingly becoming a product of the connection and exchange between industries and sectors that still largely work independently of one another today.
José Castillo, architect and Harvard professor, is formulating a positive scenario for data usage. Castillo, who is taking part in this year’s Audi Urban Future Award as part of the Mexico City team, presented his vision of a city that “takes the data highway out of permanent congestion”. In what is the “world’s worst commuter city” according to the IBM commuter pain index, he is seeking to prove that individual mobility can solve the problems it caused in the first place through the intelligent use of data. With the help of crowdsourcing, a valid database was created in Mexico City to enable sustainable urban and traffic planning. “The aim is to explore new forms of collaboration between government, businesses, science and inhabitants in order to enhance mobility in the city of the future in a targeted manner,” explained Castillo.
In a series of three workshops, the participants and representatives from Audi debated the topics of “Connected vehicles”, “Connected data” and “Connected city” at great length. As far as connected mobility is concerned, the stakeholders see it as crucial that the customer continues to have the final say on how data is handled. Customers must still be able to decide for themselves what data they wish to use or share in the future. Furthermore, (it is believed that) standards of road safety should be improved by the connection of vehicles, and that this is up to car manufacturers in particular.
One of the key results of the discussions was that an increasing degree of connection must be accompanied by greater transparency towards both customers and society.
The future of mobility, with all the potential and challenges it holds, is a collective task. The Forum participants agreed that no one sector alone is able to solve the mobility problems in our cities. Car manufacturers must take a bolder approach to the issue of “big data” in order to overcome system boundaries and collaborate together on mobility concepts for the future.
The findings from the Stakeholder Forum are being collated, edited and checked for their relevance for Audi. They will be made available to the appropriate technical departments at Audi so that they can be incorporated into the development of future technologies.
Audi experts discussed corporate responsibility with all relevant stakeholder groups at the “Audi Stakeholder Forum 2012.” The participants considered aspects of sustainability at four different workshops, with a common focus on the changing shape of mobility. Guests from international companies, environmental protection and aid organizations, associations and academic institutes took part in the discussion.
At the first Audi Stakeholder Forum, which took place at the Ingolstadt site in November 2012, Audi held discussions with over 60 stakeholder representatives. These representatives were drawn from environmental protection and civil society organizations, from local educational bodies and global aid organizations, from federations and universities, from Audi itself and from other internationally operating companies.
Thomas Sigi, Member of the Audi Board of Management for Human Resources, stressed in his keynote speech: “Companies are a significant component of society. We have the opportunity and the obligation to make our society a better place. In all important decisions we strive for a balance between social responsibility, ecology and economics. We do this through an open dialog with society, our employees and our stakeholders.”
Peter Tropschuh, Head of Corporate Responsibility, gave a detailed insight into Audi’s CR strategy during the forum. He explained how assuming responsibility has long been part of Audi’s self-perception. “Audi believes there is no inherent contradiction between economic stability, sporty mobility and responsibility,” emphasized Tropschuh. He explained how its focus is on gradually accomplishing the shift in production and mobility towards CO2 neutrality.
Audi had already sounded out the socially relevant groups regarding their expectations in an online survey and through expert interviews conducted before the event. Among the important findings were that the stakeholders viewed employee responsibility particularly positively at Audi, and rated the product subject area as the top priority. The participants discussed the findings and conclusions of this survey with Audi experts Dagobert Achatz, Head of Environmental Protection in Ingolstadt, Stefanie Ulrich, Head of HR for the Neckarsulm site, Johann Gessler, Head of Powertrain Testing, and Peter Tropschuh, Head of Corporate Responsibility.
Focus on four issues
In the eyes of the stakeholders, carmakers should concern themselves with four issues in particular. The first of these was the changing shape of mobility. They were interested to find out how an all-encompassing technological concept for alternative energy sources and electric mobility might look, and where the limits of an automotive manufacturer lie. Regarding environmental protection at the sites, the central issue was whether water and CO2 are the principal ecological challenges in all regions. Other aspects included how the Company can inspire its employees to take up the cause of environmental protection and whether protecting biodiversity is among its tasks.
The third subject area concerned the role of social commitment in the employer-workforce relationship. The issue at stake is how to motivate employees to sign up to preventive health care opportunities and how volunteering can be promoted. A further issue was: What opportunities do employees have to use their specialist skills to the benefit of society?
The focus within the subject area of transparency and reporting was on the question of what role a major industrial enterprise must assume in society. The participants also discussed what it is reasonable to expect of a Corporate Responsibility Report and what channels of communication are appropriate for stakeholders.
The findings and conclusions of the Audi Stakeholder Forum serve as the basis for future corporate decisions. In future, the discussions will be held on a regular basis, taking a variety of formats.
The Audi site in Neckarsulm regularly holds a discussion forum entitled “Among neighbors,” during which direct neighbors can talk openly with the plant management about current developments and social commitments at the location. ”It’s very important for us to have an open discussion and a good relationship with local residents,” explains Plant Manager Fred Schulze. “Suggestions from the neighbors are consistently noted and followed up.”
This direct and regular dialog with local residents is a firmly established cornerstone of AUDI AG’s sustainability strategy, which is much appreciated by the neighbors and used for intensive discussions with Audi representatives.