Dialogue with stakeholders
Responsible action requires entering into dialogue 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 dialogue between Audi employees and representatives from non-governmental organisations (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 neighbourhood dialogues for more than a decade, most recently at the end of 2015. The Audi Innovation Dialogue 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 dialogue 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.
Past guest speakers include Dr. Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace International from 2001 to 2009, and Professor Hubert Weiger, Chairman of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND). With this lecture series, AUDI AG is encouraging the regular exchange of opinions with interesting personalities in the field of sustainability and offers a platform for constructive discussions with our employees.
International dialogue with experts from the worlds of politics, business and science: in November 2016, some 100 participants discussed the opportunities and challenges of electric mobility at the third Audi Stakeholder Forum in Brussels. This event about the technology of the future focused on the demands facing research and development in Europe. Another major topic was the shaping of business models and the next steps in expanding the charging infrastructure. The goal of the Audi Stakeholder Forum is to achieve an even deeper open exchange with experts. The forum is also intended to provide major impulses for all parties involved.
The general drift of the event was that the electrification of drives is a key step on the road to sustainable mobility. Electric mobility provides opportunities for an energy revolution, but at the same time companies, the business world and politicians are facing various challenges: they need to assess customer requirements and the sustainability of electric mobility, flesh out new business models and define legal frameworks. “The future of individual mobility will increasingly be electric,” explains Dr. Stefan Niemand, Head of Electrification at AUDI AG. He went on to outline how the concept can only succeed if car manufacturers take the infrastructure, range and sustainability aspects into consideration from the outset.
In his keynote address Lukas Neckermann, Managing Director of the London management consultants Neckermann Strategic Advisors, mapped out the changes that lie ahead. Neckermann advocates a new form of mobility and is convinced that we are heading for a “mobility revolution”. He sees the driving forces behind this revolution as the rising number of electric vehicles and the growth of the car sharing market. He believes alternative forms of transport and new mobility services will increasingly become part of everyday life. The result will above all be safer traffic and lower CO2 emissions.
At the first Audi Dealer Dialogue on the subject of sustainability, participants were able to take a look “behind the scenes” of the company on a tour of the factory. During the event, Audi engaged in discussions with the managing directors and dealer consultants on the subject of sustainability above and beyond the product. Together with the respective departments, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Felix Tropschuh (Head of Corporate Responsibility and Policy) and Heiko Schmidt (Head of Dealer Development Germany) presented sustainability projects and measures in the areas of training, sustainable product development, procurement, logistics and environmental protection.
As direct touchpoints with the customer, dealers are one of the most important stakeholder groups for the company. During dialogue, Audi learns what customers need and expect from a manufacturer of premium cars, and the company can pass on important messages to the dealers and thus to customers as well. Regular communication helps to clarify transparency and further strengthen trust in the company.
The fact is… sustainability is gaining importance in purchasing decisions. Customers expect companies to actively assume responsibility for socially relevant future issues. For Audi, this means consistently implementing sustainability in products and processes.
During the dialogue it became clear that the company’s messages play a decisive role in the purchasing decision and that the brand image goes far beyond pure product messages. Customers are no longer only interested in product features and instead are increasingly asking questions about the fundamental processes.
In the film “Sustainability at Audi”, experts from various departments at Audi present projects and measures along the value chain.
We have collected the central messages of the departments in a recap:
“I was not aware of the holistic approach to sustainability to this extent. The sustainability, from production in the plant through to the supplier or dealership, was impressive.”
In October 2015, the first vocational training conference entitled “Opportunities for dual education in Hungary” took place at AUDI HUNGARIA MOTOR Kft. The conference, whose patron was Minister for National Economics Mihály Varga, provided around 200 participants with a platform for networking, shop talk and discussions surrounding the future form of dual education in Hungary. The stakeholder dialogue was initiated by Audi in partnership with the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DUIHK), the German Embassy and the Hungarian government.
“Employees with excellent qualifications are the key to the long-term success of a company. With that in mind, we have been promoting dual vocational training at Audi Hungaria since 2001,” remarked Dr. Elisabeth Knab, Human Resources Director of Audi Hungaria. Audi enters into dialogue with relevant stakeholder groups in order to bring all parties together in optimising the vocational training concept for juniors and promoting this model. “I am delighted that we have together succeeded in getting the first vocational training conference off the ground. Audi Hungaria as the region’s major employer is delighted to provide the framework for the event,” continued Dr. Elisabeth Knab.
The aim of the conference was to encourage an ongoing exchange of knowledge and experiences between the training partners, from the decision-makers at government level to the representatives and experts of vocational colleges and industry. Participants had an opportunity to discuss the current situation and general context of dual vocational training, spell out their requirements and jointly develop perspectives and optimum solutions for the future. The spotlight was placed on how dual vocational training benefits Hungary and companies operating in Hungary, because training is a fundamental aspect of economic success. The fact remains that the image and acceptance of dual vocational training in Hungary need a further boost for the venture to succeed. It is moreover the task of all parties concerned to communicate the individual success factors behind dual vocational training. For those receiving training at Audi, they include a qualification that is recognised internationally, as well as bilingual training.
“Amid the cut and thrust of international competition, Hungary can only hold its own if the proportion of young people and adults with vocational qualifications increases, but at the same time the quality of training itself must improve,” declared Ildikó Jakabucz, Deputy Head for Vocational Training at the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce. “Vocational training is the field in which the future requirements of industry must be anticipated. That means the training content must be brought up to date, but we also need to offer school-leavers and parents incentives for choosing vocational training, above all for vocations in which specialists are in short supply,” she added.
Dr. Elisabeth Knab, Hungarian Minister of National Economy Mihály Varga, the Vice President of the DUIHK, Ildikó Jakabucz, and the German Ambassador Heinz-Peter Behr opened the conference. The agenda featured discussions and workshops on the subject of dual education, as well as expert talks by speakers such as Dr. László Odrobina, Deputy Secretary of State for National Economy. Other experts in the field spoke for example on the “German-Hungarian Joint Project on International Vocational Training”, “Dual Vocational Training and its Impact on the Employment Market” and “Career through Vocational Training”.
Digitalisation and connectivity of vehicles are two of the major topics 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 ability to compete 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?”. Approximately 120 participants from the spheres of business, science, politics and society gathered 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.
“Communication between vehicles and other vehicles, vehicles and infrastructure or vehicles and the internet can greatly enhance safety on our roads,” emphasised Axel Strotbek, Member of the Board of Management for Finance and Organisation at AUDI AG. Strotbek went on to say that digitisation and connectivity offer new development opportunities for the future of mobility together with superior quality of life. 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 on the one hand global developments revolutionise mobility, while on the other hand the car itself can be the trigger for revolutionary developments. He called for a bolder approach to addressing topics such as digitalisation and data connectivity, saying that the digitalised vehicle had the potential to become “the next big thing.” The onus to act is not just on the automotive industry, however. Pallenberg sees the car as increasingly becoming a product of connection and exchange between industries and sectors that still largely work independently of one another today.
In a series of three workshops, the participants and representatives from Audi debated the topics of “Connected vehicles”, “Connected data” and the “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 the data is handled. Customers must still be able to decide for themselves what data they wish to use or share in the future. Furthermore, connection of vehicles will improve traffic safety. Car manufacturers have a special responsibility here.
One of the key results of the discussions was that an increasing degree of connectivity 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 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 topic 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 reviewed 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 organisations, 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 organisations, from local educational bodies and global aid organisations, from federations and universities, from Audi itself and from other internationally operating companies.
In his keynote speech, Audi Board Member for Human Resources Thomas Sigi stressed: “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 dialogue with society, our employees and our stakeholders.”
Prof. Dr. Peter F. Tropschuh, Head of Corporate Responsibility, provided 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,” emphasised 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 results and conclusions of the survey with Audi experts Dr. Dagobert Achatz, Head of Environmental Protection in Ingolstadt, Stefanie Ulrich, Head of HR for the Neckarsulm site, Johann Gessler, Head of Powertrain Testing, and Prof. Dr. Peter F. Tropschuh, Head of Corporate Responsibility.
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 the following: 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. 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 neighbours,” during which direct neighbours 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 neighbours are consistently noted and followed up.”
This direct and regular dialogue with local residents is a firmly established cornerstone of AUDI AG’s sustainability strategy, which is much appreciated by the neighbours and used for intensive discussions with Audi representatives.