Compliance and integrity are the navigation device for the company
- For more than three years, Audi has been working with U.S. monitor Larry D. Thompson to strengthen compliance and integrity
- The six Board of Management members for the four rings have now presented personal commitment statements
- As a consequence, Audi is sustainably and consistently strengthening the area of ESG.
Ms. Maassen, Mr. Grosse-Loheide – you both joined the Audi Board of Management in April and immediately made integrity and corporate culture part of your agenda. Why?
Sabine Maassen: Respect for law and order, moral and social values and socially accepted norms form the basis of good collaboration and living – whether in a business context or in the private sphere. I started out with the goal of ensuring that our customers, our social environment and our employees associate the four rings with honesty, reliability and trustworthiness as much as with emotional products – since trust is our most precious asset. We strengthen our credibility and protect the reputation of our brand by following laws and regulations and being truthful.
Dirk Grosse-Loheide: As a team of Management Board members, we want to identify the requirements for successful action at an early stage and use these to ensure the future viability of our company. This is not always easy in these uncertain times, but where transparent corporate management is concerned, we six board members all agree!
For me, integrity means first and foremost keeping your word and standing by your actions. Honesty and openness – that’s what I demand from myself and what I expect of every single employee at Audi.
The monitorship at Audi under Larry Thompson ends in September. What will happen after that at Audi in terms of compliance and governance?
Dirk Grosse-Loheide: We Board of Management members – and by this I mean all my colleagues – have personally committed ourselves to specific measures that we will tackle in our own business areas. As Board Member for Procurement, sustainability in the supply chain is one of my top priorities, and my team and I are pressing ahead with this together with our suppliers. For example, we have introduced an S rating – a sustainability rating – that is now the basis for awarding contracts throughout the Group. The S rating reviews adherence to environmental, social and compliance standards – we expect our partners to share our values.
Sabine Maassen: Personal commitment statements are a correct and important signal! We as leaders are role models both internally and externally. The monitorship was part of our settlement agreements with the U.S. government in the wake of the diesel issue. It has been a valuable instrument for obtaining new impetus from outside and has created the basis for a large-scale change process. As a result, we will be in a much better position in the future to detect misconduct at an early stage and to derive appropriate measures. With Together4Integrity, we have also established a Group-wide integrity and compliance program that extends far beyond the time of monitorship. We explained in our personal statements how we are shaping the future of Audi together and, first and foremost, what we stand for.
A large company with more than 90,000 employees and worldwide operations – how do you ensure that legal requirements are complied with everywhere?
Sabine Maassen: Clear, mandatory and transparent rules are needed, of course, and failure to comply with them must have consequences. Our Audi Code of Conduct forms the basis for our actions. It lays down the key principles that apply to day-to-day work at our company. Organizationally, we are building on three strong pillars: consistent training of our employees on the issues of compliance and integrity so they can identify and report compliance violations at an early stage, transparent rules and processes, and effective control mechanisms. With this in mind, for example, the aspect of integrity was included in the hiring procedure and in personnel development for managers and supervisors. In addition, managers and supervisors are to actively and purposefully use their function as role models to support and encourage employees to act correctly.
That sounds like a lot of work. At the same time, Audi has a full agenda that includes issues like automated driving and electrification. Don’t soft issues like integrity and culture change sometimes get pushed to the side when economic pressure is this high?
Sabine Maassen: Culture and attitudes are not trivial matters that are merely nice to have. Only if the culture is right can we operate sustainably, leverage potential in the teams and ultimately drive progress. A strong corporate culture, supported by everyone, is like the engine in a car: all of the components can be as strong as you like on their own, but without the engine, you can’t move forward. Like a navigation device, integrity points you in the right direction.
Dirk Grosse-Loheide: Economic success and a good corporate culture are mutually dependent. Integrity and compliance, as values that are firmly embedded in corporate strategy and culture, will in the future be a decisive competitive advantage. In the long term, it is my view that only a company that focuses on these values will be economically successful.
Sabine Maassen: You must not forget: even in large companies, important things start from something small. To ensure that the culture change and transformation process is sustainable and is continuously pushed forward, we have set up mandatory cross-divisional training programs for management and have launched culture initiatives. These require willingness to change through targeted measures, demand personal commitment on the part of each participant to concrete actions and, as a result, ultimately facilitate the development of a new leadership culture.
We hear the term “culture change” more and more often. Why is there a need for change in the first place?
Dirk Grosse-Loheide: Culture is the DNA of our company. It reflects the way we work together as a team – at 16 locations around the world. Attitude alone is no longer enough; what counts is our conduct. I take my guidance here from sports: if you play unfairly, your success will be short-lived. We know our traditional strengths, but for a successful future, we also need new capabilities. Audi is a company with a long history, steeped in tradition, and is transforming itself into a digital mobility provider. We are likewise changing in other areas – we cannot and will not leave our corporate culture as it was.
Sabine Maassen: Change primarily means doing things differently than before. But no one is without flaws, so we also need a culture in which learning from mistakes is considered a strength. Openness and speaking out about things that previously couldn’t be discussed out of fear or doubt – to me, the new “speak up” culture is the central element of this equation. With our Try.Fail.Learn event series, for example, we are motivating our employees to have the courage to accept and reflect on their own mistakes.
Dirk Grosse-Loheide: Audi has the “Vorsprung” claim in its slogan, and that also means having the courage to take the lead and to forge ahead into unexplored territory.
The corporate culture can only change if the company's leadership succeeds in getting all Audi employees on board while also taking action themselves. How can so much be accomplished all at once?
Dirk Grosse-Loheide: We are looking to the future and not hanging on to the past. The Audi Role Model Program is this kind of strong signal for me, as well as for the employees. This is a mandatory Group-wide program for the entire Management Board and all managers and supervisors with leadership responsibilities. Each year, they and their teams carry out two measures from the Role Model Program in order to set the example for culture change ...
Sabine Maassen: ... Since there are 90,000 employees working for the four rings worldwide. Every single Audi is built by people, which is why each and every one of them serves as a role model for their environment. Everyone is responsible – those of us on the Board and every Audi employee. Through employee surveys like the Stimmungsbarometer, I also find out directly from the team whether the measures we have initiated are actually having an effect and where we stand in the process of culture change.
What is most important to you during this change?
Sabine Maassen: Our long-term goal is to be the employer of choice. The internal attractiveness of the employer plays just as important a role here as the external one does. A strong, motivated team has great appeal beyond the boundaries of the company. Shaping lasting change in uncertain times and keeping the people on board with it will increasingly be the central management task. As a member of the Board of Management, you are always setting the pace and providing guidance. Trust, mutual respect and understanding are the basis for successful change. The focus is on compliance and integrity in all corporate HR processes – from the process of recruitment and personnel development to the remuneration of our employees.
Dirk Grosse-Loheide: We sustainably, consistently and passionately pursue the corporate values of “appreciation,” “openness,” “responsibility” and “integrity.” The path to a company that acts with integrity, in accordance with rules and values, can only be traveled together ...
Sabine Maassen: ... and with endurance, because what we have ahead of us is not a sprint but a marathon! But the plan for the future now stands with our commitment statements, and so for Audi and for us personally, this means: Inner drive instead of external control, personal commitment instead of imposed obligations, wanting to instead of having to.