The ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series: young people develop strategic ideas for Audi

In addition to a consistent decarbonization strategy, Audi is pursuing the vision of closing material cycles along the entire value chain. In strategic considerations, the focus is also on high-voltage batteries for electric vehicles.

05/10/2022 Reading Time: 5 min

In the search for sustainable closed-loop solutions, Audi also relies on the innovative ideas of young stakeholders who regularly get together as part of the ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series and exchange views on a wide variety of sustainability topics. The results of this constructive dialogue then inform the future direction of the entire Audi Group as strategic ideas.

“Audi can only be and remain fit for the future if we develop a common understanding of the expectations, dreams and ideas of future generations.”

Dr Roxana Codita, Corporate Strategy / ESG expert / Stakeholder Management

Why are closed material cycles so important, especially with regard to high-voltage batteries?

From product design and procurement through manufacture and marketing to reuse and recycling: Audi is evaluating and pursuing a variety of approaches for the implementation of cycles or closed-loop concepts in the automotive value chain. After all, the full potential of the circular economy can only be fully exploited if the entire, very complex automotive value chain is looked at and ‘rethought’ to some degree.

 

For Audi, the recycling of high-voltage (HV) batteries and the associated reuse of limited raw materials is an essential component of sustainable electromobility. That’s why Audi is involved in the Global Battery Alliance and is playing a decisive role in establishing a sustainable value chain for batteries beyond its own Group. The aim is to create a paradigm shift away from the linear economic system towards a circular economy (CE) in order to take full advantage of both the environmental and the economic potential of battery recycling.

“Only if we make sensible use of synergies and potential within the company can sustainable changes be driven forward.”

Diana Rotter, Audi Global Graduate Program, Project Team

Close the loop: 6 factors why the circular economy makes strategic sense for Audi

Looking at the above-mentioned aspects and the latest developments around the world, we can already surmise what positive effects the creation of a local and self-contained circular economy can have. A consistent use of renewable energies across the entire value chain and the development of innovative recycling systems for HV batteries constitute significant levers in the further reduction of our environmental footprint.

 

The greatest challenges of the future, in addition to climatic changes and the limited availability of or reliance on individual raw materials, also include dependencies on complex supply chains, especially in times of crisis. It is also important to clarify ethical questions across all stages of the value and supply chains.

 

In general, from a strategic point of view, there are various reasons for dealing with circular economy concepts:

  1. Financial markets: Climate change and scarcity of resources are top priorities for investors.
  2. Legislation and regulations: A growing number of regulatory requirements are to be expected.
  3. Profit potential: Various (smaller) profit pools along the entire value chain.
  4. Link to decarbonization: Circular economy activities have a lasting, positive impact on efforts towards decarbonization.
  5. Competition: Competitors are pressing ahead with their own efforts in the area of the circular economy.
  6. Resilience: Reduction of dependencies on the (currently) very complex supply chains, cf. shortages or conflicts as currently in Ukraine.

Two workshops, numerous findings and even more ideas for effective battery recycling

So, what exactly can Audi do in the future to successfully close the cycle for HV batteries? Possible answers to this question are provided by the results of two virtual workshops that took place on 10 and 17 February this year as part of the ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series. A total of 40 young people across brands and locations within the Group were invited to exchange new ideas together on the topic ‘Batteries as a source of resources: How can we close the loop?’. Through intensive discussions between One Young World ambassadors (OYW) and VW Group trainees, innovative approaches were to be developed as to how the production of HV batteries could be made as sustainable as possible in future, as well as what prerequisites would be needed for the creation of a globally available recycling system to close the battery loop in the long term.

This is how representatives from Audi’s Strategy Department assess the ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series.

More details

This is how representatives from Audi’s Strategy Department assess the ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series.

What does Audi expect from the dialogue with young stakeholders in the Group?

 

“The young stakeholders bring a fresh and frequently unconventional perspective to many of the issues that concern us. This allows us to challenge our views and get new ideas.”

– Dr Roxana Codita, Corporate Strategy / ESG expert / Stakeholder Management

 

What relevance do the results of the workshop have for Audi’s strategy?

 

“In the context of strategy work, such external ideas play a tremendously important role because they have a double function. On the one hand, they should support us in making the right decisions and, on the other, also generate the necessary acceptance and understanding of those decisions.”

– Juliane Seipt, Corporate Strategy / ESG expert / CE

 

How important are the results for the implementation of ‘Vorsprung 2030’?

 

“Our ‘Vorsprung 2030’ corporate strategy gives us a clear direction. However, there is still plenty of scope in its implementation which we want to shape with young stakeholders as well as with experts, business partners and other community partners in the sense of a sustainable solution.”

– Dennis Christian Meinen, Corporate Strategy / ESG expert / CE

 

To this end, after a short keynote speech to introduce the topic, so-called ‘breakout groups’ were formed for different continents. Their task was to record the specific characteristics or regional challenges for their respective continent and to analyze the individual requirements and expectations from the point of view of customers.

 

It was also necessary to clarify what positive or negative impacts the automotive industry’s conversion to e-mobility might have with regard to the use of resources. Based on this, new approaches and ideas were developed as to how Audi, as a car manufacturer, can optimally keep the raw materials it uses in the value chain. Possible collaborations and cooperation partners that could support Audi in achieving its strategic objectives should also be considered here. 

The most important results from the workshops at a glance

Partnerships/collaborations

  • Holistic approaches along the entire life cycle with an extended network and partners
  • Close cooperation with other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and energy and recycling companies to create technological expertise
  • Development of networks with local companies as partners for ‘second-life solutions’

 

Change of mindset/awareness

  • Education and awareness raising together with local partners
  • Knowledge transfer between all parties concerned
  • Promotion of environmental issues through workshops at schools and universities

 

Local infrastructure

  • Recycling of batteries directly in the factories on site
  • Provision of a local infrastructure and logistics
  • Create a framework with local regulations and incentive schemes

 

Strategic framework/guidelines

  • Create opportunities for batteries to be reused and for their life cycle to be prolonged and extended
  • Tracking of batteries to facilitate recirculation
  • Creation of a strategy for different markets as a blueprint

And what happens now? Next steps for Audi in battery recycling

Reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink: a self-contained economic cycle is one of the most important keys to the most resource-saving production possible of HV batteries in order to further expedite a successful decarbonization of future mobility. But the development of a holistic approach to the reuse of HV batteries and the targeted recovery of raw materials as part of an innovative recycling concept also have a central role to play. Diverse ideas and approaches were successfully collated by the participants in the two ‘Next Generation’ workshops and are now being incorporated into the project work to establish a circular economy at Audi.

OYW Ambassador 2019 and co-founder and COO of GO TO-U, Dr Lyubov Artemenko, on the results of the workshop about battery recycling

What did you take away from the workshop?

 

“I really enjoyed the workshop. It was a great opportunity to exchange existing knowledge as well as individual experiences and new ideas with other participants.”

 

What specific project did you work on and what was so exciting about the idea developed by your team?

 

“I was part of the Eastern Europe team. We discussed the important economic opportunities arising from the reuse of lithium-ion batteries, especially for energy storage applications. In this context, we have also addressed a coherent approach for the entire VW Group with which closed recycling loops could be created.”

 

What do you think of the dialogue series and the workshop format in general?

 

“In my opinion, it’s a really great format. We had very lively discussions and were able to present a summary of the results of our teamwork at the end.”

What is the ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series at Audi really all about?

Since 2020 we have been promoting the continuous exchange of ideas between Audi and the younger generation about strategic topics in the areas of ESG (environmental, social, governance), sustainability and corporate social responsibility with the ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series. The aim of the dialogue with young target groups inside and outside Audi, such as apprentices, interns and trainees of all the brands in the VW Group or One Young World ambassadors from Audi’s Environmental Foundation, is to take up new ideas and forward-looking visions from the discussions.

 

These are primarily to be understood as signposts and are passed on to the relevant departments in the form of new ideas. It is therefore less about presenting turnkey solutions and more that Audi should derive forward-looking strategies and innovative concepts based on the results.

Representatives of the team that organizes the Audi ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series explain the specific aims and challenges associated with it.

What are the specific objectives of the dialogue series?

 

“The aim of the Audi ‘Next Generation’ dialogue series is to enter into dialogue with motivated young people inside and outside the company, to develop innovative ideas, to discover potential for improvement and to question existing ways of thinking. Our idea is to let people who are actively dealing with sustainability issues in their respective home regions and in their environment have their say. In so doing, we want to initiate a sustainable dialogue that will also live on as far as possible beyond the existing workshop format. Only in this way can we shape a better future together – both globally and locally.”

– Dr Roxana Codita, Corporate Strategy / ESG expert / Stakeholder Management

 

What challenges do you face as the organizational team?

 

“The project was launched as part of stakeholder management in the Corporate Responsibility Department, together with a trainee team from the Audi Graduate Program, as a ‘grassroots initiative’ in the middle of the pandemic year 2020. Since then, the teamwork and all dialogue workshops have only taken place digitally, which was a new and, at the same time, instructive experience for everyone involved. In addition, while the dialogue series’ international set-up certainly allows us an authentic insight into local problem areas, it requires a certain complexity in terms of planning and implementation simply because of the different time zones.”

– Laura Menkhaus and Katja Kapfer, Audi Global Graduate Program, ‘Next Generation’ Project Team

 

How important is cooperation with other departments?

 

“With the project we are primarily pursuing the goal of working in as ‘order-related’ way as possible. The more we contribute to the questions and challenges of our colleagues from the various departments in the dialogue events, the closer we get to our actual aspiration: to give young people a voice and to influence Audi’s long-term policy. Only if we make sensible use of synergies and potential within the company can sustainable changes be driven forward.”

– Diana Rotter, Audi Global Graduate Program, Project Team

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