Sustainability with consistency
“Authenticity is the most important aspect when it comes to sustainability.”
Ms. Wortmann, have you already done something sustainable today?
Hildegard Wortmann: Every contribution matters – even the smallest ones. There’s a wide range of possibilities. For example, I consistently avoid using plastic bottles and I purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season and regionally grown. Even my drive to work is as sustainable as it can be: My company car is a plug-in hybrid.
Mr. Kössler, how sustainable has your day been so far?
Peter Kössler: I try to read the news before the workday starts. For the most part, I use my smartphone or tablet computer, since I only have digital subscriptions to many newspapers and magazines. Generally, I also try to buy as much as I can from retail stores and avoid online shopping, because that’s also a way to reduce CO₂ emissions and it’s sustainable in many respects.
We can tell that sustainability is more than just another item on both of your to-do lists.
Hildegard Wortmann: Authenticity is the most important aspect when it comes to sustainability. Customers can tell right away whether you are just half-heartedly addressing a topic or if it sincerely matters to you. Peter Kössler: That also applies to us as a company and we regard it as our responsibility. We deliberately decided to name one of our strategy’s cornerstones “consistently sustainable”.
How is this consistency expressed?
Peter Kössler: Many of our employees spend a lot of time thinking about the topic, and that's the point. There’s a new corporate culture at Audi and the awareness of sustainability plays a fundamental role in it. As a car manufacturer, we're not just a small cog in the wheel, particularly since we are part of a society that regards mobility as a basic human need. Or to put it more simply: We're all part of the "big wheel."
Hildegard Wortmann: We see ourselves as being in a position to ensure that we are heading in the right direction, and as having the responsibility to do that. Our customers rightfully expect that from us.
What do you think: In what direction is sustainability developing, which also includes diversity and social policy, for example?
Hildegard Wortmann: Sustainability isn’t a trendy topic that will just disappear from the agenda at some point. It’s decisive for everyone’s future. We as a brand have to be willing to be measured by that. That’s why we’re examining everything we do and communicating our actions with credibility.
Peter Kössler: One example is the fact that Audi, just like the entire Volkswagen Group, has expressly committed itself to the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aim to limit the global rise in temperature to well below two degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels. I think that many people aren’t aware of that. Making a contribution to this as a brand is monumental task and there are different ways to reach this goal.
“The goal is to consistently reduce our environmental footprint. This includes goals such as wanting to make all Audi sites carbon-neutral by 2025.”
How can you find the right direction in the process?
Hildegard Wortmann: Regardless of what we're doing, we always have to ask ourselves why we're doing it. In the age of networking, the brand image has to be understood as more than just design, product and technology. Providing services throughout the entire customer life cycle will make the decisive difference. At Audi, we are currently redefining the core of our brand. We no longer think of “Vorsprung” simply as what is technically feasible. “Vorsprung” stands for an attitude: We want to offer our customers genuine personal added value.
... And what exactly does this look like?
Peter Kössler: Modern, or better yet – future-oriented. We have already initiated a great deal in a short of time, including more sustainable mobility options and new digital offers. Throughout it all, the “consistently Audi” strategy serves as our guiding principle, because that word is so popular at the moment – and I find it truly electrifying for me and my daily work.
But first of all, Audi is attracting international attention with a provocative new television commercial using the motto: “Let it go.”
Hildegard Wortmann: We have to let go of the past to create something new. That's the idea behind the commercial, which is introducing our new global brand campaign. We can’t solve all of the world’s problems alone. After all, we're part of a movement; we aren’t dictating the terms. The decisive factor is the overall message: Every contribution matters.
Saving energy, doing without plastic, preventing and eliminating waste – what role does Audi play in this context?
Peter Kössler: We're starting with ourselves. The goal is to consistently reduce our environmental footprint – for example, with our “Mission Zero” environmental program. This includes goals such as wanting to make all Audi sites carbon-neutral by 2025. Since we have always been perceived as a particularly sporty brand, we also want to be fast and lean in advancing the transformation.
But someone who wanted to respond provocatively would find it easy – sustainability and SUVs are fundamentally a contradiction...
Hildegard Wortmann: I don’t think that’s true. Our customers’ wishes are our top priority. And we see that the trend toward SUVs is unbroken. So we have to strike the balance of offering customers an SUV that they can drive without a guilty conscience. The Audi e-tron underscores our premise that ecological awareness and SUVs are not a contradiction in terms. When selecting a segment for our first electric vehicle, we made a conscious decision to choose one that combines sportiness, complete everyday usability and a high degree of potential for growth.
Peter Kössler: And don't forget: There’s another reason that the Audi e-tron is an SUV. We wanted to offer our customers a vehicle capable of driving long distances. An SUV was the best way to do this, because it requires relatively large batteries. We will be launching a compact SUV with the Audi Q4 e-tron.
Hildegard Wortmann: And our first fully electric, high performance model – the Audi e-tron GT.
Peter Kössler: Audi is in the midst of a transformation. The future is electric, in all segments. We are consistently pursuing our electrification and sustainability strategies across our entire model range.
Do you believe that this positioning alone is capable of countering the Fridays for Future movement? Hildegard Wortmann: The topic of sustainability has gained an entirely new dimension through movements such as #FridaysforFuture. Young people are addressing topics that socially highly relevant. I have a great deal of respect for their determination – it shows a highly developed sense of responsibility for our future.
How can listening be put into action?
Peter Kössler: We are consistently working on change – in all of the corporate divisions. The transformation to a net-zero carbon emissions company is well underway, and it's also expressed by the fact that we are using resources in the most responsible manner and adding closed loops where we can. One example of this is the Aluminum Closed Loop. The aluminum sheet offcuts that are produced in the press shop are sent directly back to the supplier, which then processes and recycles them. We are subsequently reusing these reprocessed aluminum sheets in the production process. This enabled Audi to save around 150,000 tons of CO₂ on balance in 2019 alone. And we will be able to save even more in the future. Another example is Europe’s largest photovoltaic roof system, which we dedicated a few weeks ago at Audi Hungaria in Győr.
Audi promises to unleash the beauty of sustainable mobility, and to do it profitably. How is it possible to bridge the gap between these two factors?
Peter Kössler: Electric mobility is a prime example of our acting consistently. As a company, we are no longer just focusing on the vehicle, but increasingly on the ecosystem surrounding the entire electric car as well. Thus, we offer our customers smart charging solutions from photovoltaic electricity that we have generated. At the same time, it’s clear that we as a manufacturer cannot take on the expansion of the charging infrastructure alone. We need the support of politicians and society. But those who make demands must also be willing to deliver. And I can truly say: We're doing that.
Hildegard Wortmann: Being part of the Volkswagen Group allows us to leverage synergies and create a wide and versatile electric car model portfolio for each segment and each group of customers. To move into the realm of premium electric products, by 2025 Audi will launch at least three models based on the modular electric drive matrix for more compact vehicles. The first models featuring architecture that was developed in conjunction with Porsche will be introduced to the higher segments at the beginning of this decade. It’s clear to us: The future is electric!