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“Diversity is part of our DNA”

Volkswagen employees rise up against racism

It can happen anywhere at any time: A person, who looks different or comes from somewhere else, is not respected, neglected, or perhaps even insulted. Racism is a constant threat, warns Matthias Müller, Chief Executive of Volkswagen Group. “Every day, we experience the spreading of hate and a rising amount of resentment. People are discriminated against on the basis of their origin or skin color,” says Müller during an interview marking the International Weeks for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“Of course we don’t work in an ideal world either and also face tensions and conflicts here, however, diversity is part of Volkswagen’s DNA.”

Matthias Müller Chief Executive of Volkswagen Group

Fight against xenophobia

Therefore, this year, the Volkswagen Group became involved in the United Nation’s initiative, which will be realized in the form of several different activities conducted by millions of people throughout the world and will take place from March 13-26. With its commitment, Volkswagen wants to encourage all of its employees to become personally involved in the fight against racism and xenophobia.

“Every self-respecting person must rise up against that,” says Müller. At all of the Volkswagen Groups’ locations, employees can have their picture taken with a piece of paper that has the following statement in the language of that particular country: “I am against racism.” In addition, the company supports the foundation for the International Weeks for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with donations, thereby sending a visible signal against resentment and xenophobia.

The movie: People at Volkswagen show their faces against racism and xenophobia.

One of the most international companies

The Volkswagen Group employs more than 620,000 staff members throughout the entire world. Müller notes: “We are probably one of the most international companies – people from more than 100 nations work together in Wolfsburg alone.”

He adds that Volkswagen’s business model is based on the existence of free trade “and people throughout the world approach us as a company without any reservation.” Therefore, Volkswagen will not tolerate racism or any other form of discrimination in the day-to-day working environment. “There are clear rules of behavior and violations thereof will be punished – and may even lead to termination!”

“Those that are silent for far too long don’t need to wonder why things that once appeared to be stable, are now susceptible to change.”

Matthias Müller Chief Executive of Volkswagen Group

Discrimination is an important topic for soccer

Discrimination also remains an important topic for soccer. The home game of VfL Wolfsburg against Darmstadt 98 on March 18 is therefore going to begin with a special activity. Prior to the match, several children will run onto the field wearing white t-shirts containing the same message that the Volkswagen employees were photographed with: “I am against racism.” Banner advertising and an article in the stadium magazine will further promote this initiative.

The International Weeks for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination traces back to the events in Sharpeville in South Africa, where a peaceful demonstration took place on March 21, 1960 in response to the apartheid laws. The protesters were brutally beaten down and 69 people were killed. The United Nations proclaimed March 21 as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966 and this gradually led to the awareness weeks.

“Those that are silent for far too long don’t need to wonder why things that once appeared to be stable, are now susceptible to change,” notes CEO Müller, explaining the company’s commitment. “Who would have thought that right-wing populist movements could even become strong enough to pose a threat to the great project that is the European Union?”

Müller emphasizes that businesses also bear the responsibility for the direction that our society is heading.