2. Sustainability
  3. Sustainability Council

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Sustainability Council

Group Sustainability Council

For assistance on strategic topics of sustainability and social responsibility, the Volkswagen Group appointed an international Sustainability Council in September 2016. The renowned experts from business, politics, science and society advise the company on the topics of sustainable mobility and environmental protection, social responsibility and integrity as well as the future of work and digitization. They act independently, are not bound by instructions and have extensive rights of information, consultation and initiative. The Council meets regularly with the Group Management Board as well as the employee representatives and also exchanges views with the Monitor team. The Council advises the company and makes recommendations as to what steps it considers necessary to become a world-leading provider of sustainable mobility.

In 2017, the focus was on the global CO2 regulations in the automotive industry as well as the transformation process of the company. The Sustainability Council initiated and moderated an open exchange between Volkswagen representatives and NGOs through two meetings in form of a stakeholder roundtable on global emission standards in the passenger car and truck sectors. In addition, three projects were launched: a dialogue platform on innovation and cultural change in the field of sustainable mobility, an international program to mitigate the effects of climate change through forecast-based financing of disaster prevention, and a scientific study on future transport policy frameworks in line with international climate targets.

In 2018, the focus was on the topics Future Pact, integrity and cultural change as well as e-mobility. In this context, the Council took insight into the Roadmap E and the I.D. models and participated in the Volkswagen Future Mobility Days with the Group Management Board. Furthermore, the Sustainability Council implemented the three projects decided in 2017 and launched three further initiatives: a project on a sustainable battery supply chain, a visiting professorship on open labs and cultural change, and the development of a comprehensive sustainability narrative.

During its sixth meeting in February 2019, the Sustainability Council welcomed Volkswagen’s clear commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and CO2 neutrality in 2050 as well as the ambitious interim targets for 2025. The Sustainability Council advised Volkswagen to comprehensively communicate internally and externally about the decarbonization efforts and to further engage in the public debate. Further focus topics were: stakeholder engagement to support progressive regulatory frameworks, strengthening social aspects in the transformation and new efforts on mobility services.

Apart from further implementing the ongoing projects, the Council plans to further work on the social aspects of mobility, decarbonization and mobility services in 2019.

After two years of work, the Sustainability Council has published a summary interim report and its letters of recommendation to the Group Management Board in December 2018:


October 2016 – October 2018 – A brief interim report
Written recommendations of the Sustainability Council on environmental leadership
Written recommendations of the Sustainability Council on a technology, policy and culture shift
Letter from Dr. Herbert Diess to the Sustainability Council with the desire to expand cooperation
First Interim Report of the Sustainability Advisory Board of the Volkswagen Group

„The recent announcement of climate neutrality in accordance with the Paris Agreement is a milestone and receives our appreciation. Now we expect further steps towards decarbonization and in dialogue with stakeholders to turn the crisis into a chance.“

Georg Kell Spokesperson of the Sustainability Council

Projects of the Sustainability Council

Open Source Lab for Sustainable Mobility
What innovative ideas are there for sustainable mobility of the future? The Open Source Lab provides a platform for an innovative stakeholder dialogue about sustainable mobility solutions for the future. The project aims to explore innovative scenarios in the interface of open source and mobility and to discuss possible approaches with experts from a wide variety of disciplines and sectors. What if ... the citizens themselves took control and traffic was controlled solely by their needs and based on publicly available real-time data? The executing project partner is the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). More about the project in their blog at: https://opensourcelab.dfki.de/
Start of the project: 06/2018
Duration: 2018-2020

Transformation Towards Sustainable Transport Systems – The Next Generation Policies
What are effective policy and legislation to help the transport sector to limit global warming to maximum 2 degrees? The project explores different policy approaches on the decarbonization of mobility. It examines 1) the effects of different decarbonization strategies, 2) the related climate-policy and economic challenges, and 3) the effectiveness of different policy instruments. Especially new is the evaluation of large datasets. Project partners are the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). More about the project at: https://www.mcc-berlin.net/next-generation-policies/mission.html
Start of the project: 06/2018
Duration: 2018-2020

Forecast-based Financing – Combat Climate Change Impacts in Asia-Pacific
How can we protect people already before climate-related natural disasters and help mitigate the effects of climate change on vulnerable regions? Forecast-based financing aims to increase the effectiveness of disaster prevention measures. Through early donation transfer before the catastrophe, people can be protected in time and relief supplies can be provided in advance. Project partners are the German Red Cross (DRK) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). More about Forecast-based Financing at: https://www.forecast-based-financing.org/de/ueber-fbf/
Start of the project: 03/2018
Duration: 2018-2020

Members of the Sustainability Council

  • Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer – Co-Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

    Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer is professor for Economics of Climate Change at the Technical University Berlin, co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC).

    Professor Ottmar Edenhofer (born 1961 in Bavaria) studied economics and philosophy at the University of Munich and holds a diploma in economics from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and a B.A. in philosophy (“summa cum laude”) from the Munich School of Philosophy (Hochschule für Philosophie). In 1999, he wrote his Ph.D. thesis in economics (“summa cum laude”).

    Among others, he is member of the German National Academy of Science Leopoldina, the German National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech, the Academy of Sciences Hamburg, the International Association of Energy Economics (IAEE), the Advisory Committee of the Green Growth Knowledge Platform as well as Council Member for the Climate Change Advisory Council in Dublin (Ireland) and member of the Advisory Committee to Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative CMI (USA).

    Being one of three co-chairs of WG III, Ottmar Edenhofer led the assessment cycle of the IPCC Working Group III from 2008 to 2015 which produced the Fifth Assessment Report "Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change" in April 2014.

    Ottmar Edenhofer authored a considerable number of articles published by Science, PNAS, Nature Climate Change and in various high-ranking environment, energy and resource economics publications and various books.

  • Connie Hedegaard – former EU Commissioner for Climate Action

    Connie Hedegaard is chairwoman of the board at Aarhus University and chairwoman of the KR Foundation, an international climate foundation. From 2010 to 2014, Ms. Hedegaard was European Commissioner for Climate Action and from 2004 to 2009 Danish Minister for Environment and Nordic Cooperation as well as Minister for Climate and Energy.

    Ms. Hedegaard was born in Holbæk (Denmark) in 1960 and graduated in 1991 with a master‘s degree in literature and history. She started her political career as a member of the Danish Parliament for the Conservative People’s Party in 1984. From 1990 to 2004 she worked as a journalist for various media outlets before she continued her political career.

    Among others, Ms. Hedegaard is Chairwoman of the OECD Round Table for Sustainable Development, Member of the Board of Directors of the companies Danfoss and Nordex, Chairwoman of Berlingske Media Group.

    Connie Hedegaard was awarded with the Ebbe Munck Award, the Christian Listeners and Viewers Association Award, the People’s Education Association Culture Award and the National Press Club of Denmark Award.

  • Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost – Professor for Design Research at the University of the Arts in Berlin

    Gesche Joost, Professor of Design Research at the Berlin University of the Arts, is a researcher, founder, political advisor and tech expert. Her research and strategic work focuses on digital transformation and its impact on the sustainable development of society. She heads a research laboratory at DFKI (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence), which specializes in human-computer interaction and wearable computing. At the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, she heads research groups on digital sovereignty and new digital production possibilities.

    From 2014 to 2018, she was Digital Champion for the European Commission on behalf of the Federal German Government. She is a member of the Board of Management of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation and a member of the Goethe Institute. Since 2015, she is a member of the Supervisory Board of SAP SE and since 2018 of ING and ottobock. In 2016, she founded the non-profit organization Calliope, which is committed to the digital education of school children in Germany.

  • Georg Kell – Founding Director UN Global Compact

    Georg Kell is the founding Director of the United Nations Global Compact, the world's largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative. He also oversaw the conception and launch of the Global Compact's sister initiatives, the Principles for Responsible Investment, the Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative, and the Principles for Responsible Management Education.

    Georg Kell is Chairman of Arabesque, an ESG quant fund manager that uses self-learning quantitative models and big data to assess the performance and sustainability of globally listed companies.

    Georg Kell holds advanced degrees in economics and engineering from the Technical University Berlin. He started his career as a research fellow at the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin and worked as a financial analyst evaluating investment portfolios of several multinational companies in Asia and Africa before joining the United Nations in 1987. Georg Kell was Head of UNCTAD's New York Office and Director in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.


  • Yves Leterme – former OECD Deputy Secretary-General and former Prime Minister of Belgium

    Yves Leterme is a former Belgian State Minister. He is a former Prime Minister and leader of the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party (CD&V) in Belgium and was member of the federal Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, the regional Parliament of Flanders and an Alderman and the Chairman of the City Council of Ypres.

    Mr. Leterme was born in Wervik (Belgium) in 1960 and studied political sciences and law at the University of Leuven and the University of Ghent.

    Mr. Leterme held a variety of political posts in Belgium at all levels and in all areas of government: He is a former Belgian prime minister, former federal minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade in Belgium as well as former Minister-President of Flanders. During his tenure as prime minister, Belgium held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. He is currently Minister of State. From 2011 to 2014, he was Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, where he was responsible for the areas of social policy, employment, health, and small and medium enterprises. From 2014 to 2019, Yves Leterme served as the secretary General of International IDEA. Before entering national politics, Mr. Leterme served as an auditor at the country's Court of Audit and Administrator at the European Parliament.

    Furthermore, Mr. Leterme is Chairman of Tojoy Shared Holdings Europe SAS, Chief Investigator FFP at UEFA and a judge of the European Business Award.


  • Margo T. Oge, former Director of Transportation Air Quality, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    Margo T. Oge is the former Director of the Office of Transportation Air Quality of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where she served for 32 years. She was the key architect of some of the most important achievements in reducing air pollution from cars, trucks, locomotives and marine vessels and off road equipment. She led the implementation of the EPA’s first-ever national greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and heavy-duty trucks to double fuel efficiency by 2025 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. Also led the implementation of the US Renewable Fuels Standard and was instrumental in establishing the United Nations process on global harmonization of transportation emission standards worldwide.

    She is the author of the book “Driving the Future: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars” and serves as a Distinguished Fellow with the ClimateWorks Foundation. She is also the Chairwoman of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) Board, member of the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), member of the National Academies of Science Advisory Committee for the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program.

    Ms. Oge was born in Athens, Greece and holds a master‘s degree in engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

    She received Presidential Awards from Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as well as numerous environmental and industry awards.

  • Prof. Ye Qi, Director des Instituts für Public Policy der Hong Kong University Science and Technology

    Ye Qi is Professor of Public Policy and Director of Institute of Public Policy at Hong Kong University Science and Technology. Prior to joining HKUST in January 2019, he was the Cheung Kong Professor of Environmental Policy and Management at Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management, and the Volkswagen Professor of Sustainability at Schwarzman College. From April 2014 to January 2019, he was Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Director of Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy. He was appointed as Cheung Kong Professor of Environmental Science at Beijing Normal University from 2002-2005. Before returning to China in 2003, he taught ecosystem management and climate change science at the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at University of California, Berkeley from 1996 through 2003. Ye Qi received his Ph. D. in Environmental Science in 1994 jointly awarded by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Syracuse University.

    His research areas include the governance and policy of the environment, energy, climate change and urbanization. His current research focuses on the energy transition and low-carbon development in a rapidly urbanizing world. Ye Qi led China’s first low-carbon development plan for the city of Baoding. He has been leading the research and writing of the Annual Review of Low-Carbon Development in China since 2010. He has over 200 publications on peer-reviewed journals, books, newspapers, think tank outlets and other magazines.

  • Michael Sommer, former President of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB)

    Michael Sommer is Deputy Chairman of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and former Chairman of the Confideration of German Trade Unions (DGB).

    Michael Sommer was born in Büderich (Germany) in 1952. He studied german and political sciences at Free University Berlin and holds a degree in political science. From 1980 to 1993, he was Trade Union Secretary in various positions at Deutsche Postgewerkschaft (German posts and telecommunications trade union) in Bremen and Frankfurt/Main. Afterwards, he was a member of the executive committee and deputy chairman of Deutsche Postgewerkschaft as well as deputy chairman of trade union Ver.di. From 2002 to 2014, Mr. Sommer was chairman of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) and – between 2010 and 2014 – president of the International Trade Union Confederation.

    From 2002 to 2014, he was Chairman of the trade-union linked Hans Böckler Foundation, which is close to the trade unions. Since 2003, he controls the affairs of Germany's largest television broadcaster - until 2015 as a member of the Television Council and since 2016 as a member of the Board of Directors of Second German Television (ZDF). There he chairs the Finance and Investment Committee.

    Michael Sommer was a long-standing member of Supervisory Boards of private and public companies. For twelve years, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Germany's largest public bank, the KfW Development Bank, Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Postbank AG from 1997 to 2013, a member of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Telekom AG from 2000 to 2019 and of Salzgitter AG from 2006 to 2011.

    He was also a long-standing member of the Board of Trustees of the Volkswagen Foundation, the Administrative Board of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Innovation Advisory Council of the German Federal Government.

    He was awarded the first-class Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Grand Gold Medal of the Republic of Austria and the Order of Merit of the State of Berlin.


  • Elhadj As Sy, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation Board, Co-chair of the WHO/World Bank Global Pandemic Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB)

    Elhadj As Sy is the Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation Board, and Co-chair of the WHO/World Bank Global Pandemic Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB). In addition to these functions, Mr. Sy is also a Commissioner for the Global Commission on Climate Adaptation, Governor at the Wellcome Trust, and a member of numerous other boards and organizations.

    Mr. Sy has extensive experience in leadership roles in the humanitarian, health, environment, development sectors, and has previously served as the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) IFRC ‐ the world’s largest humanitarian network. Prior to this appointment, he served at a senior level with UNICEF, UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and other agencies for more than 25 years.

    Mr. Sy was UNICEF’s Director of Partnerships and Resource Development in New York. He has also served as UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa and Global Emergency Coordinator for the Horn of Africa.

    From 2005 to 2008, Mr. Sy was Director, HIV/AIDS Practice with the United Nations Development Programme in New York. Before that, he worked with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as its Africa Regional Director and later as Director of Operational Partnerships and Country Support in Geneva. Mr. Sy has also held the position of UNAIDS Representative in New York and Director of the New York Liaison Office.

    From 1988 to 1997, he served as Director of Health and Development Programmes with Environment and Development Action in the Third World in Dakar, Senegal.

    Mr. Sy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and Human Sciences from the University of Dakar. He then pursued Master’s studies in Arts and Germanistik at the University of Graz, and graduated from the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. He was also awarded a post graduate diploma in Education from the École normale supérieure in Dakar. He speaks English, French and German and is a national of Senegal.

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