Our understanding of the topic “Business and Human Rights”
Volkswagen fully commits to its corporate human rights responsibility. We primarily follow the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which refer in particular to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.*
Working standards based on human rights are of the utmost importance to us: In the Volkswagen Group, social sustainability builds on a long tradition, including in exchange with employees and social partners. Tolerant and, above all, discrimination-free collaboration is also very important to us. We react appropriately to hazards to personal safety. Serious violations of human rights such as child labor or forced labor are unacceptable. These current work priorities, „salient business & human rights issues“, are summed up below:
The human rights documents mentioned above form an international standard for preventing and remedying potential violations of human rights in connection with our business activities. We always consider the local legal and political environment. One noteworthy example is our current statement made under the British Modern Slavery Act. If international standards in the area of human rights in connection with our business activities are not being upheld locally, we advocate for a dialogue to implement these international standards. In this context, we explicitly welcome the activities of the German Federal Government in its National Action Plan (NAP) for Business and Human Rights.
Overview of existing Volkswagen documents
The Volkswagen Group has recorded its understanding of the fundamental and selected aspects on the topic of business and human rights in numerous documents. These have been approved by the Group Board of Management. In particular, these include:
- Code of Conduct (CoC): These are binding action guidelines for all employees of the Volkswagen Group, and are the basis of the Compliance Management System (CMS). They offer practical support and guidance in everyday work. The chapter, “Our responsibility as a member of society,” is dedicated to the topics of human rights, equal opportunity and equal treatment. All employees across the Group receive regular training on the Code of Conduct. Code of Conduct (CoC)
- Code of Conduct (CoC) for business partners: Here, the Volkswagen Group formulates its expectations for the attitude and behavior of their business partners in their business activities. Human and labor rights are central requirements. Code of Conduct (CoC) for business partners
- Social Charter: In the Social Charter concluded with social partners, the social rights of employees in particular are codified. Social Charter
In addition, Volkswagen repeatedly commits to its corporate responsibility to human rights in public statements.
You can find more information on our policies here: Policy
Neighborhood and society
The Volkswagen Group considers itself a corporate citizen – this understanding is embodied in both our business actions and our workforce. Our responsibility doesn’t stop at the factory gate. We pay attention to the influence our business activities have on our neighborhood, on the local communities and on society – in other words, all affected population groups. That’s why we enter into dialogues with our stakeholders where possible and take measures to effectively protect human rights where necessary.** We pay particular attention to the rights of vulnerable groups, including indigenous populations. This is particularly relevant to ecological impacts on humans.***
Our own units, such as Volkswagen Sustainability, or the Social Business Team are working towards social projects and partnerships which can make a positive contribution to supporting human rights.
In the Volkswagen Group, there is an ongoing exchange and close coordination between the different functions, units, and Group entities on the topic of business and human rights. The Group coordination business and human rights belongs to the Group Compliance. The Volkswagen Group fulfills its human rights due diligence by integrating the topic of Business and human rights into its CMS.
A risk-based approach in compliance allows us to make our corporate risks to human rights transparent and minimize them. Preventative measures add to this approach, such as training for employees and contractors to adapt or raise awareness of the management systems. Complaint and whistleblower mechanisms take effect particularly in cases of corporate violations of human rights. The Group coordination business and human rights and Group Sustainability share responsibility for the external reporting for the topic of business and human rights. Further details are included in our sustainability report.
* The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is codified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The UN Guidelines for Business and Human Rights are linked to the relevant OECD guiding principles for multinational companies. Of particular relevance are the OECD guiding principles on the fulfilment of due diligence to supporting responsible supply chains for minerals from conflict zones and high-risk areas. Policy
** Cf. UN guideline 18, which necessitates a comprehensive business analysis regarding affected groups of persons in the context of due diligence to human rights, independent from one’s own workforce.
*** Additional information on ecological sustainability at Volkswagen can be found at Environment.