The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand


‘We need a culture of courage’

Hiltrud D. Werner is the board memberresponsible for integrity and legal affairs. In an interview with inside, she explains what the newcode of conduct entails and what progress thecompany has made in the past few months withregard to integrity.

Hiltrud D. Werner says: “Lying to a regulatory agency must never happen to us again.”

Ms. Werner, Volkswagen already had ­principles of conduct that provided a guideline for all employees. Now, in early October, the new code of conduct was introduced. Were the old guidelines wrong?

No, they are still correct today, but they were over seven years old and it was time to supplement them with additional topics and, for example, more clearly address environmental protection issues. The most important improvement can be found on the first few pages.

That’s where we document, with a portrait and signature, that every single member of the board of management commits him or herself to these principles here as well. Another real gain is that we have, for the first time, a code of conduct which applies to all 620,000 employees of the Group, including those from companies which used to have their own set of rules. And in the new documents, we not only list the rules but also provide many practical examples to make them clearer.

» We had to
learn a painful and expensive lesson. «

Not everyone upheld the principles in the past. How can we ensure greater commitment in the future?

We had to learn a painful and expensive lesson from past events. It must be ­obvious by now that we have to be as transparent as possible towards authorities and regulators. Lying to a regulatory agency must never happen to us again. That is now clear to everyone in the company.

Otherwise it can become expensive. What does integrity mean from an economic point of view? Can honest behavior be measured in euros and cents?

A good corporate culture and a high level of integrity contribute a great deal to the company – in economic terms, too. ­Investors also assess the value of our shares according to whether Volkswagen can manage to change its culture. The financial significance of integrity also becomes clear when you look at the ­consequences that lack of compliance and integrity has brought about. We have just paid over $20 billion in fines for misconduct, and in so doing destroyed value. Imagine how much more we would be able to spend on research and ­development if that money were still available.

Hiltrud D. Werner

has headed the area of Integrity and Legal Affairs for the Group Board of Management since February of this year. The economics graduate (51) was previously responsible for Volkswagen Group Auditing.

Of course, integrity also costs money and working hours. For example, we have created positions to help us more quickly detect and block infringements of the regulations and to communicate these topics to the workforce. I am sure, however, that customers will value us all the more as a company if we show ­integrity in everything we do.

You have discussed integrity and culture with colleagues in the integrity buses five times now. What have you taken away from these conversations?

The employees brought up some surprising topics during the bus tours. I was ­impressed, for example, by the following tip given by one of the passengers. He was fed up with always looking to the past and hearing about a culture of fear that used to prevail in the company. He said it was now more important to cultivate a culture of courage. That’s exactly right. We need a culture of courage. Managers and ­employees in the individual departments must be courageous, take responsibility, and be self-reliant in reflecting on how to implement new ideas.

Is integrity, then, more of an issue for managers to deal with?

I hear that a lot – that only colleagues with budgetary or management ­responsibility need to think about ­integrity. In the end, though, each and every one of us can get into situations where personal integrity is required, whether we work on the line, in a ­workshop, or in the office. It is also a question of integrity when an employee in production enters the number of reject parts into a list at the end of his shift and asks himself, am I entering the correct number and being honest, or am I embellishing the truth? We can all answer this question for ourselves. We have provided a self-test for this purpose in the code of conduct. In case of doubt, the test can help to decide which path is the right one.

How do you check your own personal integrity?

Everyone should be able to look ­themselves in the mirror! In the working environment, I especially find that ­feedback is important. If I only ever heard from my department that everything I do is wonderful, I would have a problem. I want critical topics and new ideas to reach me as well.

» Good corporate culture and high integrity contribute a great deal. «

And when will you be satisfied with your job as board member for Integrity and Legal Affairs?

The yardstick for me is the image that others have of us. We will be successful only when others say that we are successful. In this regard, we will be looking regularly at external reports and analyses, and will use them as a means by which to measure ourselves. Of course, in such a complicated and crucial process, setbacks are normal. But we shouldn’t let them discourage us.