One of the major objectives of the Volkswagen Group under its Together 2025+ strategy is to act as a model of integrity. Through the implementation of the Together4Integrity (T4I) program, the aim is to consistently achieve this objective throughout the Group across all brands and companies. Volkswagen Financial Services also support "T4I" every step of the way and put Integrity & Compliance on a par with the other strategic goals of their Route2025. Our intention in the future is to ensure that the key performance indicators of integrity and compliance will have the same strategic and operational priority as, for example, the quality of our products and services, our financial metrics and the satisfaction of our customers. T4I is therefore one of the most extensive change programs in the history of the Volkswagen Group.
Trust is crucial to the future success of the company.
T4I is to be rolled out to the roughly 700 operating business units (legal entities) of the Volkswagen Group by 2025. Volkswagen Financial Services started implementing the program at the end of 2018 and have been working since then on its specific design features in all global markets. As a result, all of the around 17,000 employees at Volkswagen Financial Services will ultimately contribute to the culture change together globally, including in countries like China, Brazil, Australia, Portugal, the UK and Sweden.
T4I with focus on governance and culture change
The T4I program serves to provide the regulatory framework for acting with integrity and in compliance with the rules (governance) and helps bring about a culture change at the same time. That means inspiring people to behave with integrity. This includes the constructive handling of mistakes, more transparency as to why decisions are made and an increased willingness to discuss undesirable developments and risks, including speaking up about them to superiors. The aim is to create a culture in which acting with integrity is not only consistently possible, but also seen as a matter of course. T4I is based on the five fundamental and widely recognized principles of the international Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI). These relate to strategy, risk management, culture of integrity, a speak-up and open discussion environment, and resolute accountability, with assumption of responsibility even in the case of misconduct. As a umbrella program, T4I combines the content of all the Group's initiatives and its departments with respect to integrity and compliance and helps to anchor them sustainably in corporate practice.
However, T4I not only has an impact internally, but also beyond the Group in society: on the one hand, through the revision of the Code of Conduct for Business Partners, through which we also commit our suppliers and sales partners to the principles of integrity and compliance. On the other hand, the increasing focus on integrity and compliance, particularly in the Code of Conduct, also determines every employee's interaction with customers, representatives of civil society, government bodies, authorities and other stakeholders.
Implementing T4I throughout the group
The core content of T4I comprises over 100 packages of measures. This creates consistently robust systems and processes for avoiding compliance and integrity risks in all areas of activity, which also eliminates the causes that have fostered serious misconduct in the past. The packages of measures include, for example, HR compliance, the whistleblower system or Business Partner Due Diligence. Regular reporting on the current status and progress of the respective initiative serves as the basis for quality assurance and creates transparency.
An important factor for the success of T4I is a strong tone from the top, with which members of the Board of Management, executives and top managers provide direction, identify objectives, explain the reasons for and advantages of the program, place the individual initiatives in the local frame of reference, and authentically champion T4I as their company's own project. Further support is provided by numerous dialog-oriented communication measures and event formats.
Integrity is not a luxury, but part of our culture.
Initially, the focus of T4I was on reaching people, raising their awareness and motivating them. To this end, we organized kick-off events and then held so-called Perception Workshops. These events involve both employees and managers across hierarchies as players in the change process. The joint design and implementation of these formats increases awareness among participants of the valuable contribution each individual makes to the success of the change. They also offer the opportunity to ask openly critical questions and name problems. It is primarily about the actual practice of integrity and compliance – measured by the perception of the employees. Here, representatively selected employees and managers give their assessment and discuss possible improvements. The workshops are repeated after about one year in order to measure progress and identify any existing need for action. The management events FS.SPEAK.UP have also been used on several occasions to address the issues of integrity, a culture of error and the role model function in the context of discussion groups and coordination measures.
In addition, as the basis for running our business, integrity must impact all levels. This means integrity is an obligatory criterion for all decisions of the Board of Management and of executive management: every submission to the Board of Management and to executive management must include a statement by the responsible department on the way in which the intended decision and its consequences are in line with the company's integrity and compliance or whether and what integrity or compliance risks are associated with it and how they can be lessened.
All of these measures show: we believe that only with lasting, dependable integrity and compliant behavior will our company strengthen the trust of its staff, customers, shareholders, business partners and the general public. Our aim is to become a role model when it comes to integrity and compliance. This way, we want to win new trust and to maintain our integrity as a scandal-free company in the future.