Environmental and social risks

The most significant risks from the regular GRC process and QRP arise from not meeting CO2-related regulations.

Personnel risks

We counter economic risks as well as changes in the market and the competitive situation with a range of instruments that help the Volkswagen Group to remain flexible in terms of staff deployment when faced with a fluctuating order situation – whether orders are in decline, or there is an increase in demand for our products. These instruments include time accounts to which hours are added when overtime is necessary and from which hours are deducted in quiet periods, enabling our factories to adjust their capacity to production volume with measures such as extra shifts, closure days and flexible shift models. The use of temporary workers also allows us to be more flexible in our planning. All of these measures help the Volkswagen Group to generally maintain a stable permanent workforce, even when orders fluctuate.

The technical expertise and individual commitment of employees are indispensable prerequisites for the success of the Volkswagen Group. We counter the risk of not being able to develop sufficient expertise in the Company’s different vocational groups with our strategically oriented and holistic human resource development, which gives all employees attractive training and development opportunities. By boosting our training programs, particularly at our international locations, we are able to adequately address the challenges of technological change.

To counter the potential risk of a shortage of skilled specialists – especially in the areas of digitalization and IT – we continuously expand our recruitment tools. Our systematic talent relationship management, for example, enables us to make contact with talented candidates from strategically relevant target groups at an early stage and to build a long-term relationship between them and the Group. In addition to the standard dual vocational training, programs such as our StIP integrated degree and traineeship scheme and our Faculty 73 ensure a pipeline of highly qualified and motivated employees. By systematically increasing our attractiveness as an employer, we are able to gain talented people in the areas of IT, design and social media, which are crucial for the future. With tools such as these, we want to ensure that our demand for qualified new staff is covered, even amid a shortage of skilled labor.

We counter the risks associated with employee fluctuation and loss of knowledge as a result of retirement with intensive, department-specific succession planning and training. We have also established a base of senior experts in the Group. With this instrument, we use the valuable knowledge of our experienced specialists who have retired from Volkswagen.

The advancing digitalization of our human resources processes entails risks arising from the processing of personal data. Volkswagen is aware of its responsibility in the processing of this data. We address these risks as part of our data protection management system by implementing a wide range of measures.

One challenge posed by our collaboration with the Monitor lies in the tension that sometimes arises from the conflict between the Monitor’s requests for information on the one hand, and both German and international data protection requirements on the other. This is true particularly in view of the fact that these data protection requirements are open to a certain degree of interpretation and assessment. In the interest of precluding infringements of the law as far as possible, despite a partially unclear legal situation, Volkswagen is advised by external law firms on these issues.

Environmental protection regulations

The specific emission limits for all new passenger car and light commercial vehicle fleets for brands and groups in the EU for the period up to 2019 are set out in Regulation (EC) No 443/2009 on CO2 emissions from passenger cars and Regulation (EU) No 510/2011 on light commercial vehicles of up to 3.5 tonnes, which came into effect in April 2009 and June 2011, respectively. These regulations are important components of the European climate protection policy and therefore form the key regulatory framework for product design and marketing by all vehicle manufacturers selling in the European market.

The average CO2 emissions of the new European passenger car fleet have not been allowed to exceed 130 g CO2/km since 2012. Compliance with this requirement was introduced in phases; since 2015 the entire fleet has had to meet this limit.

The EU’s CO2 regulation for light commercial vehicles sets limits to be met from 2014 onwards, with targets having been phased in over the period to 2017. Under this regulation, the average CO2 emissions from newly registered vehicles in Europe must not exceed 175 g CO2/km.

On April 17, 2019, the EU adopted new rules for the CO2 regime from 2020 onward. It published these in EU Regulation 2019/631 for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles on April 25, 2019. This regulation states that, from 2021 onward, the average emissions from the European passenger car fleet must be no higher than 95 g CO2/km; in 2020, this emissions limit will already apply to 95% of the fleet. Up to and including 2020, European fleet legislation will be complied with on the basis of the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). After 2021, the NEDC target value will be replaced by a WLTP target value through a process defined by lawmakers; this change shall not lead to additional tightening of the target value. A similar approach will apply to light commercial vehicles, where a target of 147 g CO2/km will apply to the entire fleet in 2020.

The targets will be further tightened as from 2025: for new European passenger car fleets, a reduction of 15% will be required from 2025 and a reduction of 37.5% from 2030. For new light commercial vehicle fleets, the required reductions will be 15% from 2025 and 31% from 2030. In each case, the starting point is the fleet value in 2021. These targets can only be achieved through a high proportion of electric vehicles. Non-fulfillment of the fleet-wide targets will incur penalties of €95 per exceeded gram of CO2 per vehicle sold.

At the same time, regulations governing fleet fuel consumption are also being developed or introduced outside the EU28, for example in Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and the USA. Brazil has introduced a fleet efficiency target as part of a voluntary program which grants tax advantages. To receive a 30% tax advantage, manufacturers must, among other things, achieve a specified fleet efficiency. The fuel consumption regulations in China, which set an average fleet target of 6.9 liters/100 km for the period 2012–2015, were continued into the period 2016–2020 with a target of 5.0 liters/100 km. Preparations for legislation up to 2025 have begun. In addition to this legislation on fleet fuel consumption, a so-called “new energy vehicle quota” applies in China. This requires every manufacturer to increase the share of electric vehicles – which are included with different weightings – in its total sales. The quota for 2020 is 12%, to be fulfilled through battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, or fuel cell vehicles. Due to the extension of greenhouse gas legislation in the USA (the law was signed in 2012), uniform fuel consumption and greenhouse gas standards apply in all US states in the period from 2017 to 2025. Here, too, lawmakers are debating amending the rules from 2021 onward.

The increased regulation of fleet-based CO2 emissions and fuel consumption makes it necessary to use the latest mobility technologies in all key markets worldwide. At the same time, electrified and also purely electric drives will become increasingly common. The Volkswagen Group closely coordinates technology and product planning with its brands so as to avoid breaches of fleet fuel consumption limits, since these would entail severe financial penalties. Volkswagen continues to regard diesel technology as an important element in the fulfillment of CO2 emissions targets.

EU legislation allows excess emissions and emission shortfalls to be offset between vehicle models within a fleet of new vehicles. Furthermore, the EU permits some flexibility in fulfilling the emissions targets, for example:

  • Emission pools may be formed,
  • Relief opportunities may be provided for additional innovative technologies in the vehicle that apply outside the test cycle (eco-innovations),
  • Special rules are in place for small-series producers and niche manufacturers,
  • Particularly efficient vehicles qualify for super-credits.

Whether the Group meets its fleet targets depends crucially on its technological and financial capabilities, which are reflected in, for example, our drivetrain and fuel strategy.

In the EU, a new, more time-consuming test procedure has applied to all new vehicles with WLTP since September 2018. Other challenges arise in connection with stricter processes and requirements regarding WLTP, such as from test criteria and from homologation (achievement of approval).

The Real Driving Emissions (RDE) regulation for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles is also one of the main European regulations. New, uniform limits for nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions in real road traffic have applied to new vehicle types across the EU since September 2017. This makes the RDE test procedure fundamentally different from the Euro 6 standard still in force, which stipulates that the limits on the chassis dynamometer are authoritative. The RDE regulation is intended primarily to improve air quality in urban areas and areas close to traffic, leading to stricter requirements for exhaust gas aftertreatment in passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. Stricter RDE processes and requirements have resulted in certain challenges, for example relating to test criteria and homologation.

The other main EU regulations affecting the automotive industry include:

  • EU Directive 2007/46/EC establishing a framework for the type approval of motor vehicles,
  • EU Directive 2009/33/EC on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles (Green Procurement Directive),
  • EU Directive 2006/40/EC relating to emissions from air-conditioning systems in motor vehicles,
  • The Car Labeling Directive 1999/94/EC,
  • The Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) 2009/30/EC updating the fuel quality specifications and introducing energy efficiency specifications for fuel production,
  • The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) (2009/28/EC) introducing sustainability criteria; the follow-up regulation (RED2) contains higher quotas for advanced biofuels,
  • The revised Energy Taxation Directive 2003/96/EC updating the minimum tax rates for all energy products and power.

The implementation of the above-mentioned directives by the EU member states serves to support the CO2 regulations in Europe. These are aimed not only at vehicle manufacturers, but also at other sectors such as the mineral oil industry. Vehicle taxes based on CO2 emissions are having a similar steering effect; many EU member states have already incorporated CO2 elements into their rules on vehicle taxation.

There is particular momentum in the debate on driving bans for diesel vehicles in Germany. This was triggered by the failure of some municipalities and cities to comply with the limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) immissions. In many places, lawsuits have been filed and judgments issued. It is argued that only driving bans for diesel vehicles can bring about the necessary short-term reduction in NO2 immissions. The discussion may result in sales volumes of diesel vehicles declining further and financial liabilities arising from customer-related measures and potential official or statutory requirements.

Local driving bans are already in place in a number of countries, though these mainly affect older vehicles. Regulations in Belgium that successively bar older vehicles from larger cities are one example. With a view to the future, large urban areas such as Paris and London are discussing banning vehicles with combustion engines.

Commercial vehicles are increasingly subject to ever stricter environmental regulations all around the world, particularly to regulations relating to climate change and vehicle emissions. With Regulation (EU) 2019/1242 of June 20, 2019, which specifies CO2 emission standards for new heavy trucks with a permitted gross weight of over 16 tonnes, the EU has set heavy commercial vehicle manufacturers very ambitious targets for reducing CO2 emissions within the next decade. The CO2 emissions from such vehicles must be reduced by 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030 compared to a reference value for a monitoring period from July 2019 to June 2020. If they fail to meet these targets, vehicle manufacturers will be liable to substantial penalties for the excess emissions, amounting to €4,250 per excess gram of CO2/tonne-kilometer (tkm) per vehicle for the period from 2025 to 2029 and €6,800 per excess gram of CO2/tkm per vehicle for the period from 2030 onward.

Compliance with regulations relating to climate change and vehicle emissions requires considerable investment in new technologies, including alternative drive systems and vehicles powered by alternative fuels. Increasing connectivity within transport networks can help to reduce inefficiencies such as unused transport capacity, empty runs and inefficient routes in existing transport networks. In conjunction with connected traffic management systems, this can result in optimized goods transport and therefore a reduction in CO2 emissions.

In the Power Engineering segment, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has introduced the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARine POLlution – MARPOL), with which limits on emissions from marine engines will be lowered in phases. A reduction of the sulfur content in marine fuel has been confirmed with effect from January 1, 2020. In addition, the IMO has decided on a number of emission control areas in Europe and the USA/Canada that will be subject to special environmental regulations. Expansion to further regions such as the Mediterranean or Japan is already being planned; other regions such as the Black Sea, Alaska, Australia or South Korea are also in discussion. Moreover, emission limits are in force under Regulation (EU) 2016/1628 and in accordance with the regulations of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example. We are pushing for a maritime energy transition in specialist bodies and also promote this to the general public. In a first step, we are supporting the switch to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel for maritime applications and also offer dual fuel and gas-powered engines for new and retrofitted vessels. For the long-term and climate-neutral operation of seagoing vessels, we advocate power-to-X technology, in which excess sustainably generated electricity is converted into carbon-neutral gas or liquid fuel.

As regards stationary equipment, there are a number of national rules in place worldwide that limit permitted emissions. On December 18, 2008, the World Bank Group set limits for gas and diesel engines in its “Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines for Thermal Power Plants”, which are required to be applied in countries that have adopted no national requirements of their own, or requirements that are less strict than those of the World Bank Group. These guidelines are currently being revised. In addition, the United Nations adopted the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution back in 1979, setting limits on total emissions as well as nitrogen oxide for the signatory states (including all EU states, other countries in Eastern Europe, the USA and Canada). Enhancements to the product portfolio in the Power Engineering segment focus on improving the efficiency of equipment and systems.

The allocation method for emissions certificates changed fundamentally when the third emissions trading period

(2013–2020) began. As a general rule, all emission allowances for power generators have been sold at auction since 2013. For the manufacturing industry and certain power generation installations (e.g. combined heat and power installations), a portion of the certificates is allocated free of charge on the basis of benchmarks applicable throughout the EU. This portion of free certificates will gradually decrease as the trading period progresses; the remaining quantities required will have to be bought at auction. Furthermore, installation operators can partly fulfill their obligation to hold emission allowances using certificates from climate change projects (Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism projects). In certain (sub-)sectors of industry, there is a risk that production will be transferred to countries outside Europe due to the amended provisions governing emissions trading, a phenomenon referred to as carbon leakage. A consistent quantity of certificates will be allocated to these sectors free of charge for the period from 2013 to 2020 on the basis of the pan-EU benchmarks. The automotive industry was included in the carbon leakage list that came into effect in 2015. As a result, individual facilities at Volkswagen Group locations in Europe will receive additional certificates free of charge up to the end of the third trading period. Already back in 2013 the European Commission decided to initially withhold a portion of the certificates to be auctioned and not to release them for auction until a later date during the third trading period (backloading). The certificates will be directed into a market stability reserve that was established in 2018. The reserve will serve to offset any imbalance between the supply of and demand for certificates in emissions trading in the fourth trading period. Furthermore, the European Commission is planning further modifications in emissions trading when the fourth trading period begins (from 2021) that may lead to a tightening of the system and thus to price increases for the certificates.

In addition to the EU member states, other countries in which the Volkswagen Group has production sites are also considering introducing an emissions trading system. In China, for example, seven corresponding pilot projects are underway. These do not affect the Volkswagen Group. The Chinese government officially implemented a national emissions trading system at the end of 2017. Initially, this affects only the power generation sector; a gradual expansion is being planned.