The Volkswagen Group is restructuring its Sustainability unit; Dirk Voeste will be appointed as the new Chief Sustainability Officer with effect from April 1, 2023 and will report to Gernot Döllner, Head of Group Strategy and General Secretariat. Dirk Voeste succeeds Ralf Pfitzner, who after five years in the post is leaving the company on his own request to pursue new challenges outside the Group. The Group is also realigning the independent Sustainability Council in response to new challenges against the background of the digital and sustainable transformation.
CEO Oliver Blume: “Climate change is one of the major challenges of our time. This is the reason we are continuously advancing the transformation of the Volkswagen Group and taking a holistic approach to sustainability, embracing economic, environmental and social aspects. We are setting ambitious ESG goals across our brands and divisions within the framework of our 10-point plan. Ralf Pfitzner was successful in putting the topic of sustainability on the Board of Management’s agenda from 2018 and strategically realigning it, for which I thank him sincerely. As the new Head of Sustainability, Dirk Voeste will draw on his extensive experience to pursue our ambitious decarbonization strategy and the ESG goals and continue to develop them in conjunction with the brands. Beyond this, we are sharpening the focus of our Sustainability Council, making it more compact, more agile and focused squarely on Volkswagen’s sustainable transformation.”
The Volkswagen Group was the first automobile manufacturer to commit to the Paris Climate Agreement back in 2018. Its strategy and corporate targets are aimed at ensuring the entire Group has a net carbon-neutral footprint by no later than 2050. This objective encompasses not only vehicles but also factories and processes. Under the baton of Ralf Pfitzner, the Sustainability unit significantly drove the implementation of the decarbonization program forward in recent years. The Group was reinstated into the UN Global Compact in 2021. Flanked by his team, Ralf Pfitzner also recently mobilized some 300,000 employees as part of the annual Project1Hour campaign.
Gernot Döllner, Head of Group Strategy and General Secretariat: “In implementing the Group’s decarbonization program, Ralf Pfitzner was successful in helping to enhance Volkswagen’s ESG performance. Mr. Pfitzner was also instrumental in positioning Volkswagen as a sustainable company. At the same time, I am delighted to report that in Dirk Voeste we again have found an expert to replace him with a proven track record in sustainability matters. Now that the groundwork has been laid, what we need to do is continue to implement our ESG measures as part of the 10-point plan across our brands and divisions.”
The Sustainability unit is one of ten strategic action areas with which the Volkswagen Group is moving ahead at full steam under the direction of CEO Oliver Blume. The sponsor of the strategic initiative in the Group Board of Management is Manfred Döss, the Board member responsible for Integrity and Legal Affairs, who will ensure that the objectives are rigorously pursued and the measures and target achievement are regularly evaluated. To this end, Dirk Voeste, who has over 20 years of experience in corporate sustainability, will restructure the Sustainability department and ensure its management across brands and regions.
An independent Sustainability Council will continue to advise the Group going forward. The Sustainability Council was constituted in 2016 to assist the Group with strategic issues relating to sustainability and social responsibility. In its third term and after being realigned, the Sustainability Council will support the implementation of the sustainability strategy and the embedding of the ESG goals in the Group.
Georg Kell, founding Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact and Spokesperson of the Sustainability Council, said, “We can see that sustainability as a strategic objective firmly entrenched in the Volkswagen Group. What matters now is the speed of the transformation to remain successful. We are therefore happy to continue to provide support along this path. A smaller Sustainability Council will allow for more agile responses but still permit a critical and constructive perspective from outside the company.”
Dirk Voeste has many years of experience in corporate sustainability. His most recent post was as Senior Vice President at BASF in the Sustainability, Regulatory and Public Affairs operating segment. He was previously Vice President of BASF’s Corporate Sustainability department. In this role, Dirk Voeste developed and implemented the group’s global sustainability strategy, from identifying social and sustainability issues and trends to target-setting up to implementation across all major business and decision-making processes. This encompassed portfolio management and also evaluation of investment decisions according to sustainability criteria.