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VW: We Need a Green Kick in the Pants

“We are too slow,” admits CEO Herbert Diess.
#europe #people #sustainability

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VW has lots of great “green” ideas, but it takes too long to act on them, admits CEO Herbert Diess.

VW CEO Herbert Diess is looking for an environmental gadfly. (Image: VW)

His solution? Hire a passionate young environmentalist to poke the company when it dawdles.

“We are too slow,” Diess concedes to the Financial Times. He aims to add “someone really aggressive internally.” The incoming agitator will have direct access to him and other top honchos, he vows.

Taunts

VW, along with practically every major player in Germany’s auto industry, is being taunted relentlessly by climate activists for taking too long to phase out “climate-damaging” piston power in favor of zero-emission electric vehicles.

Activists made their point through a series of demonstrations during last September’s Frankfurt auto show, which was already reeling from the loss of 22 OEM participants. Promoters say the event will be revamped and moved to another city in Germany when it recurs in 2021.

Diess tells FT he has been disappointed in the performance of special VW management teams and a sustainability panel already set up to speed up the company’s transformation.

Tried Before

Diess is convinced that a rapid switch to electrification will help, not hurt, the company’s bottom line by creating an opportunity for renewed growth. But the idea to use an inhouse gadfly to help isn’t new.

Siemens tried the same tack two weeks ago to blunt criticism about a coal contract. The electronics giant offered a supervisory board seat to Luisa Neubauer, the 23-year-old founder of Germany’s Fridays for Future green movement.

Neubauer promptly rejected the overture. She suggested that Siemens hire an actual climate scientist instead—and presumably pay attention to the advice it gets as a result.

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