Volkswagen responded to the allegations against Volkswagen, Bentley, SEAT, Audi and FAW-Volkswagen
[...] Automobile supply chains are vast and complex. Nevertheless, Volkswagen Group (VWG) would like to assure you that we take indications of forced labor in the supply chain very seriously. Despite the numerous challenges we face—including, among others, regulatory challenges, a lack of available verification tools, limited business partner readiness to co-operate and difficulties in accessing local data in China—we share the goal of combatting forced labor in global supply chains. Therefore, Business Partners must reject all conscious use of forced and compulsory labor as well as all forms of modern slavery and human trafficking. Bonded labor or involuntary prison labor are not acceptable. We require that employment relationships are entered into on a voluntary basis and may be terminated by employees at their own discretion and within a reasonable notice period.
Our sustainability requirements for business partners are based on national and international provisions and conventions [...] Our sustainability requirements (including those addressing forced labor) are anchored in our Code of Conduct for Business Partners. Since 2019, we have been assessing the sustainability performance of our relevant business partners with a Sustainability Rating prior to making final sourcing decisions. The analysis and evaluation of the sustainability performance of our business partners is carried out by means of a self-assessment questionnaire. Risk-based on-site audits are carried out after an initial analysis of supplier data. To date, we have conducted over 50 audits in raw material supply chains and over 4,300 sustainability on-site reviews at direct suppliers’ locations (including employee interviews, review of working conditions, etc.).
In 2020, VWG adopted a Raw Material Due Diligence Management System, which focuses on high-risk raw materials (risk factors include, e.g., child and forced labor). Our targets for responsible raw material sourcing are set within this Raw Material Due Diligence Management System. In order to increase transparency in our supply chains we have conducted mappings and, for specific raw materials, such as cobalt, we are conducting extensive forensic supplier audits. With respect to battery raw materials, one of our objectives is to gain 100% supply chain transparency and assure that suppliers meet our requirements, including at mine site level, through ambitious mapping and auditing efforts. As part of our use of the Raw Material Due Diligence Management System, VWG has been requiring in all new contracts the full disclosure of suppliers in the supply chain (i.e., up to the mine) for battery raw materials. [...]
In case of the Report “Driving Force” from the Sheffield Hallam University, we are currently in the process of investigation and assessment and contacted mentioned companies connected to Volkswagen Group. This process is still ongoing.
[The full response is attached]