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Integrity, Transparency and Good Corporate Citizenship

On 8 March 2018, the European Movement International held an event on ‘Integrity, Transparency and Good Corporate Citizenship’.

The event featured keynote speeches by Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman, and Hiltrud D. Werner, Member of the Board for Integrity and Legal Affairs at the Volkswagen Group. Further speakers were Brando Benifei MEP, Vice President, European Movement International, Carl Dolan, Director, Transparency International EU, Markus J. Beyrer, Director General, BusinessEurope and Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General, European Movement International.

Integrity, transparency and good citizenship are fundamental values for a successful society. This holds true also for corporates, which form an integral part of every society. As the current Volkswagen experience shows, breaking these simple principles is painful for the company involved and the society it serves.

In his opening statement, Brando Benifei MEP, Vice President of the European Movement International, emphasised the essential role of the corporate world in building a successful society. Therefore, this event’s goal is to bring together different stakeholders to debate what has to be done to ensure that the values of Integrity, Transparency and Good Citizenship reside at the core of every corporate. Mr Benifei stressed that the European Movement encourages an open and frank discussion about the Volkswagen case, and invites all the actors to debate the cultural change that needs to be implemented by corporations.

In her kick-off speech, Mrs O’Reilly noted that when speaking about the Volkswagen’s case, it is important to make the company aware of public concern, as well as to inform the public of what is being done to hold accountable those responsible for the harmful decisions. One also needs to focus on understanding Volkswagen’s rationale behind compensating its European customers. The Ombudsman stressed that it is in everyone’s best interest to “fully understand why what happened, and why it is important to be reassured that it cannot happen again”. Volkswagen Group, as one of the biggest European brands, must support and comply with European values as well as with safety, environmental, and labour standards.

You can read the full speech of the European Ombudsman here.

The second keynote speech was delivered by Hiltrud D. Werner, Member of the Board for Integrity and Legal Affairs of the Volkswagen Group. Mrs Werner stressed that Volkswagen was committed to becoming the first provider of sustainable automobiles. This goal would be achieved through both technical and cultural improvements within the company. She also outlined the changes implemented by Volkswagen in the last two years, in particular, development of a new code of conduct for employees, revision of the company’s corporate culture, and creation of a new strategy with integrity at the heart of it.

You can read the full speech here.

The floor was then opened to comments from the panel, with the discussion and audience Q&A being moderated by BBC journalist Joe Lynam.

Carl Dolan, Director of Transparency International EU, shared his thoughts on freedoms and responsibilities of corporations and put forward his definition of good corporate citizenship. One of his suggestions was to make all the interactions between the company and politicians completely transparent. He also raised the question of whether companies, rather than personalities behind them, should be held responsible for their activities.

The next panelist to comment on the discussed issues was  Markus J. Beyrer, Director General at BusinessEurope. Mr Beyrer emphasized that transparency was the basis of modern democracy, but also pointed out that making mistakes was natural and could happen to any individual, company or NGO. More important was therefore the reaction to making the mistake, and this was what we needed to pay attention to in Volkswagen case. He also underlined the EU’s most vital task today was to defend its values.

Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General of European Movement International, equally emphasised the need to protect the European values, as without them the European Union would not exist. It was also every organisation’s responsibility to be able to reflect back on itself and to self-evaluate its procedures. Complemented by questions from the audience, this debate showed that a frank and open discussion about the universal need for integrity and transparency was long overdue, not only in the context of the Volkswagen case.

Take a look at the photos from the event: 08.03.2018 - Integrity, Transparency and Good Corporate Citizenship

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