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CL in Conversation: Volkswagen Group UK CL trainer

April 2024 by Catherine McGinn

Image credit: Volkswagen Group UK 2024.

Volkswagen Group UK is on a mission to embed Carbon Literacy within its workforce, inspiring a low-carbon culture shift and organisational commitment to climate action. Having utilised the Automotive Toolkit, which was created and funded by Auto Trader with the support of businesses from across the automotive industry, the VWG team tailored course materials for internal staff. Now, with multiple internal trainers, 75 staff members trained and their sights set on Silver CLO accreditation in 2024, VWG sees no signs of slowing down.

We had the pleasure of catching up with Leanne Thomas, Head of Aftersales Business Development at Volkswagen Group UK, about VWG’s Carbon Literacy journey.

Hi Leanne, please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Volkswagen Group UK’s journey with Carbon Literacy so far?

I’m Leanne Thomas and I’m Head of Aftersales Business Development at Volkswagen Group UK, which is the importer of Audi, SEAT, CUPRA and Škoda cars as well as Volkswagen Passenger Cars and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. We directly employ around 900 people in the UK.

I’m leading the Volkswagen Group’s Carbon Literacy journey, but I should say it’s not directly a part of my ‘day job’. It’s become a personal passion since I attended the Auto Trader course in 2022, initially out of curiosity; and I know it’s only a stereotype – but I was not, and am not, your stereotypical ‘eco-warrior’! I was curious to discover the impact both I and my team have on the planet, and what we could do to make a difference.

I was responsible for adding bespoke Volkswagen content into the Auto Trader Automotive Toolkit, resulting in a course specific to our people. We now have four people in the organisation who can deliver the training, and so far, we have around 75 people trained, with three more courses booked for this year, in which we plan to train around an additional 100.

What tangible outcomes have you observed from Carbon Literacy training within Volkswagen Group UK?

From our first tranche of pledges and focus on sustainability, we’ve already made great headway. For example, we have reduced (with a plan to eliminate) print assets in our aftersales network, and also begun work to substantially reduce our scope 3 network emissions. We’ve also introduced a sustainable procurement allowance, giving our teams the ability to source a more expensive option when procuring goods or services, providing it contributes to our environmental commitments.

Other examples include futureproofing our parts IT systems to enable the circular economy and facilitate recycling; changing our company car system to allow more people to drive electric vehicles; and at director level, a commitment to engage the entire aftersales department in carbon reduction strategies. There are many more in the pipeline and I’m looking forward to following up and updating our progress every three months.

In addition to the pledges, we’re seeing a real buzz in the business when those who have done the course tell their colleagues about it and we’re seeing a snowball effect with more and more people wanting to take part. It’s really gaining momentum and that’s really exciting to see.

Why do you think Carbon Literacy training is crucial for all segments within the automotive industry?

The stats speak for themselves: the motor industry is a huge contributor to carbon emissions, and as the UK’s leading automotive group, we have to take responsibility for our actions. Through Carbon Literacy training, we can really understand not only the impacts, but also how we can do something different – and be motivated to do something different. The compound effect and ‘cross-pollination’ of multiple tiny steps from individuals quickly starts to build a substantial impact.

Have you encountered any challenges or barriers in implementing Carbon Literacy training, and if so, how have these challenges been addressed or overcome?

Everyone is busy! And getting people to commit to a full day, as well as following up on their pledges and commitments, is probably the biggest challenge. But I have to admire the commitment so far from individuals and senior leadership who are supporting their colleagues to invest the time.

Volkswagen Group took part in the third annual Carbon Literacy Action Day back in December 2023. Why do you think the Action Day is important and what impact did your involvement have on your organisation?

While this topic is important and always there, the Action Day gives us a moment in time. It supports our PR and allows us to unite lots of ESG activities and elements into one place and focal point – something we can all get behind. Building on our CLAD training course, our latest training session on 29th February was billed as ‘An extra day to save the planet!’ with Leap Day learners embracing the opportunity, and allowing us to promote and amplify our efforts.

Looking ahead, what’s next for Volkswagen Group UK, and how do you envision your Carbon Literacy journey developing further?

Beyond following up on people’s pledges and celebrating our tangible achievements, on our current training trajectory we’re on track to reach Silver Carbon Literate Organisation (CLO) accreditation by the end of the year.

We’re also starting conversations with a number of our sister companies, including Bentley and Volkswagen Financial Services, to share our Volkswagen Group training and encourage them to get engaged.

It feels like we’re at an exciting tipping point and I’m really delighted to be on the journey!
If you’d like to find out more about the Automotive Toolkit, visit our Automotive webpage or send us an email.

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