“I would not want to argue that the promise of profits was so great that I had to look away while Uyghurs were annihilated.”

Speech by Kendyl Salcito, Executive Director of NomoGaia

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Board of Management, dear Supervisory Board,

I am Kendyl Salcito, the Executive Director of NomoGaia and the co-author of the report Driving Force. This report links automotive supply chains to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where Crimes Against Humanity are underway. My comments have been translated into German by colleagues.

VW has positioned itself to lead western automakers into the EV era, investing heavily in a green future. Its business development strategy prioritizes China first, followed by Europe and North America. China has mandated a green transition, and it is already VW’s largest single market representing over a third of global sales and fully 38% of production facilities. Scania is moving more production into China, and new EV plants are under development in Anhui and Changchun. This feels like a sure bet, from a business standpoint.

But Crimes Against Humanity are being committed by the Chinese Government in Xinjiang. Industrial actors are being used to force working-age Uyghurs into factory jobs, moving their small children into Han-language boarding schools, and sending their parents to elder care facilities, dispossessing them of ancestral lands. Companies like Volkswagen’s partners and suppliers “absorb” these laborers from government programs.

VW has a manufacturing plant in Urumchi and a warehousing facility purchased from the notoriously exploitative firm Guanghui. In its supply chains, VW sources aluminum from Xinjiang Joinworld, which uses Uyghur forced labor to sew its uniforms and to work in its smelters. VW has relationships with CATL and Ganfeng for EV batteries, the former linking it to abuses undertaken by metals supplier Xinjiang Nonferrous Group. Xinjiang Nonferrous piloted the methods of family separations and collective punishment in its remote copper mines. VW also procured over 23 million square meters of lands Turpan, Xinjiang for a heat testing facility.

VW’s annual reports that it “has conducted and completed human rights risk assessments for 802 controlled Group companies worldwide.” How many of those assessments identified human rights risks that merited further assessment?

VW Group has a supply chain evaluation system. How many high-risk suppliers has VW identified so far, for its 2023 reporting? How is it acting on them?

What has the system identified regarding VW’s lithium supply chain? regarding sourcing from Indigenous lands in Latin America or processing in China? Its cobalt supply chain?

North American and European governments are identifying risks in VW’s operations and supply chains. Some authorities have banned goods made in whole or in part with forced labor from entering into markets. Which business risks and human rights risks have your Systems and Tools identified linked to these laws? What actions have you taken to mitigate those?

You withdrew from Russia in response to a humanitarian crisis and sanctions imposed by the community of Western states. Have you evaluated the cost to VW if similar sanctions were issued against China? How would you adjust business activities in China?

You have suggested that the Chinese market is too big to exit. What is the dollar value or percentage value of business activity that makes a market too important to leave?

I would not want to be in a position where I needed to argue that the promise of profits was so great that I had to look away while Uyghurs were annihilated through systemic programs of cultural erasure that included my industrial operations and suppliers. We should be clear-eyed about how VW would explain that decision to shareholders if it proved unprofitable. Will VW tell shareholders these were risks they spotted in their 802 risk assessments but deemed immaterial? Will VW suggest that the outcomes were unforeseeable?

Thank you for your attention.

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