Auditing firm distances itself from duo’s work on VW’s China plant


BERLIN, Dec 13: The auditor hired by Volkswagen to audit its jointly-owned site in Xinjiang posted a statement on LinkedIn flagging that just two employees supervised the project, in a sign of the reputational challenges posed by undertaking such work in the region.

Volkswagen commissioned Loening GmbH to audit its jointly-owned site in Xinjiang, a region of China where rights groups have documented abuses including mass forced labour in detention camps. Beijing denies any such abuses.

The statement, posted on Loening’s LinkedIn page on Dec. 8, said that the technical audit was carried out by two Chinese lawyers, and supervised by the company’s founder and managing director Markus Loening and one further employee. Apart from them, “no other team member participated in, supported or backed this project.”

“Our team has diligently worked to establish ourselves as reputable knowledgeable experts in business and human rights. We remain committed to being guided by international human rights standards in our work,” it said.

The statement adds to cautious comments by some Volkswagen investors last week who welcomed the audit but said it could not be a one-off and should be the first of a series of steps to improve transparency in the carmaker’s supply chain in China.

Loening said last week it had found no signs of forced labour.

Still, managing director Loening noted that the audit had been limited to the site, a joint venture with SAIC Motor (600104.SS), adding the situation in Xinjiang and the challenges in collecting data for audits were well known.

Six senior employees reshared the company’s statement on their LinkedIn. Four added an extra line to state that they personally did not support accepting the project and were not involved in carrying it out.

Volkswagen declined to comment. Markus Loening, Loening GmbH and the employees did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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