VW's moral licence to trade

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I wrote the other day about VW and its emissions troubles.  All is not gloom for the company, however, as it wins prizes for its Corporate Social Responsibility.  Indeed, as the Telegraph reminds us, VW is a "global leader" in CSR.  Maybe, in a future imperfect sense, that should be "once was"

It notes,

"Volkswagen was as progressive, inclusive and caring as any multi-national is meant to be these days.  The Reputation Institute recently ranked the company as the 11th best in the world for its CSR work (Google, BMW and Disney were the top three, by the way – just in case you want to start selling the shares).  Last year it collected the “Gold Medal Award for Sustainable Development” from the non-profit World Environment Center, which praised it for its “understanding of sustainability as a strategic goal and its exemplary implementation”.  It won the 2014 policy award for Corporate Social Responsibility for its strategic partnership with the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union.  Only last week, and rather embarrassingly after the revelations emerged, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index picked it as the overall global winner in the auto industry for its commitment to the environment."

CSR is about a public licence to operate over and above what's now routinely expected of you as creditable organisation producing quality goods and /or services: a good employer, a fair and prompt tax-payer, a non-polluter, a steward of the Earth, a support to (and non-exploiter of) the vulnerable, and a respecter of law.   As VW is finding, all the CSR in the world won't help when you get one of those spectacularly and very publicly wrong.  Where is the CSR in mis-leading so many people into buying something that doesn't do what the they think it does?

Personally, I think that VW has lost its moral right to trade.


Postscript: here's Edward Hadas on Reuters with a comment on VW's culture.


Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • From the Hadas piece: "For most big companies, a single-minded focus on growth or profitability brings unacceptably large risks to shareholders, customers and the community. From the perspective of society, such firms cannot really afford to be reckless." - Behind all the CSR and the greenwashing done by giant corporations, the 'single-minded' ruthless drive for profit and the unethical predatory leadership that propels it is something that environmental education and ESD/ESF need to encompass. Does questioning the conduct of globalised corporations in influencing national politics and media that reinforce the universal story that market-driven exponential economic growth and capital accumulation are the goal of society fall within the ambit of EE/ESD/ESF curricula? Hadas sees recklessness in VW's chicanery, but there is a higher order recklessness towards the consequences of human impact on nature that is built in to our global economic and financial systems. 'Big-picture' systemic thinking is needed in our education programmes to address such fundamental issues. I wonder if such issues will feature in your San Diego GEEP deliberations?