Volkswagen is the pioneer for corporate social responsibility. The company is so eco-friendly that it has won numerous awards. Wait, just kidding. They lied about all of it. VW was considered a leader in the automobile industry with CSR, until a federal investigation found the whole company to be scamming the public and the planet. VW was greenwashing and masking it as CSR, but I have to wonder if their actions were originally inspired by the trend of eco-friendly journalism.
VW strived to have amazing public relations, so much so, that they were considered to be on the offensive with reputation management. The company was so offensive with public relations, that the automaker rigged around 11 million cars. Software was installed in the cars that allowed the companies to pass through Department of Environmental Quality as ‘clean diesel engines.’ The software was designed by the German automaker to trick emissions tests, thus illegally emitting a huge amount of harmful pollutants in to the air
The New York Times describes VW’s attempts of ‘progressive CSR’ as merely
Greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company represents themselves as more environmentally friendly than it really is. This concept has become a more common action with different organizations as consumers have prioritized “sustainable and organize products and services.” Organizations are trying to capitalize on this trend in attempts to compete with each other for credentials. The problem with greenwashing is the title of being eco-friendly is more important to brands than the concept behind the actions.
While journalists have strived to inform the public and keep these companies accountable with their environmental foot print, businesses are competing to be the best in these categories so that they can be the best in the media, even if that means cutting corners. Journalists aspire to improve corporate social responsibility in businesses, but the downside is businesses masking greenwashing as CSR.
Forbes summarized VW’s unforgivable actions perfectly. “The Volkswagen case represents above all an absolute failure in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The company deliberately set out to design a means to circumvent emissions control—a stratagem known at the highest levels—with the aim of giving the company an unfair advantage over its competitors that made it the world’s number one car maker, in large part on the basis of its supposedly environmentally friendly cars; meanwhile it was poisoning the planet.”
Corporate social responsibility is a priority for companies because public relations professionals suggest it for their clients’ brands. The concept of global warming and environmental issues are important issues to the public. On the other side of “the wall” are journalists who are informing the public on these organizations and their social responsibility and sustainability campaigns.
Most of the time, greenwashing isn’t inspired by such villainess plans as it was with VW. “This wasn’t simply the action of some faceless, multinational corporation,” said Sally Q. Yates, deputy attorney general. “This conspiracy involved flesh-and-blood individuals who used their positions within Volkswagen to deceive both regulators and consumers.”
Some sources believe that the investigation of this scandal will improve CSR initiatives worldwide from now on, and other sources believe that VW has forever tarnished the concept of CSR initiatives. However, I think it’s fair to at least acknowledge the reasoning for this entire scandal. The consumers have the right to know how their purchases affect the environment, but sometimes manufacturers would put on a face than truly minimize their carbon footprint.