When compliance to sustainability regulation fail: Volkswagen crises

Sep 24, 2015

Car industry has been struggling with offences that they lie all the time about the innovations, safety and green thinking. Unfortunately, now we have an evidence that it is like that in Volkswagen case. Experts’ prognoses are that this case will affect all industry as it used to happen with tobacco. The effect will be seen not only from the side of consumers trust decrease, but also from the trust of investors (cost of shares are falling) and controlling institutions.

Volkswagen has positioned itself as trustful and reliable brand, but the case, if it’s true, will call not only for action in communication and building back the trust of the brand, but also for the real changes in product production process. It might not be enough with philanthropy actions green-washing the industry, but real CSR driven production change. It might not be enough if someone resigns from their positions, but changing the teams who work with the product. It might be the case to build back the trust buy providing a lot of evidence to the public that the company and its product has been changed and we are buying what is promised.

The industries usually claim that if the regulation will be there to become more sustainable, then we are ready to make an investment and change or business model. In this case there was a regulation, but the business model was “made according to the regulation” to comply, but in reality it didn’t. If not the regulation, maybe consumer or other stakeholders who where fooled around could change it? So, I have a question who has a power to influence companies’ business model? When the business model will really change to be responsible and don’t damage resources, planet, people, etc? After the crises? And will consumers and how long remember that this companies actually lied about their product when they want to get one?

Hope the case is a good learning process for the car industry. As well I truly hope that as citizens – customers we will pay more attention to the products what we are buying and look for the information and ask to disclose it if we don’t find it! 

Link: Volkswagen emissions: Automakers’ tobacco moment?

Agnese Alksne, CSR Latvia