VW Case Study Analysis: How Corporate Misconduct Can Be Prevented in the Future

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VW is an automotive company that had, in the past, experienced a great deal of controversy in regards to its technology as a whole. More recently, VW was in hot water as a result of its emissions not being what was claimed. This brings to light a number of issues that can be observed within not just VW, but many other companies, automotive or not, when it comes to the ways that they claim to be environmentally friendly. In this case, there was a scam surrounding allegedly clean diesel engines for these VW engines, which were found to not actually be nearly as clean as they claimed. In fact, they were not even clean enough to pass a typical inspection. This is naturally a massive revelation, and one that threatens the business of VW itself as well as a number of other automotive companies. This is why it is necessary to take a closer look at some of the more specific steps that can be taken to ensure that these sorts of crises do not occur in the future.

One of the first and strongest of these foundations is that of the legal foundation. According to one source, there were approximately nine million fraudulent VW vehicles that were sold collectively between the United States and Europe, leading to approximately 527 kilotons of nitrogen oxides being dumped illegitimately into the atmosphere (Oldenkamp, van Zelm, & Huijbregts, 2016). Gathering these sorts of statistics is the first step in formulating the legal defense against these sorts of transgressions being repeated in the future. This is because, in order to stop these sorts of businesses from engaging in these practices, it becomes necessary to demonize them, for lack of a better term, and labeling them as major polluters through a number of legal cases, even if they are not actually successful, would no doubt be one of the most effective ways to accomplish this. Of course, legally attacking VW also has benefits in regards to prevention because it would affect their bottom line. VW, of course, is a business, and as such, if a particular action or idea is found to not be worth its risk, it will not be attempted. Considering the massive amount of legal resource that they have already experienced as a result of this, it is safe to say that they will likely think twice before attempting these sorts of shenanigans in the future.

Preventing these sorts of transgressions on a legal level is a different story for other companies aside from VW though. Indeed, the video also mentions that many other automotive companies, such as Passat, were found to be doing very similar things as VW was. This can also be accomplished by pointing out some of the national rules that were violated as a result of these sorts of deceptions. This would serve a dual-pronged purpose of not only causing the company a great deal of well-deserved legal trouble, but would also bring to light the ways that these companies mislead their consumers. This is especially important for these companies who were less frequently mentioned or implicated when it comes to these emissions scandals. For example, another source points out that the United States loudly pointed out that VW violated the Clean Air Act by installing these defeat devices, as they were called, in the diesel engine vehicles, thereby sabotaging their purported "green" properties (Barrett et al., 2015).

These sorts of accusations can, and should, be leveled against companies who were not only found to be directly performing these sorts of deceptions, but also those companies who committed less serious offenses, such as simple false advertising to consumers. This might seem excessive, but the underlying idea here is not necessarily pragmatism, but rather being preventative and proactive about preventing these sorts of scandals in the future. In this regard, it would become necessary to create new laws that would be able to intercept these sorts of deceptions at earlier stages, such as by requiring there to be FDA-style inspections extremely frequently, as well as for sample vehicles to be provided to these inspectors in order to ensure that these consumers are being given exactly what is being advertised to them. Through this, it would be possible, over time, to see a greater amount of success than had these cases been treated more reactively.

Of course, this tough love is not the only step that can and should be implemented here in order to prevent these sorts of scandals from happening in the future. Examining and altering some of the overarching culture, especially taxonomy, surrounding these sorts of scandals is integral toward ensuring that the public is made well aware of the implications of these sorts of scandals. As another source puts it, there is an effort on the part of VW, among many other companies, to "greenwash" their own products, which is one example of a term that can be placed into the public consciousness (Siano, Vollero, Conte, & Amabile, 2017). Furthermore, it is also important to understand the ways that these sorts of scandals were extremely well-known even within the company itself. Increasing the overall degree of awareness of these elements, as well as the exact role that the company played in allowing it to become as prominent as it did, is integral here.

Of course, the media naturally plays a major role in this process as well, and leveraging this particular element is of the utmost importance for long-term success as well. Another source points out that, following a great deal of media and subsequent public outcry surrounding its misrepresentation of the environmentally friendly elements of its diesel-engine vehicles, VW publicly admitted that around eleven million cars worldwide were affected by this deception in some way (Ewing, 2015). What is important here is not necessarily the number itself, although that is extremely important as well, but the fact that VW itself eventually owned up to its own deception. Of course, most companies would not do this normally, considering the massive stigma that would be attached to the company as a result. It was only after the massive outcry and coverage in the media that VW eventually decided to come clean and reveal to the public the nature of the issue.

Another dimension of this issue is the manner in which the stakeholders are affected, and through this particular dimension, it is possible to leverage even more of these individual elements surrounding the concept of VW as a whole. For instance, according to another source, the consequences of the unethical business practices on the part of VW actually led to a massive number of stakeholders, both directly and indirectly, being negatively impacted, and this only strengthened the protests that came about on virtually all sides (Mansouri, 2016). Furthermore, mentioning the issue to the stakeholders, whoever they may be, in a more direct manner would enable the public and media to glean a much more thorough understanding of these issues, and be able to predict when and where they might be happening in a more preventative way. Again, the key to ensuring that these sorts of issues do not happen again is to catch them as early as possible.

This might not always be possible, but by pulling the stakeholders into the equation here, it becomes possible to more readily pin the blame on the overarching culture of the company itself, complete with the implications that brings. This might seem like a rather controversial method of prevention, but that very controversy is one of the central mechanisms in ensuring that these sorts of scandals do not become commonplace. Indeed, according to another source, the policies, including the culture, in particular, of VW have, both historically and looking forward, been a major roadblock when it comes to enacting change in all the different forms that takes (Milne, 2015). This means that when it comes to the prevention of these sorts of scandals, actually altering the company culture is one of the most integral and, perhaps, effective of steps that can be taken here.

One of the final steps that can be utilized to reduce the rate of these scandals is to increase the overall number of criteria for considering a particular vehicle "green." Establishment of a global standard that is more strictly enforced would naturally be an extremely effective way to do this, but also ensuring that these companies do not have the resources to manipulate the system in the first place would be integral. This means that it would be necessary for each major country, especially in Europe and the United States, to pool their resources and formulate more modular and yet cumulative solutions that would be able to set the stage for a greater number of long-term solutions. Using VW as an example to be learned from is a valid avenue for improvement, but at the same time, there must be more broad effort made here to ensure that other companies are implicated as well.

Ultimately, VW committed a massive PR disaster with not only the act of misleading its own consumers in an extremely direct way, but also in attempting to cover it up. It seems, then, that whistleblowing is one of the few, but more direct, of solutions here. As this paper has helped to demonstrate, though, it is far from the only solution that is possible here, and in the long run, there can be little doubt that the increase in public awareness of these sorts of scandals will only work to their advantage in ensuring that they are able to understand and hopefully prevent these sorts of things in the future. Although there are still some questions that linger in regards to the VW scandal, the overarching narrative is one that has already come and gone, and its effects are still being felt. Leveraging public appreciation of the concept of "going green" has existed for some time, but what was surprising about the manner in which VW did this was how direct and widespread the issue was. This, hopefully, will be an isolated incident, and consumers can use this scandal as a way of preventing future scandals.

References

Barrett, S.R., Speth, R.L., Eastham, S.D., Dedoussi, I.C., Ashok, A., Malina, R. and Keith, D.W., 2015. Impact of the Volkswagen emissions control defeat device on US public health. Environmental Research Letters, 10(11), p.114005.

Ewing, J., 2015. Volkswagen says 11 million cars worldwide are affected in diesel deception. The New York Times, 22.

Mansouri, N., 2016. A Case Study of Volkswagen Unethical Practice in Diesel Emission Test. International Journal of Science and Engineering Applications, 5(4), pp.211-216.

Milne, R., 2015. Volkswagen: System failure. Financial Times. Retrieved from http://www. ft. com/cms/s/0/47f233f0-816b-11e5-a01c-8650859a4767.html.

Oldenkamp, R., van Zelm, R. and Huijbregts, M.A., 2016. Valuing the human health damage caused by the fraud of Volkswagen. Environmental Pollution, 212, pp.121-127.

Siano, A., Vollero, A., Conte, F. and Amabile, S., 2017. “More than words”: Expanding the taxonomy of greenwashing after the Volkswagen scandal. Journal of Business Research, 71, pp.27-37.