Corporate social responsibility: Emission Scandal

In this world where we see MNCs as “Social Actors” there has been a growing need for Corporate Social Responsibility as they are not just economic actors but also “bear a responsibility” to social stakeholders (Hofferberth, 2011). However, in modern times more often than not it seems to be uses as a marketing strategy for greater commercial profit from the poor sucker consumers trying to do the right thing. This was best seen in the VW scandal.

In 2015 Volkswagen was caught up in an emission scandal that shocked the world not only because an MNC did something they shouldn’t have but due to the blatant violation of the tenants of Corporate Social Responsibility. The company had pledged under CSR to “go Green” to save the world selling cars under the disguise of being the designer of cheap environmentally friendly diesel engines. However, the company deliberately set out to circumvent emissions control with the aim of giving the company an unfair advantage over its competitors that made it the world’s number one car maker at the expense of the environment. It wasn’t just a single engineer who made this decision but everyone from the CEO down knew what was happening. The head of CSR instead of challenging the fake “cheat devices” turned a blind eye to the issue. The command chain that led to the development of certain lines of software that could put an engine into to test mode and then return it to “dirty mode” is on record, all the testing that was done is documented. Consumers on finding out not just the lie but the extent to which VW went to hide the lie shocked a massive worldwide recall and a massive hit to VW share. However, the reality was that VW, while definitely taking a hit, was still ok as people showcased that while the environment is important, a reliable fast car is more what they want. VW is still the number one world’s largest car manufacturer in 2018 regardless of the scandal and their head of CSR remains in his position. More work needs to be done to ensure CSR is taken seriously as while we claim in theory that CSR is the right solution for companies, the reality remains that until a regulatory body of CSR is established companies will always put CSR second to economic profit.



Matthias Hofferberth et. al. (2011) “Multinational Enterprises as “Social Actors”—Constructivist Explanations for Corporate Social Responsibility” Global Society 25, 2: 205-226

Theo Legett (2018). How VW covered up their scandal. BBC News.

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