The Volkswagen emission scandal that occurred some years ago was an illustration of some of the challenges and failures facing the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in modern organizations. Notably, in modern global environment, the organizations have had a significant role to play to ensure they influence economic, social, and environmental aspects in society in a positive way. One of the significant approaches that the majority of companies have integrated into their operations to ensure they positively affect the society is the adoption of various corporate social responsibility techniques. CSR is a concept that allows the organizations to consider the interests of society by taking responsibility as well as engaging various stakeholders and the environment. The activities fall beyond the legal liability of a company, as they represent the willingness to engage in voluntary activities that include additional measures that improve the quality of life of various stakeholders. In this regard, the CSR concept has become one of the main approaches through which the organizations give back to society and improve their brand name.
Since there are no single universally accepted ways how CSR should be undertaken, most modern entities adjust their various CSR practices based on their views, beliefs, and resources. According to Klein, in an article in the Forbes magazine, organizations have the potential to maximize their CSR investments and make them successful through the integration of five interrelated criteria in their day-to-day operations. To begin with, the companies must ensure they adopt a business-based social purpose that directly reflects their operations and activities to ensure effective CSR programs. Apart from that, CSR practices should be based on a theory of change to ensure they drive measurable social change in society (Klein). Additionally, the entities should provide quality and depth of information to stakeholders regarding their CSR practices. A successful and effective CSR model should focus on a concentered effort of one objective at a time. Lastly, Klein asserts that organizations have a duty to cooperate with experts to ensure they establish a high degree of credulity when engaging in CSR practices. Subsequently, the management should be willing to incorporate such criteria in their CSR models to guarantee they are successful as well as avoid shortcomings like those witnessed in the Volkswagen CSR models.
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Since the beginning of this century, most CSR practices have become integrated within business strategies; thus, most of them are more about society and stakeholders than public relations (PR). Over the past decades, the success of various companies can somehow be attributed to their effective CSR models. Essentially, the organizations with successful CSR model tend to comply with the law, standards of ethics, and also observe the national and international norms. Some of the companies that have integrated effective CSR practices in their day-to-day operations in recent years include Lego, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Adidas, Novo Nordisk, Intel, Robert Bosch, Cisco Systems, Netflix, and Airbus among many others. Notably, most organizations usually design their various CSR practices based on the types of activities that take place in their operations. Thus, most companies have different CSR approaches, but all of them are aimed at positively affecting society. In recent past, the companies have not only created strong brand names through CSR but have also been able to build a strong bond with consumers and other stakeholders in the market.
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Although CRS practices have been an essential component in the business world, some of the activities in organizations have highlighted the weaknesses and failures of the approach. Over the past years, the world has witnessed several incidents that have illustrated how organizations tend to exploit the concept of CSR. Notably, Nike’s sweatshop crisis in the 1990s, Wal-Mart’s ethical controversies in the mid-2000s, and recently, Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in 2015 demonstrated some of the weakness and failures of CSR practices (Dans). Notably, before the emergence of the emissions scandal, the manufacturer had just been named as the 2015 Automotive Industry Leader in its Dow Jones Sustainability Index (Dans).
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One of the reasons the scandal is attributed to CSR failure is due to the fact that Volkswagen was one of the entities with the leading CSR practices during the time. The emergence of the scandal was an indication that those in charge of the CSR model were not doing their job or had colluded with the management to engage in PR exercises. Based on the emissions scandal in 2015, it was apparent that Volkswagen’s CSR practices were mere marketing exercises rather than activities aimed at benefitting shareholders and society as a whole (Dans). For instance, Volkswagen did not care that its cars were emitting poisonous gas to the environment as long as doing so was enough to earn them the title “world’s automotive industry leader.” One of the current problems with CSR practices is that companies are given the freedom to self-regulate themselves. In this regard, some of them have established CSR practices that are just PR exercises without taking into consideration the well-being of their stakeholders. Subsequently, the CSR failures of Volkswagen are an indication that much needs to be done to ensure those mandated with such practices are held responsible in the event they are discovered to have certain weaknesses or failures.
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Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in 2015 can be attributed to several factors that have become common among most modern CSR practices. The scandal took place since Volkswagen’s CSR program did not meet the criterion of achieving clear change as described by Klein. To begin with, the scandal emerged when the manufacturer decided to invest in production and sale of diesel cars that were ecological friendly in the U.S. The sale of the cars was supported by a market campaign that put emphasis on low emissions. However, it was later discovered that Volkswagen cars had software in the engine that compromised the results (Dans). Subsequently, Volkswagen did admit engaging in fraudulent emissions tests in the U.S.
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As a result, all the CSR practices Volkswagen had been involved in concerning the cars were discovered to be one of the ways of deceiving authorities and other stakeholders like customers. In this regard, Volkswagen’s CSR practices were focused on improving their sales as well as reputation rather than achieving actual change and positive impact for the society. Based on the scandal, it is apparent that some of the modern CSR practices in organizations have shifted from affecting the community to a method of aggressive marketing. Notably, the issue with some of CSR practices in some organizations is that they are based on goals and aspirations and not clear and tangible results (Dumalaon). Therefore, such factors have led to failures of CSR practices, as some of the organizations do not design them based on the intended purposes since CSR has become one of the ways of achieving organizational goals and not positively affecting the society.
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In modern global environment, the organizations have had a significant role to play to ensure they influence economic, social, and environmental aspects in society in a positive way through the use of CSR programs. CSR is a concept that considers the interests of the community by taking responsibility as well as engaging in activities that have positive impacts on the various stakeholders in society and the environment. In recent years, the success of several organizations is attributed to their effective CSR programs. However, some of the activities by other entities have highlighted the weaknesses and failures of the CSR approach. Some of the weaknesses and failures of CSR are illustrated by Volkswagen’s emissions scandal of 2015. It was discovered that the manufacturer had engaged in CSR programs aimed at marketing its cars as opposed to helping society. In this regard, organizations should be willing to design their CSR programs in a way that positively affects the various stakeholders in society.
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