Volkswagen, the world's largest automaker and one of Germany's most important exports, installed software in 11 million cars that enabled it to cheat on emissions tests. Their CEO of eight years, Martin Winterkorn, resigned this week, accepting responsibility for the company to begin a "clear start" in the wake of the scandal.
Good luck with that, Volkswagen-- trust has been broken, to put it mildly. The company faces enormous challenges, both financially and in regard to its destroyed reputation. VW stock prices have crashed and its profit forecast has been ruined for at least the next year, with the company having to set aside $7.3 billion for damage control and recall costs. On top of all that, Volkswagen faces civil and probable criminal cases in the US, which could tack on billions of dollars more to an already astronomical economic disaster for the company.
Arguably the most tragic and pathetic aspect of this scandal is the environmental impact. In an ironic twist, Volkswagen had previously signed a public pledge to be a leader in "consistent positive business engagement with policymakers on climate issues." And yet the software that was installed in millions of VW automobiles to evade emissions regulators allowed the vehicles to emit 40 times the legal amount of nitrogen oxide.
Not only has this destroyed VW's reputation as an environmental leader in the business world, but this mess will also fuel skeptics' view that businesses are just giving lip service when it comes to helping the climate. Quite a coincidence in timing, considering the fact that this very week scores of companies are gathering in New York for the seventh annual "Climate Week," committing to creating a low-carbon economy.
This Volkswagen scandal underscores the fact that sadly, many companies keep their financial bottom lines far higher on their priority list than environmental responsibility and this just has to change. VW decided that cheating the system to keep short-term profits coming in was far more valuable than long-term commitment to environmental change...and ironically, now they are paying a far higher price in terms of both their reputation and their financial standing.
At Water Gallery, we always make the effort to support businesses who give back to environmental causes and utilize responsible environmental practices as much as possible. We are proud to say that with every sale we make, we give back 4% of gross sales to environmental causes (3% to the Wyland Foundation and 1% for the Planet).
It's very sad and scary to think that we have to be skeptical when it comes to whether companies are being honest about their environmental commitment, especially big businesses who dominate so much of the market. The health of the environment is of the greatest importance and with scandals like this hitting the news, it just inspires us at Water Gallery all the more to create a company committed to sustainability and respect for the natural world around us.