business ethic – Volkswagen
Business organizations are expected to apply ethics and professional values which are in tandem with ethical principles. Corporate conduct should guide the actions of individuals and their organizations. According to Broad (2014, p.11), ethics do not exist in a vacuum but rather originate from people as well as organizational statements. Business ethics are a range of standards, set of principles, values, and norms which govern the actions as well as the behavior of individuals in their organizations (Crête, 2016, p.25). Ethics in business can be examined through normative or descriptive ways. They are important reflectors of the philosophy of a business organization. Various theories have been advanced in the field of ethics, which include utilitarianism, consequentialism, Kantian moral theory, and deontology (Rhodes, 2016, p.1501). This paper examines the ‘Volkswagen Emission Scandal’ and determines whether or not the actions of the actors in the Company were unethical. Finally, a decision will be made as to whether Volkswagen (VW) behaved ethically.
Volkswagen Emission Scandal
In September of 2015, the Environmental Protection Energy (EPA) cited VW for using a ‘defeat device’ for all the cars that the Company sold in the United States. The method ensured that when being tested, the cars could change their performance to improve results (Blackwelder et al., 2016, p.2). When testing was done, the cars returned to their average level of efficiency. This kind of a cheat, later admitted by the Company, meant that the vehicles consumed more diesel and made more emissions than what was anticipated after testing. In specific, the rate of emission of the cars was 40 times more than that which is allowed in the US (Hermans and da Cruz Caria, 2016, p.30). Some of the managers in the organization including the CEO resigned after the scandal was exposed while others decided to stay put despite the cheat that was made to customers not only in the US but also Canada, the UK, Germany, and Australia, among other countries.
Whether Actions of Main Actors Were Unethical
The activities of the major players in VW of acquiescing a cheat were both illegal and immoral. One of the ways in which they acted unethically is because the leaders did not apply ethics in their actions (Blackwelder et al., 2016, p.2). Despite them being aware of the ‘defeating devices,’ they went ahead and kept quiet until when the practice was exposed. According to the theory of utilitarianism, the moral worth of actions ought to be judged for their usefulness either in the provision of happiness or suffering. As such, Crête (2016, p.26) states that leaders should perform actions which have the biggest benefit to the largest number of people. All that the actors in VW did was to cater for the profitability of the Company and did not care about the effects that their ‘defeat devices’ would have on the customers who are the greatest number of people.
Leaders in VW should have ensured that their actions were in line with the general rules of practice in the automobile industry. However, they did not do that but kept quiet despite the fact that they knew that their cars were not as efficient as they were shown to be during testing (Rhodes, 2016, p.1502). Such actions go against the Kantian moral theory which holds that morality of actions should be based on adherence to the set of rules in place. Kantian moral theory presupposes that rules should bind individuals in an organization and that they should have a duty to do certain things and an obligation to avoid doing others (Broad, 2014). For instance, because lying is wrong in principle, then it becomes morally wrong to lie to people even if such lies result in better consequences. The actions of the various leaders in VW of lying about the efficiency of the vehicles was unethical as it only served to fulfill the interests of the Company
Whether VW Behaved Unethically
VW acted unethically in the emission scandal as it did not admit liability way before the results of EPA investigations were out. The consequentialist normative ethical theory presupposes that the consequences of an individual’s actions should be the basis for judgment as to whether they are right or bad (Broad, 2014, p.12). In the current case, VW should have acted ethically by suspending those responsible for the scandal as the consequences of their actions were wrong. Specifically, the actions of fitting ‘defeating devices’ to the vehicles resulted in environmental pollution and dissatisfaction and lack of trust from the customers (Crête, 2016, p.27). The company did not take action against its managers as only a few resigned out of their volition. As a result, VW acted unethically.
In conclusion, professional ethics dictate the dos and don’ts in an organization and ensure that the values of an organization are upheld. When VW fitted ‘defeating devices’ in its car in the US, it failed to observe ethics. Specifically, the normative ethical theories of utilitarianism, Kantian moral theory, and consequentialism state that individuals should act for the greater good of the society. As such, the actions of the various actors in VW of keeping quiet even when customers were being cheated was unethical. Additionally, failure by VW to hold accountable some of its managers, apologize and compensate the customers, was an unethical behavior.(2017) study employed, there are very little room for generalizing the study’s findings.
Blackwelder, B., Coleman, K., Colunga-Santoyo, S., Harrison, J.S. and Wozniak, D., 2016. The Volkswagen Scandal.
Broad, C.D., 2014. Five types of ethical theory (Vol. 2). Routledge.
Crête, R., 2016. The Volkswagen Scandal from the Viewpoint of Corporate Governance. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 7(1), pp.25-31.
Hermans, M. and da Cruz Caria, P., 2016. ‘The Volkswagen’case; morally permissible?.
Rhodes, C., 2016. Democratic business ethics: Volkswagen’s emissions scandal and the disruption of corporate sovereignty. Organization Studies, 37(10), pp.1501-1518.