Quick Take: When Social Responsibility Goes Wrong

“Social and environmental responsibility should not be a competitive sport. Not every company can have the smallest carbon footprint or donate the most to charity.” —Daniel Korschun, PhD

Grass with Rollerbrush. 3d

A recent New York Times article focused on what happens when corporate social responsibility goes wrong as in the Volkswagen scandal. The company launched a relentless campaign to portray itself as an environmental steward promoting diesel as a low-emissions alternative to gasoline while spending $77 million this year in the American market to advertise its diesel cars, often proclaiming its greenness.

But Volkswagen was not so green after all and loaded about 11 million of its “clean” diesel engines with software that tricked emissions tests, allowing the cars to spew far more pollutants than legally allowed.

Drexel’s Daniel Korschun, PhD, a professor of marketing and an expert in corporate governance and corporate social responsibility, commented on greenwashing by companies. Greenwashing is when companies spend more money in advertising and marketing claiming to be environmentally friendly rather than implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact.

Korshun advises companies not to get caught up trying to outdo peers. “Instead they should find ways of differentiating their social and environmental efforts. Longterm, it’s better to stick to things that others have trouble competing on. Not only will that reduce the temptation to exaggerate, it is also a better way to get employees, customers and other constituents fired up to contribute. It’s important to keep expectations in line with actual performance.”

To read the New York Times story, click here. Members of the news media interested in interviewing Daniel Korschun should contact Niki Gianakaris at 215.895.6741 or ngianakaris@drexel.edu.

Tagged with: