Three tangential aspects of the Volkswagen issue: sustainability reports, the EPA Agency and the value of values

This post is also available in: Spanish

If I´d have to describe briefly the Volkswagen´s manoeuvre regarding its Clean Air Act Violations, it may look like this:


Lots of pages were already written on the Volkswagen´s case. One of the quickest and more accurate interpretation of the issue, was by Enrique Dans. His opinion may be found in this interview released last week (in Spanish):

The specific consequences of the case are unpredictable, and the immediate effects to the own company and the world car industry, are just the spark of what may be a global chain reaction meeting disruptive effects. Stay tuned.

So far, from the point of view of business strategy, the Volkswagen´s case is the ultimate evidence of the importante that the social and environmental aspects are gaining towards the organizations´ survival:

It’s the sustainability, stupid

Volkswagen releases every year —as compulsory to such big-sized enterprises—  its sustainability reports. The last report is dated on 2014. Here you have one of the greatest samples of demagogy, non-responsibility, lack of (integral) solvency in human history:

We have learned that sustainability, environmental protection and social responsibility can be powerful value drivers.

Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn,  former- CEO Volkswagen AG, Volkswagen Sustainability Report 2014, page 12

The reality is showing that the Volkswagen´s staff had already a lot to learn. They are getting the real lesson in this very moment.

Sustainability reporting is today one of the most thriving standards in the strategic management of the organizations; an approach with good development opportunities in the next years.

Obviously, something is wrong if companies can meet the responsibility and sustainability standards and, at the same time, to develop the business practices of which Volkswagen is just a recent example. Companies are indeed responsible for their own actions, but the organizations supporting and fostering such responsibility and sustainability standards (p.e. Global Reporting Initiative) have a huge work ahead. In this moment, its reliability as sustainability approaches is under question.

Nevertheless, while these —alleged— renowned standards and bodies failed, the action of US-EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the Volkswagen´s issue, may be a milestone for the role of this kind of organisations existing in the world in several fields like safety and health (US-DOLEU-OSHACCOSHHSE-UK), energy and climate change (EEANOAA, or the own US-EPA), communication, etcetera.

I am following —and even using, as well— the work of these bodies for years. Within the current scenario of information, knowledge and decision-making processes on diverse fields, these agency-shaped supra-state bodies became one of the main and most reliable sources of information for its transparency, solvency, independency, dedication and openness. They are real knowledge brokers.

The EPA Agency is a paradigm of this sort of organizations and its role in the VW case may be a relevant landmark, namely as inspection, assessment, audit and control bodies.

After all, it is all about to provide traceability to the new society´s values: health, wellbeing, environment,… Those who aren´t aware of the value of the values, are out of place.