Greenwashing- Hershey’s V.S. Volkswagen.


My favorite example of a company that is dedicated to sustainability is Hershey’s. Hershey’s is known for their efforts in protecting the environment and ensuring the quality of ingredients for its products. Hersey’s has aligned itself with the seventeen distinct Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. In Hershey’s 2021 environmental, social, and governance report, they displayed their environmentally friendly actions. These include “improving farmer livelihoods and eliminating child labor in coca facilities, ensuring ingredients are sourced responsibly, reducing plastic in packaging, and improving workers’ conditions.” Hershey’s has won many U.S. and international awards. For example, in the U.S., Hershey’s has won “Points of Light- The civic 50 and America’s Most Just Companies- Forbes 2021.” Internationally, Hershey’s has won “Sustainability and Csrmalaysia awards- 2021 and Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures- Waterstone 2021”. 

A Business organization that has insincere sustainability efforts is Volkswagen. In 2016, Volkswagen admitted to cheating by developing a system to detect when carbon admission tests were being administered. According to The New York Times, the illicit software affected more than 500,000 diesel cars in the United States and 11 million vehicles in total. The nitrogen oxide trap was used in an effort for the company to appear more environmentally friendly. In hindsight, the engines emitted 40 times more nitrogen oxide than allowed. Nitrogen Oxide emissions are known to bring many health problems, especially in the lungs. Volkswagen’s effort to appear more environmentally friendly has caused brand distrust, upset customers, and litigation in the Netherlands, the U.S., and Ireland. Six years later, Volkswagen is still recovering from this scandal. Honesty towards sustainability will keep customers interested, not withholding useful information and lying. 

In the future, I believe that legitimate approaches will become more apparent and will be displayed across more companies. People and government agencies have expressed concern and care for the sustainability of the environment. Companies will follow along if they want to keep customer engagement in their products. As seen in the Volkswagen example, companies that lie about protecting the environment and still sell a product will not be able to fix their reputation. Volkswagen’s brand has been permanently affected by the number of cars with the “defect device” and the severity of the lies. Given the importance of sustainability in our lives and in politics, greenwashing is one of the worst things a company could do for its brand long-term. Brands want loyal and frequent customers; this cannot occur if a company is greenwashing.