One company that prioritizes sustainability is REI, an outdoor gear store with physical stores around the country as well as an online eCommerce presence. They focus on supporting employees, co-op members, and other non-profit partners through their sales. Additionally, they carefully track their impact with a publicly available ESG scorecard, where a variety of sustainability metrics are published including their gender and racial diversity among the board of directors. REI has relatively liberal return policies, allowing customers to return goods they don’t want for longer instead of turning it into waste. Combined with their focus on only stocking sustainable brands in store, it is clear that sustainability is a large focus in REI’s operations.
In comparison, Volkswagen purposefully cheated on their emission test for diesel cars in America, leading to over 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide pollutants being emitted. By detecting when cars were being tested for emissions, Volkswagen had a device reduce engine power to stay within the legal limits. By going to such far extents to cheat the test, it is clear that Volkswagen knowingly manufactured engines which were bad for the environment and unsustainable for a product that already burns a non-renewable fuel source.
While Volkswagen was cheating government regulations, most likely it will come down to the government to enforce sustainable practices. Many companies will exercise a more laissez-faire CSR attitude, acting in their own self-interest, which will likely not change unless consumer preferences shift massively in the future. With shareholders playing such a big role in companies decisions, profit will often be emphasized unless sustainability laws are enforced by a larger governing body. However, political tensions in the modern day has led to consistently delayed action by governments, which will be a substantial roadblock in the future for pushing companies towards a sustainable future.