Emission Cuts and the Common Consumer: A Vehicle for Conversation

by Acotter on October 19, 2016 - 10:50pm

Scandals like the Volkswagen emissions debacle put stress on customers, shareholders, and staff, but for the wrong reasons. Most organizations caught in similar scenarios panic about financial standing and professional reputation, and therefore it’s unsurprising to find that VW is far from being the only company caught cheating numbers in emissions trading schemes.

Their prioritization of profit versus protection is possible due to the lack of monitoring: the only agency checking up on the numbers is the Environmental Protection Agency. And like we see in the VW cover up, organizations and bodies of government lie on their environmental resume to set themselves ahead in the form of reduced taxation. There is an emphasis on individual success (i.e. corporate success) over environmental advocacy.

The problem with monitoring emissions is that it relies on self-reporting. Examples like China, who mine most of their own resources, present problems where consumption of fossil fuels can usually indicate CO emissions with a certain level of accuracy as they are consuming less fossil fuels and burning equally as harmful materials. The misconception is that if companies are honest about emissions, they are punished with higher taxation. On an international level, these organizations may even be exempt of punishment for their wrongdoing because of the varying rules of governing bodies involved, as noted in the example of the EPA and the EU Environmental Laws going after VW.

The article fails to offer a concrete solution, but instead poses questions about the structures in place to monitoring these issues. This suggests that the answer to the problem is stronger policing, better infrastructure and new forms of education to revert social norms and lead to a re-evaluation of our priorities.

Several European countries implemented education systems and resources under the direction of the EU, and saw GDP increase over 20% while carbon emissions decreased. By rewiring norms and providing incentives versus sanctions, we can hopefully create this trend among organizations in North America and other parts of the world by facilitating more oversight, much like the EU.

 

The article fails to address ways in which corporate social responsibility can be policed more efficiently, while remaining financially feasible. The power struggle over who will finance (and ultimately, see a bigger return on their investment from) the shift to eco-friendly production and consumption patterns is a huge deterrent, despite examples of cost-splitting by European countries resulting in benefits for all parties (EU reference). The automotive industry relies heavily on non-renewable resources, and with a massive market in every country in the world, has a significant role in creating emissions through the burning of fossil fuels.

There must be a reconditioning to realize that green washing affects entire populations: municipalities, reserves, urban cities, even entire countries. The different levels of legislation must come together to force MNC’s to abide by regulations. Media coverage on this issue downplays the power of the individual: if we focus on the ability of single consumers to make an impact by demanding transparency, accountability and a commitment to helping reduce emissions, hopefully we can make corporations that produce or provide essential goods and services to do the same.


 

Sources


Original Link : http://www.macleans.ca/economy/business/how-climate-cheaters-make-the-re...

Bengochea-Morancho, Aurelia, Francisco Higón-Tamarit, and Inmaculada Martínez-Zarzoso. "Economic growth and CO2 emissions in the European Union." Environmental and Resource Economics 19.2 (2001): 165-172.

Martínez-Zarzoso, Inmaculada, Aurelia Bengochea-Morancho, and Rafael Morales-Lage. "The impact of population on CO2 emissions: evidence from European countries." Environmental and Resource Economics 38.4 (2007): 497-512.

Mitchell, B. (ed.) 2015 Resource and Environmental Management in Canada: Addressing Conflict and Uncertainty. 5th Edition. Oxford University Press.

http://www.wri.org/sites/default/files/uploads/Decoupling_sparkline_graphic_v2.jpg

 

 

Comments

I really enjoyed reading your post! Climate change is a topic that I am very interested in as it affects people all over the world. Without adequate monitoring programs, mitigations strategies and adaptation mechanisms we will not achieve our goal of trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. As you have stated, businesses have found it increasingly easy to lie about their carbon dioxide emissions because monitoring programs are inadequate. You mention that the article states that the solution to this problem is, stronger policing, better infrastructure and new forms of education to revert social norms. I completely agree with this as people need to realize that reducing carbon dioxide emissions does not necessarily means that it will hurt the economy.

A perfect example of how it is possible to build an economy that will prosper in a carbon-constrained world is seen in British Columbia, Canada. In 2014, Prime Minister Harper stated that the carbon tax would “destroy jobs and growth”. However, British Columbia has been a real economic success. In 2008 B.C. put a tax on fossil fuels, which started low and rose annually (today it is ~$30/tonne). The law is revenue neutral, which means that proceeds from the carbon tax are matched by cuts in other taxes such as the income tax. B.C’s income tax rates are now among the lowest in Canada and the economy is thriving. I like that you have mentioned that educations systems that rewire norms are necessary for people to realize that a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions will not automatically result in the failure of their businesses. As seen in the example of British Columbia it is very possible economically to do well while simultaneously trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

I think there should be concern for the larger companies to simply ignore Carbon Taxes and eat whatever fines are levied against them for exceeding the maximum emissions. If they deem that it is more cost effective to keep their current production methods that result in high emissions and pay for penalties than to reform their production methods to fit the standards set which may result in a less cost effective production. However, pressure from consumers may force companies to perform their civil duties to product the environment as well if they are greedy/lazy to not do it themselves.

This is a very well organized and well researched paper. I can tell that you really know what you are talking about. this is easy to follow and I love the statistics. I find this article interesting because I love to read about cars. the New York times had a report on this scandal and it seems interesting how they would lie like that.

Hello
Your post caught my eye as the Volkswagen scandal is a very upsetting issue and makes one question other businesses as well. You make a really important point about how companies influence more than just the consumers, but also society at a larger scale. Climate change regulation is implemented through business models, which makes it critical for businesses to internalize the impacts of GHG emissions and reflect on societal values of the environment. I appreciate that you recognize the importance of corporate social responsibility. Volkswagen has many stakeholders that were affected by their scandal. However, they would not have been so impacted if Volkswagen was transparent and kept their consumers well informed and educated.

You mention how the power of the individual and the importance of the corporation are not stressed enough. I agree that large scale change does start with the individual and with someone who cares a lot. People that make conscious decisions really affect the behavior of businesses that can shape society. Would you say that markets are more effective at controlling the use of environmental goods and services? Maybe the underlying issue is not the company, but is the government who is not implementing the regulation on carbon emissions efficiently. Or it may be most important to address the issue of reporting and monitoring carbon emissions. Instead of the company providing monitoring of themselves, a third party is necessary for ensuring accountability of the company. Do you think maybe a different type of tool should be applied to similar companies by the government to mitigate GHG emissions?

Your writing made a lot of good points, and I like how you brought up something rather recent with the Volkswagen emission scandals, seeing how it all erupted just over a year ago now. Something that specifically caught my attention was when you said "The misconception is that if companies are honest about emissions, they are punished with higher taxation." All i can think here is even IF (I understand its untrue) it was true, wouldn't it be way easier for large companies like Volkswagen to just pay the taxes rather than get this huge amount of negative feedback and opinions of customers?
What do you believe the punishment for companies that create such huge lies like this be? Should an example be made, to prevent this in the future? Can we even prevent it? Its hard to say.

Hey! Thanks for writing this post - it was a very good read starting right with the title. As I was reading through your article I began to think of how self-reporting is a huge issue across the board when it comes to environmental protection. It is not unreasonable to imagine how a company may low-ball on quantities to give themselves a good reputation and potentially increase ability to make money. What the real shame is - in my opinion - is that companies are finding ways to capitalize on the consumer preference over environmentally friendly options without necessarily being any better than a "non-environmentally friendly" product. People are willing to spend money on vehicles that use less gas so that they can save money, and use less gas as it is an important env. issue to many of us. It is upsetting that a company would mislead in this way.

Hello,

Firstly, your post was organized, and was clear for distinguishing your argument. I agree with one of your first comments about how industries and corporations have a primary goal to gain profits rather than ensure environmental protection. I believe it is even more beyond monitoring issues and understanding the impacts of the industries carbon emission impacts. That being said, it goes to the industry where essentially environmental sustainability is a ‘non-profit’ product when it comes to implementing it into a business. Such as, the new electric car company, Tesla, has vehicles up to the price of $175,000 and perhaps even more. Why is this so expensive? Due to Tesla being a car that can be charged the vehicle does not require frequent checkups, or new products to be ordered for maintenance. Therefore, car dealerships are not happy with the profit loss and are charging the Tesla vehicle at a high price to ensure money satisfactory for the industry.

Secondly, I agree again with your opinion of promoting education on environmental degradation and the effects associated with greenhouse gas emissions. By the government introducing a carbon tax for both car owners themselves and the industries, many are against the price increase. However, if education is ensured and the understanding of the importance of carbon taxes is established, then with hopes the concept of a carbon tax can be a positive change.

Thirdly, I particularly agree with your comment on the government implementing transparency and accountability within the production process for corporations. It has always seemed that industries ‘hide’ their impacts from society. It is certain they are doing this since they know that the media response would reduce net sales almost instantaneously. In my opinion, it should be almost considered a human right to know how a product is impacting one’s surrounding environment. It has only been since 2003, that labelling nutritional content on food products in Canada became mandatory (Health Canada, 2015). Why can’t the environment be considered the same? We should have the access to information regarding the tracking of input, output of resources, as well as the country of origin for each product.

Paige

Sources:

Health Canada. (2015). Food Nutrition. Government of Canada. Retrieved from
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/index-eng.php

I agree that it is entirely possible that there are more scandals like this within the automotive industry, perhaps Volkswagen just didn't have enough power or connections to squeak by like other companies. I like how you included the facts of how GDP increased in certain European countries while emissions decreased, this is more important than the Volkswagen scandal and this is what should be representing Europe. I also agree that the demand must come from the consumer for the companies to produce more energy efficient vehicles. These companies are looking to make a profit, if there is no demand for a product, they will not supply.

Great post.

Your point about self- reporting is very important in the struggle for a cleaner environment. We put these standards on companies because it is known that the automobile industry is a huge contributor to climate change. These companies are massive multi-billion dollar companies whose concern is not to protect the environment but instead to make profits. Knowing all of this it is interesting that we allow these companies to self report. We are trusting that these companies to make the choice on their own instead of thinking about protecting their profits. This is an interesting article and it raises some very good points.

You have done an excellent job summarizing and analyzing the MacLean’s article on emissions monitoring and the Volkswagen Scandal. Your creative title, which hinted at the article’s content, is what initially caught my eye. You did an excellent job of explaining the challenges that come with monitoring emissions in an increasingly competitive capitalist world.

You also mentioned the concept of corporate social responsibility and suggested that it could be policed more efficiently. As I’m sure you know, corporate social responsibility involves entirely voluntary goals that companies can set to try to limit their social impact. Of course, environmental impact is a significant part of a company’s social impact. I think that you could do a better job in distinguishing the difference between companies who either do not have a corporate social responsibility strategy or are guilty of greenwashing in their strategy and those companies who choose to break laws for financial gain. Since corporate social responsibility is a voluntary initiative, it can’t really be policed the way that laws are.

Cheers!

I was drawn to your article because I have a good friend who owned one of the Volkswagen vehicles involved in the emissions controversy. I appreciate your sentiment about how the media downplays the power we as consumers have in keeping corporations accountable. I agree that we CAN have an impact on the market, but at the same time, feel as though many suffer from a lack of concern and/or complacency and laziness when it comes to these issues. I, for one, have never hesitated to reach out to companies when a product I purchase falls short of my expectations. I wonder what can be done to encourage consumers to have more of a voice.