On September of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that Volkswagen had been selling their diesel cars with a “cheat software” installed in them. This device would detect when the cars emissions where being tested and changed the car’s performance to improve the results of the test. Once the test was over, the cars would produce up to 10-35 times more pollutants that they were supposed to. Volkswagen admitted that around 11 million cars worldwide had this software. Needless to say that the company’s value in the stock market went down and the people’s confidence in them was shattered.
This is a clear example that Volkswagen failed immensely at maintaining their Corporate Social Responsibility statements. CSR can be described as a company’s initiative to assess and take responsibility for the effects on the environment and social well being. Volkswagen did none of this. Initiatives involving CSR are meant to benefit society. In recent years people have started to look more to this values, they consider them a crucial part of a company’s promise, and the companies have started to act accordingly.
This is where sustainability comes into the stage. This word is everywhere this days, but what does it stand for? To make it simple, it’s the balanced use of environmental, social and economic resources to achieve the well being of he planet and of future generations (Sherin, 2009. Sostenible). So sustainability it’s not only about using recycled paper, it’s about much more. Organizations such as Fairtrade or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) have the task of certifying that the resources used by companies come from places with good working conditions or from renewable sources. LEGO is in the look for a new safer and more environmental material for producing their toys. Starbucks created Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, a set of guidelines for coffee farmer to grow their products in a better way. Fairphone uses resources extracted only in good humane and environmental conditions (conflict minerals are as bad as conflict diamonds, and even more).
But as usual, there’s a side of the corporate moon. It’s called Greenwashing. This refers to companies that create an image of good sustainable practices around them, while in truth this is just a marketing act and the company does nothing to benefit the world. A clear example of this is the Volkswagen fiasco. Companies take advantage of people’s confidence to boost their earnings and look good about doing nothing.
In my case, I’ve never thought of having Social Responsibilities statements, but lately I’ve taken an interest in a sustainable approach. We are the ones who design the products that are going to be out in the world, so we should be responsible for designing the best products while having in mind the impact they are going to produce. Although I have not been able to produce a project with a sustainable methodology (I believe this depends on the client’s needs), I’m starting to train myself to have the knowledge required when such project comes into my doorstep. Besides this, my ethics as a designer are not copying or taking credit from someone else; not doing projects that I consider go against my believes or that might be offensive to a group of people; always speak clear with the client and have a transparent relationship.