We Can’t Be Bothered to Be Ethical

I recently caught the first episode of the Netflix series, called Dirty Money and executive produced by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney. Indeed, the first episode is his one and concerns the Volkswagen debacle where they essentially conned the entire world, faking their diesel emissions tests. it’s a stark condemnation of the massive car company.

Essentially, VW come out as money-grabbing unethical bastards who have been fined somewhere above $30 billion so far.

So I was rather surprised when I heard this, recently:

Operating profits at Volkswagen nearly doubled in 2017, as the company sped further away from the diesel emissions crisis in late 2015. But the scandal continued to mar earnings, with the German carmaker booking a €3.2bn provision for continuing legal challenges.

The VW Group said operating profit before special items rose 16.5 per cent to €17bn, with margins rising from 6.7 per cent a year earlier to 7.4 per cent. Margins did not meet forecasts of 7.6 per cent, but have climbed from 6 per cent in 2015 and 6.7 per cent in 2016.

Taking into account provisions in both years, operating profits were up 95 per cent to €13.8bn….

The German group was the world’s largest carmaker by sales in both 2016 and 2017, having overtaken Toyota despite the reputational damage caused by its admission in late 2015 that it had equipped 11m cars worldwide with software to cheat emissions tests.

Holy crap, that’s a lotta money. And a lotta car sales.

The VW Group is huge and covers many brands, but the options that seem to explain this are:

  1. People don’t really care about ethical scandals.
  2. People don’t know about the ethical scandals (?including forgetting, because perhaps they don’t care enough).
  3. Both of the above.

I just can’t help thinking that humans are a fickle lot who essentially don’t really care about ethical issues. You only have to look at the environment in general to see this. Perhaps this part explains the seeming apathy to this debacle.

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