Volkswagen scandal and the Daily Telegraph article: It’s a car crash

Peter Truesdale, OBE

I recently reread all my 6th Form History Essays.  It whiled away a Sunday afternoon.

I was discomforted though by the teacher’s remarks in red pen: Avoid generalisations!  Support your arguments with better evidence.  Some good comments here but you need to address all the facts. 

A new Daily Telegraph article labels corporate responsibility as a “dangerous racket.”  Did the writer, Matthew Lynn, do History’ A’ level?  I don’t know.  Yet he could certainly have benefitted from my teachers’ comments.

His article is not fact free. It is just that it has a very curious selection of facts.  It is as if he had examined the record of three dodgy doctors struck off by the General Medical Council –and concluded that the whole medical profession must be corrupt.

Comment on the essay?  Matthew – you have an entertaining turn of phrase. You make one or two good points.  You will need to show you can weigh all the evidence if you are to achieve your ambition of getting an A*.

Jokes aside what are his strong points?

One. CSR is crowded with too many awards ceremonies.  Responsible business practices are serious issues; they should not be an extension of Tinsel-Town.

Two. Too much energy is being expended on non-material topics. Companies need to focus attention where it matters.

Three: Too much braggadocio exists and not enough humility. Companies need to be honest and articulate challenges and dilemmas, not just success stories.

His low point is suggesting that Volkswagen was selected by DJSI “for its commitment to the environment”!  Oh dear, he could have done to check his facts there. DJSI is an investor-focused index that measures hundreds of issues ranging from good governance to supply chain auditing.

So Matthew, in the next essay: Make a balanced assessment of all the facts. Show more examples. Who knows, maybe an A* is within your grasp.

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