Volkswagen and Corporate Racism: What’s Behind It?
By admin May 22, 2020

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The Volkswagen racism debacle is not the first and it probably won’t be the last. Corporate racism is an insidious and systemic problem. In the last few years, we’ve seen a number of companies tripping up in the same way – H&M had the infamous “monkey hoodie” scandal. We had the Gucci and Adidas scandals and there was also the Japanese brand Kao’s ridiculous “Be White” campaign. So why does this keep happening and what’s behind it? Here are a couple of possible explanations:


  1. The company doesn’t have any or enough minority representation in key executive positions or in the company overall (This is highly likely. Only 3% of Fortune 500 companies release full diversity — racial and gender — data.)


  1. The company doesn’t subject its marketing or product development to diversity sensitivity measures (This is highly likely as most companies do not have any such measures or systems in place. How can they if they don’t have enough minority representation?)


  1. The company truly doesn’t know any better (This is a poor excuse given that we live and work in a diverse global economy.)


  1. The company culture at the executive level frowns on what they perceive to be “political correctness” (This is quite possible and far harder to correct.)


  1. The company just doesn’t care (This is also quite possible and similarly hard to correct. But, like #4,  that doesn’t mean you can’t try.)


Here is the dirty (and not so little) secret: Most companies just aren’t making the effort. A recent Fortune/Diversity Best Practices study found that “only 3% of Fortune 500 companies release complete data for the race and gender of their employees in each job category and management level; 75% of those few companies are in the tech space.” Furthermore, “69% of board members were white men and 16% white women”. So, given this reality, what space is there for minority representation? Is it any surprise that multinationals keep stumbling into racism scandals? The fact that they still “stumble” is even more dumbfounding given that they serve a racially diverse customer base in a global economy.

Let’s be clear: Committing to diversity means nothing unless you a) actually diversify your company at all levels, b) implement sensitivity measures, c) continuously measure and monitor your (racial and gender) diversity initiatives and d) release full data.  Committing to initiatives like the CEO Action for Gender & Diversity and hiring a “diversity leader” do not make the problem go away.  Of course, Volkswagen has an ugly history that is directly tied to Nazi Germany so you would think they would do better. But they didn’t and they haven’t. The sad reality is that Volkswagen is not the first company to commit corporate racism and they won’t be the last. Let’s see if things actually improve and corporations actually move beyond “commitments” to action.

Editor’s Note: Does your company have a Diversity plan and can you avoid the pitfalls? Get in touch with our TBG Purpose team for a Diversity Assessment and an action plan.

#volkswagen #racism #race #diversity  #corporateracism #leadership #management#corporateresponsibility #CSR #corporatecitizenship #corporations #business #H&M #Gucci#Adidas

Photo Credit: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Thanks for sharing !

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