Can Data Collection in a Sustainability Report Prevent a Crisis?

As Volkswagen contends with a reputational crisis of epic proportions much of the focus has been on how it needs to manage the fallout from its emissions cheating scandal. While dissecting a crisis communications strategy for Volkswagen best practices makes for compelling theater, this incident is an opportune reminder for corporate leaders to focus on something much more mundane: the critical importance of accurate data in a sustainability (or CSR) report. 

Volkswagen is an illustrative example: Volkswagen built a reputation as a responsible company committed to producing vehicles that emitted fewer harmful emissions than the competition’s. Its diesel cars were the centerpiece in that narrative. Consumers purchased Volkswagen’s diesel powered cars because they liked driving a sporty and fun vehicle that was assumed to be not terribly harmful to the environment.

China Announcing an End to the One-Child Policy

Originally implemented in 1980 to curb its rapid population growth, China’s one-child policy has witnessed a fertility rate decline from 2.7 births per woman in 1981 to 1.6 births in 2015. Those who backed the one-child policy claimed it led to 300 million fewer births and lifted 200-400 million people out of poverty. Yet, the policy is not without its toll, with more than 336 million abortions and 222 million sterilizations having since taken place. Gender imbalance in China, with 115.9 boys born to every 100 girls in 2014, has led to increases in sex-trafficking and prostitution. The Chinese population is aging drastically, with an estimate of one in every three Chinese being over 60 years of age by 2050 and a dwindling working class to support them. The economy is also facing labor shortage and slow growth.