Mind the Gap: The Bottom Line and Ethical Behaviour: How Volkswagen Failed to Reconcile the Two?

Posted: 3 Nov 2015 Last revised: 10 Feb 2020

See all articles by Professor Alain Ndedi

Professor Alain Ndedi

International Council for Family Business; YENEPAD; Saint Monica University; University of Johannesburg; University of Pretoria; Charisma University

Akepe Enobi

International Institute of Certified Forensic Investigation Professionals Inc. (IICFIP)

Professor Kelly Kingsly

Regional Advisory Commision on Financial Markets

Date Written: November 1, 2015


It is said that the business of the business is to make money. The first reading of this assertion is that a company must do everything in its capacity to make profits. Therefore, the primary objective of an organisation is its bottom line. However, a second reading that is more important here is that, while the primary aim of any organisation is to make money (bottom line), the pursuit must be done ignoring ethical values. Good corporate governance might not assure the success of a company, but bad corporate governance will often destroy or severely limit a company. Moreover, good corporate governance engenders public confidence that management is devoting itself as best it can to the best interests of the company. Why is good corporate governance so important? The Volkswagen saga falls under this second reading. In fact, the consequences of the rigged Volkswagen emissions scandal unearthed has stunning implications, namely the probability of potentially affecting people’s health, the environment, the reputation of the industry and even Germany.

In fact, Volkswagen wanted to make more profits through deceptive and illegal practices that misrepresented its cars to millions of consumers and regulators, but will be obliged to pay more than US 20 billion in the united Stated alone.

What are the lessons to be learned with the Volkswagen case? How and why did this happen? How can people of supposed integrity do such things when they are acting for a corporation? According to Tsahuridu (2015), managers and regulators need to understand and address these pitfalls, and remember that:

• Organisational misconduct can and does happen – at unbelievable levels of complexity – up, down and across the hierarchy.

• Senior staff with professional and governance responsibilities, who might be expected to uphold standards of behaviour, can misbehave or help hide misbehaviour.

• Whistleblowers may go unheard. There are reports that Volkswagen was warned by insiders, yet the scheme was only unearthed by outsiders.

• Oversight and control mechanisms can fail within both companies and regulatory bodies. In Volkswagen case, this failure lasted six years!

To sum up the paper, Ndedi, Yota, Mua and Kouwos (2015) recommend that the current Volkswagen situation requires an overhaul of the regulatory structure, business ethics, corporate culture, and also engineering education within Volkswagen and other companies involved in identical unethical behaviours. According to the authors, laws in business ethics and their enforcement need to be tightened so that people have something to fear. With regard to capacity building, business and corporate ethics programmes are needed to capacitate workers. These programmes could then more clearly outline consequences of ethics violations, criminal charges and prison sentences; and finally unethical behaviours even when they are hidden will be punished sooner or later. (Ndedi et al.; 2015) The authors argued that an organisation can meet both ethical and bottom line goals. If Volkswagen failed in reconciling both objectives, it is just because the company wanted short courts gains, instead of pursuing most effective ways.

Suggested Citation

Ndedi, Alain Aime and Ndedi, Alain Aime and Enobi, Akepe and Kingsly, Professor Kelly Mua, Mind the Gap: The Bottom Line and Ethical Behaviour: How Volkswagen Failed to Reconcile the Two? (November 1, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2684749

Alain Aime Ndedi (Contact Author)

International Council for Family Business ( email )

San Diego
United States

YENEPAD ( email )

PO Box 30069
Pretoria, Pretoria 0135
South Africa
+27 84 992 9499 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://yenepad.virtualactivism.net

Saint Monica University ( email )

P.O. BOX 132
Buea, South West
237698727474 (Phone)
23767992-0777 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.stmonicauniversity.com

University of Johannesburg ( email )

UJ ADMINISTRATION. University of Johannesburg
PO Box 524. Auckland Park 2006.
Johannesburg, Gauteng
South Africa

HOME PAGE: http://www.uj.ac.za

University of Pretoria ( email )

University of Pretoria,
Private Bag X20, Hatfield,
Pretoria, Gauteng
South Africa

HOME PAGE: http://www.up.ac.za

Charisma University ( email )

30 Sandcastle Rd
Neptune CT, Grace Bay
Turks and Caicos Islands

Akepe Enobi

International Institute of Certified Forensic Investigation Professionals Inc. (IICFIP) ( email )

800 Delaware Avenue
P.O. Box 8702
Wilmington, DE 19801
United States

Professor Kelly Mua Kingsly

Regional Advisory Commision on Financial Markets ( email )

Libreville, 237
222225470 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.kellykingsly.org

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