The benefits from the huge pieces of cake  

Mahmudur Rahman     | Published: June 25, 2018 21:57:53 | Updated: June 25, 2018 22:17:49

It is indicative of sound management that two of Germany's leading automobile giants have very deep pockets. Nonetheless shareholders and investors can hardly have been pleased that Volkswagen's CSR (Corporate social responsibility) reputation took such a huge hit over emissions control and that Bavaria Motor Works (BMW) had theirs cut to shreds after being found guilty of violating trade laws.  In terms of punitive fines and re-buying cars off of consumers, Volkswagen (VW) is looking at a staggering sum of $ 5 billion and a ruling from a US court that jailed former VW engineer Olivier Schmidt for seven years. There are those who would like former VW CEOs to face the US courts but Germany doesn't allow its citizens to be extradited.

BMW was fined a combined $200 million plus by the Swiss government and the Republic of Korea for dodging anti-monopoly practices. Though difficult to comprehend, Germany the great doyen of free trade, was actually preventing Swiss and other European nationals from buying their cars from less expensive retail outlets.

Volkswagen has been found guilty of tampering with their emissions control devices so as to give out false reading at factory tests and on the roads. The emission levels were found by the Environment Protection Agency of the US to be dangerous for human beings. 

To a lesser but as crucial a degree the recent drives run by authorities in Dhaka against adulterated or unhygienic items finds a similar comparison. The difference has been in amounts fined (sweets maker Rosh fined Tk 0.8 million) and essentially no damages were offered to consumers. The German vehicle producer took the hit and paying or offering consumers a money-back recall. Authorities and companies that are driven by the lure of profits miss out on health and convenience costs. Kobe Steel of Japan haven't announced any product recall or compensation should infrastructure using their steel ever come to grief. There's further investment costs in coming up with foolproof emission checking devices. Nor are individual court cases ruled out of the equation.

Corporate Social Responsibility begins much before, not in the aftermath of a disaster. The infamous Greenfell fire is being addressed through compensation, relocation and a right of veto of affected families in any future development of the site. That too is more of an afterthought - a make-up over horrible supervision. Here onwards the 'cladding, used for insulation, will be fireproof. Compare that with the tragedy of Phoenix Group and the collapse of a building some years ago in Tejgaon industrial Area. Compensation details for the dead, wounded and families were never made public. A non-descript signboard suggests a major hotel will be built there. Compare that to a memorial park to be built at the Greenfell site, compensation and alternate housing. Many of the residents won't qualify for being undocumented migrants that defines the clear  rights of legally living residents,

The other delinquents in Dhaka's famous food or measurement adulteration won't be addressed overnight. The fines are tough but not crippling. There was no redress for consumers either through medical reimbursement or plain damages. Curiously enough the Chambers of trade and Commerce don't seem to be acting or speaking either way. From the government side, revellers travelling to their homes during festival here of the same banal promises of better roads, less congestion's and don't get it. Any lump sums in the kitty for compensating them for trouble and time? Maybe even free tickets? Probably not likely.

That the German companies will be looking at loopholes to override the basics of CSR hasn't been lost on the media but we in Bangladesh are in blissful denial. The Porches, BMW and other swanky models have been pulled off the streets and assembly points are being stored in makeshift storage. The argument is to use the relevant parts in re-manufacture; the likely output is rerouting them to countries where the emission standards are less stringent. One hopes, fervently that the Environment Directorate is awake to the issue and lists are made accordingly. If only wishes were horses.


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