Toyota’s Double-Sided Mistake

Question: Which companies need to focus more on corporate \r\nresponsibility?
\r\n
\r\nJeffrey Hollender: There are, of course, the examples that you \r\nopen up and see in the newspaper every day, like British Petroleum, and \r\nGoldman Sachs, and Toyota.  Those companies are a warning flag to every \r\nother business that’s not doing the right thing.  You now, those \r\nbusinesses happen to have gotten caught in the mess that they’ve \r\ncreated.  They are not alone in doing some terrible things.  But they’re\r\n unique in that they’ve gotten caught. 
\r\n
\r\nIf you go back in time and you think about a company like Toyota, \r\nseveral years ago, while they were running all these ads about the \r\nPrius, and how sustainable the Prius is and how much the cared about the\r\n planet and the environment—at the same time, secretly they were \r\nlobbying in the California against increased gas mileage standards.  So,\r\n you know, on the one hand they wanted to appear as this sustainable \r\ncompany while, you know, with the other hand, they’re actually fighting \r\nthe changes that are required to make the world more sustainable for \r\neveryone else.   That is the kind of duality that I see at too many \r\ncompanies.  Too many companies who want to talk about... I mean, I \r\nremember four years ago, General Motors put up billboards all around New\r\n York and the country advertising the Volt car.  Now, the Volt car was \r\nnot being made.  They had no idea if it was going to be made, they had \r\nno idea when it was going to be made, but that didn't stop them from \r\nadvertising a car that didn't exist as a way to bolster their image as a\r\n responsible business. 
\r\n
\r\nThings like that are destructive to your reputation.  And many companies\r\n don’t understand that this new world that we live in, the transparency \r\nthat is created by the Internet raises the stakes for companies getting \r\naway with stuff that they used to be able to get away with.  \r\nTransparency will be forced upon you if you choose not to be transparent\r\n yourself, and you will get caught doing the wrong thing—whether you get\r\n caught by your own employees, whether you get caught by a blogger, \r\nwhether you get caught by an NGO, or the government—you’ll get caught. \r\nAnd businesses need to be proactive in, a) disclosing the problems that \r\nthey have, which they’re scared to do, and committing to the path that \r\nthey’re going to take to make change.

Recorded on June 11, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

The car company was running ads about the Prius and their commitment to the environment while secretly lobbying in California against increased gas mileage standards.

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