Worker participation, sustainability and the puzzle of the volkswagen emissions scandal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


In September 2015, Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” technology was exposed as a sham. Not only were the company’s vehicles discharging dangerously high levels of nitrogen oxide, but VW had intentionally rigged its emissions systems to cheat on environmental tests. In the wake of resignations and criminal investigations, the company’s governance system came under justifiable attack. Were VW’s famously worker-friendly governance policies to blame? This Chapter examines the root causes of the emissions scandal and concludes that VW’s governance culture suffered from dictatorial leadership as well as a cozy relationship between management and labor leaders. This culture of complacency led to a lack of accountability at key levels, including executives, shareholders, and regulators. In addition, despite its worker-oriented governance structure, Volkswagen’s internal management is still organized along traditional hierarchical lines. Empowered workers, participating at all levels of company governance, would provide a stronger internal culture of compliance, innovation, and sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Corporate Law, Corporate Governance and Sustainability
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781108658386
ISBN (Print)9781108473293
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2020.


  • Accountability
  • Codetermination
  • Compliance
  • Governance culture
  • Supervisory board
  • VW


Dive into the research topics of 'Worker participation, sustainability and the puzzle of the volkswagen emissions scandal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this