An environmental organisation, GermanWatch, has filed a complaint against Volkswagen for violating the OECD guidelines for multi-national enterprises.

The guidelines are supposed to contribute to implementing corporate accountability – in the field of environmental protection, amongst others – and they provide multi-national enterprises with detailed instructions on how to act.

“Volkswagen commited itself to these guidelines and should aim its business strategy at achieving the goal of avoiding dangerous climate change,” said Cornelia Heydenreich, senior advisor for corporate accountability at Germanwatch. Facing climate change, the resource-intensive transport sector is particularly responsible for developing and implementing strategies to achieve climate protection goals, said Germanwatch, “But VW violates the guidelines and self-commited obligations in multiple cases”, according to Heydenreich.

Germanwatch accuses Volkswagen of a number of separate violations of the guidelines, mainly due to its product range and its business strategy which it says are damaging to the environment. Germanwatch cites the fact that, during the last 15 years, the company has massively extended those luxury and medium-class car types which are particularly harmful to the climate. Additionally, it says VW has mainly focussed its marketing strategy on these vehicles. The company has also lobbied aggressively against climate protection frameworks and consistently published wrong information. In addition, according to a survey of Brussels-based lobby group, Transport and Environment, of all large German automotive companies, VW is the farthest away from complying with the Acea voluntary commitment to reduce average CO2 per kilometre.

Volkswagen is not the only automotive company that has breached the guidelines, however, though it has been selected as an example. Germanwatch is currently considering further complaints against DaimlerChrysler and BMW.

The complaint has been submitted to the National OECD contact point in the federal ministry of economics and technology. Heydenreich said: “We expect the national contact point to institute transparent and fair proceedings. VW must lay it on the line and try to reconcile its business practices with the guidelines. If the company is not able or does not want to achieve this goal, the [ministry] must execute an appropriate public declaration.”

Christoph Bals, executive director at Germanwatch, added: “We have been pressing VW for several years to develop a one-litre-car. Volkswagen has achieved implementing this demand in a tragicomical way. Actually, the Bugatti Veyron consumes at full speed one litre – not per hundred kilometres, but per kilometre.”