I’m sure that not all companies are greedy and amoral, ready to do literally whatever it takes to increase profits. However, with the way big companies have been acting over the last few decades, I find that the best mentality to have is that a company is as such until explicitly proven otherwise.
Join us as we uncover the worst that the corporate world has to offer. Past and present, this is an ongoing project designed to shed light on the worst that companies have gone through to maintain or increase their profit margins.
IBM’s Involvement in the holocaust
Many companies allegedly lost control of their German subsidiaries during the 1930s and 40s, leading up to and during WW2, but IBM was not only compliant to the Nazis, but they had an active role in maximizing the efficiency with which the Nazis could enact their brutal plans. IMB dealt with their Nazi Germany customers through a direct subsidiary, known as "Dehomag", and a special Polish subsidiary established on September 1st, 1939, called “Watson Business Machines”
While other companies may have been reluctantly aiding Hitler’s regime, IBM was actively and willingly assisting in the Jewish slaughter. One example comes from an eye witness, the last surviving person involved in the Polish administration of the rail transportation to Auschwitz and Treblinka. He states that he knew that the punch card machines were not German machines, because the labels were in English. No machines were sold, only leased from IBM, and all machinery, training, servicing, spare parts, and punch cards themselves (at that time there were no universal punch cards) was handled by IBM, through their New York headquarters.
While some IBM sympathizers may make the claim that IBM was ignorant on the implications of their business dealings in Nazi Germany, it is important to acknowledge the fact that it is highly unlikely that, while newspapers around the world prolifically reported on events relating to Nazi Germany and World War 2, IBM executives knew nothing of the goings on in Europe at the time.
Shell and Exxon Mobil Knew about impending Climate Change as Early as the 1980s
Since the 1980s, both Shell and Exxon Mobil had strong evidence for the existence of human-caused climate change. Scientists from both companies published peer-reviewed studies on the subject, which concluded that climate change was happening as a result of human industrial activity. Exxon Mobil alone funded 54 studies, all of which were in consensus on the existence of human-caused climate change - 9. Internally, both companies also circulated memos and information pertaining to climate change and it’s economic, social, and political consequences on our species, as well as it’s impact on their business interests in particular 3, 4, 10, 13.
As early as 1982, Exxon Mobil circulated an internal memo3 warning of global average temperature changes of up to 4.5 degrees (3 degrees +/- 1.5 degrees), and of increased desertification of areas that are now prime agricultural land. The memo states that climate impacts could include “significant changes in sea level, ocean currents, precipitation patterns, regional temperature and weather” but laid the onus of change on government and the individual, even though they profited heavily from selling products that caused the problem. An internal report within Shell in 1988 also shows acknowledgement of Shell’s contribution to global CO2 emissions.
The various internal reports within both companies discuss the ramifications that climate-related regulation could have on their profit margins. To that end, millions were spent in the years following to spread misinformation on first the existence, and then cause, of climate change. To its credit, Shell released a 30-minute film in 1991 titled ‘Climate of Concern’12 wherein the threat of climate change was outlined and the need for alternative forms of energy explored. Further action, however, was contrary to this message, such as that in their 1994 report ‘The Enhanced Greenhouse effect’, the majority of which was dedicated to generating doubt regarding methodology, models, and “scientific views” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Both companies, and others within its industry, still spend hundreds of millions of dollars on corporate lobbying and swaying public opinion,14,16 in order to defeat law and regulation that would act to reduce or control activities linked to climate change.
For the best, quickest understanding of the study, read the paragraph in bold on page 1, and look at figure 4 on page 5.
Volkswagen Cheated on Diesel Emission Tests and Lied about it
Beginning in 2006, Volkswagen showed a massive change for the better in terms of the emissions of its diesel vehicles. These were high-performance cars with exhaust emissions that rivaled those of the Toyota Prius7. It wasn’t until September of 2015 that it came to light that their testing results had been a cheat, and that the tested vehicles had been made to run in a reduced-performance (and therefore reduced emissions) mode in testing environments4.
This was a deliberate decision on the part of Volkswagen to thwart and deceive policy makers, in order to market their cars as more environmentally friendly than they were. This was not “a few rogue engineers” as Volkswagen first claimed7, but a deliberate choice on the part of management. Oliver Schmidt, a high-level actor at Volkswagen Group, was sentenced to seven years in a U.S. prison for his part in the coverup3.
This isn’t a victimless crime. It isn’t a case of “well they cheated but no harm done”. Higher emissions have a direct effect on the air that we breathe, having serious health impacts, such as aggravating existing asthma conditions, shortness of breath, decreased lung function, difficulty breathing, inflammation, and cancer14,15. Increased smog in our cities are also a direct result of increased vehicle emissions, causing undesirable city aesthetics, a decrease in plant growth, and serious human health impacts16. This is why emission regulations exist and must be strictly enforced; it impacts everyone.