Volkswagen is now one of the ‘most hated’ brands on the planet according to a study into the most criticised corporations by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International.
The emissions scandal which dogged the German company last year has propelled it into seventh place globally (fourth in the UK) on the list – behind Shell, Monsanto and the World Bank.
Conducted by tracking agency Sigwatch, the research analysed attitudes by NGOs over the past 12 months by logging almost 6,000 global campaigns from organisations including charities, watchdogs, pressure groups and research-driven policy firms.
Greenpeace was one NGO which took aim at Volkswagen following reports it had cheated emissions tests. The environmental group used a Star Wars parody to liken the brand to the 'death star' and its Halloween campaign capitalised on the scandal's momentum under the strapline 'They tricked us. Now Volkswagen should treat us.’
A major target for years due to its Arctic drilling activities and continued fall-out from its Nigerian operations, Shell landed the top spot on the global most criticised list with the report arguing that the firm will “probably be much less exposed in 2016” now that the Arctic play has been cancelled.
Biotech company Monsanto came in at number two, followed by the World Bank, TransCanada and ExxonMobil. Several energy and oil firms appeared on the list including BP, EDF and Chevron.
Robert Blood, founder and managing director of Sigwatch, commented: "NGOs believe in a strategy of divide and rule. They praise consumer and retail brands and financial institutions when they do what NGOs want, such as excluding particular ingredients, technologies or raw materials or demanding suppliers accept tougher standards.
"At the same time, they strongly attack industrial firms and the energy and mining companies, which puts these companies in a double bind: not only are their reputations being trashed, but they are seeing some of their most important business customers, ie the consumer brands and retailers, adopt NGO-inspired policies that often end up hurting their businesses."
Leading the most praised global brands list was Nestle, followed by British retailer Marks & Spencer, then McDonald's and Unilever.