Sunday, January 31, 2010

Capitalizing on the Environment?

Can capitalism and environmentalism coexist not only peacefully but also profitably? Can the big corporations and the green movement work together? Alternatively, is there some theocratic mandate that the two must always be at odds?

While profit margins and bottom lines are still the gods worshipped at the capitalistic altar, the followers of this dollar-based philosophy are not immune to, or unaware of, the destruction of nature all around them. And while the sight of the havoc industry is wreaking on mother nature might not reach deeply their hearts, swaying their actions in favor of a lower profit margin brought about by a lowering of their environmental impact, that negative effect they’re having on the environment does capture their minds, or it might be more appropriate to say, it grabs them by their wallet.

Now, few industries are finding environmental issues can work in their favor. Many companies are now spending lots of money moving in the direction of green, not out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of greed. And, if their intentions are not so pure or altruistic as we might wish, at least the outcome benefits all the citizens of planet earth.

Big corporations find that converting their factories to run off fuels produced by neighboring landfills is not only a safe, cheap means of powering those supply houses for decades to come, but also a great way of earning brownie points with the environmentally conscious consumers who use their products. Their success taken in view, now major natural gas companies are selling “green” natural gas produced from those same sorts of landfills to heat homes and cook dinners. The idea may not be appetizing in some respects, but it does give them a go-green image that sells well with the public.

Interviewing consumers and then responding to their feedback was a major factor in the changeover from traditional methods of powering their plants to the new greener ones employed by many manufacturers. In fact, big name companies like Johnson and Johnson now have “environmental performance” standards written into their credo. And so far, at least on paper, J&J is doing pretty well at setting and realizing goals for lowering their negative environmental impact.

Of course, there will always be destructive industries and greed-driven companies ready to cut all sorts of corners at the expense of the earth and its inhabitants. These are the corporate monsters that we, the greenies, want to see felled in the same way that businesses of their kind are felling the great trees of our rapidly vanishing forests.

But we all need to bear in mind that all industry is not inherently evil nor are all businesses equally culpable. And while we might not totally agree with their rationale or find their use of our cause to turn a profit, we can agree that any progress in marrying the goals of both environmentalists and capitalists is the kind of progress that everyone and everything on earth can be happy about.


  1. I know that convincing the industry to go green is hard, but I do understand them, it's just that, we need each other to really fight for whatever the problem our environment is facing now.