Whose Problem? Part 1: Businesses

December 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Last week, I asked myself, and all of you, a seemingly simple question. Whose problem is sustainability? The government? Businesses? Individuals? Schools? I’m about to show you how not simple this question is, while trying to cover multiple sides of the issue.

Today’s focus: Businesses. Is it their problem?

Why it is.

CO2-Emission laws, Greenhouse Gas Taxes, etc. force businesses to take some sort of responsibility. Regulations have been made, but most are either not enforced or are in fact just recommendations.

Why it should be.

Businesses have what has been called “Corporate Social Responsibility.” What this means is that they have the obligation as a business to take responsibility for their actions, including and especially those that affect the environment. In theory, this should mean that they make wise, sustainable decisions, but since Corporate Social Responsibility is more a practice of good business rather than a true requirement, this often gets ignored.

Businesses also should realize that sustainability and environmental friendliness is a successful business model. As I have previously discussed, businesses like Interface under Ray Anderson have saved themselves by going green.

Perhaps most importantly, businesses and industry create a vast majority of the pollution and waste in our society. By logical conclusion, they should be the ones to foot the bill for the restoration of our environment, and need to change their ways in order to prevent any further damage.

Why it isn’t.

There are no laws that truly require a business to practice sustainability or have environmentally friendly programs. Therefore, businesses can and often do just ignore Corporate Social Responsibility in exchange for profit, choosing the cheaper rather than sustainable choices for most of their decisions.

Though taxes and laws on carbon-emissions exist, companies can buy carbon credits or carbon offsets, and basically pay their way out of actually reducing certain emissions.

Why it shouldn’t be.

Free enterprise, plain and simple. Many believe that government has no right to tell a business what to do or how it can or may do its business, nor to regulate it in most ways or even in any way at all. Under this belief, business can and should do whatever is the best for their profitability.

See the complexities? Let me know what you think, and stay tuned for tomorrow, where we talk about government, and their role in all of this.


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