Katherine Mangu-Ward has written a pretty sharp look at the ways in which corporations are -- and aren't -- rushing to make protecting the environment a key part of the businesses:
"For an example of a company apparently trying to single-handedly save the planet through expensive public relations alone, one neednt look farther than the corporate darling of serious environmentalists and greenish consumers alike: BP... A gas and oil company with $225 billion in revenue, BP is part of an industry that will keep environmental advocacy groups in business for as long at it exists. Yet these days BP is styling itself Beyond Petroleum and declaring that its thinking outside the barrel. BPs Environmental Team has crafted an elaborate advertising campaign and rebranding effort, recently expanded to the Web. Its goal: to convince the world that a company that sucks dead dinosaurs out of the earth, turns them into gasoline, and delivers that gas to SUVs can also be environmentally friendly enough to use a green and yellow sunburst (or is it a flower?) as its logo. ...
"Never mind that BPs spending on green projects constitutes less than half of 1 percent of its revenue. It publicly supports stricter pollution regulations and the Kyoto Protocols, the international agreement calling for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and gives money to groups that lobby for both. BP is selling itself as the anti-ExxonMobil."
It's definitely a step in the right direction. Even if its probably a feel good marketing ploy. At least they're not throwing money at the anti-global warming think tanks that publish nothing but press releases rubbishing the idea of global warming.
Interesting reading. I keep debating myself over the extent of the role that corporations should have in
(a) making their core business activities more sustainable and
(b) extending their sustainable activities to broader 'restorative' or general social programmes.
I think that (a) should have priority over (b), and (b) should be done only after careful thought and consultation with stakeholders, or via donations to independent charities/NGOs.
Some people suggest that everything is given property rights and privatised so then corporations become the vessels for sustainable development ie (b) replaces government policies and NGO activities. Is such an outcome likely? Companies like Microsoft can make valuable contributions through donations to good causes, but to what extent should profit-motive companies determine development prorities?
I'm very interested in hearing other people's input.