It's hard not to greet professions of social and environmental enlightenment with some skepticism when they come from the business world. And yet, activists invest a lot of time and energy into changing the behavior of corporations; plus, as we frequently write on Worldchanging, in order to move as fast as possible into more sustainable systems, transformations in energy, resource, and material use, as well as better pay for and treatment of workers, need to happen at the most influential level: that of global capitalism.
Shannon Arvizu at Triple Pundit had a good post today exploring the intersection of profit-making and values:
There are two main arguments often cited for why a company should implement sustainable practices: (1) companies can save and/or generate more revenue and (2) values matter and operating in a socially and environmentally responsible way is the “right” thing to do. To date, many Fortune 500 companies have made significant steps towards implementing sustainable business practices. But are ethics and financial self-interest primarily responsible for this transition?
Companies do not exist in a vacuum. They are greatly influenced by what others in the business world are doing. Businesses learn to "walk the talk" by operating in an environment where others are doing the same.
Shannon mentions an article by sociologist John Campbell, who delves into how companies are motivated to change their behavior based on the norms that become established around them -- in this case by the growing influence of "green" values in the business world. Shannon asks a good question: "is this type of pressure significant enough to create large-scale “enlightened capitalism,” or will federal/state regulation facilitate this process faster?"