The Ethic of Sustainability and the Natural Environment

When the first Earth day celebration was held in 1970 most managers considered environmentalists to be an extremist fringe group and felt little need to respond to environmental concerns. Today, environmental issues have become a hot topic among business leaders, and mangers and organizations in all industries are jumping on the environmental band wagon.

One model uses the phrase shades of green to evaluate a company’s commitment to environmental responsibility. The various shades which represent a company’s approach to addressing environmental concerns are illustrated. With a legal approach the organization does just what is necessary to satisfy legal requirement. In general, managers and the company show little concern for environmental issues. For example, Willamette industries of Portland, Oregon agreed to install $7.4 million worth of pollution control equipment in its 13 factories to comply with environmental protection Agency requirements. The move came only after Willamette was fined a whopping $11.2 million for violating emission standards. The next shade, the market approach represents a growing awareness of and sensitivity to environmental concerns, primarily to satisfy customers. A company might provide environmentally friendly products and want them, for instance not necessarily because of strong management commitment to the environment.

A further step is to respond to multiple demands from the environment. The stakeholder approach means that companies attempt to answer the environmental. The stakeholder approach means that companies attempt to answer the environmental concern of various stakeholder groups such as customers, the local community, business partners and special interest groups. Ontario Power Generation, Shell, and Alcan Aluminium are among the large companies that are partnering with Environmental Defense to reduce greenhouse gases. The moves comes in response to growing concerns among customers, communities, where the companies operate and environmental groups, as well as a recognition that emissions are likely to be regulated by government actions.

Finally, at the highest level of green organization take an activist approach to environmental issues by actively searching for ways to conserve the Earth’s resources. A growing number of companies around the world are embracing a revolutionary idea called sustainability or sustainable development. Sustainability refers to the economic development that generates wealth and meets the needs of the current generation while saving the environment so that needs of the future generations can be met as well. With a philosophy of sustainability managers weave environmental and social concerns into very strategic decisions, revise policies and procedures to support sustainability efforts, and measure their progress towards sustainability goals.

US organizations as diverse as DuPont, McDonald’s ad’s UPS are grappling with issues related to sustainability. McDonald’s for example buys some of its energy from renewable sources, has stopped buying poultry treated with antibiotics and offers incentives to suppliers that support sustainable practices. UPS released its first Corporate sustainability Report in 2002, outlining how the company balances economic concerns, the social responsibility and environmental stewardship. The UPS fleet for instance includes around 2,000 alternative fuel vehicles which emit 35 percent less pollution than standard diesel engines. The company is investing $ 600 million on new package flow technologies that optimize how UPS delivers packages to both improve service and reduce miles driven. DuPont has developed biodegradable materials for plastic, silverware a stretchable fabric called Sorona that is made partially from corn, and a housing insulation warp that saves far more energy than is required to produce it. The company’s new mission is to eventually manage a collection of businesses that can go on forever without depleting any natural resources.

Despite these impressive advances few US firms have fully embraced the principles of sustainability as reflected in a resistance to adopting ISO 14001 standards. ISO 14001 is an international environmental management system that aims to boost the sustainability agenda. To become ISO 14001 compliant firms develop policies, procedures and systems that will continually reduce the organization’s impact on the natural environment. Sustainability argues that organizations can find innovative ways to create wealth at the same time that they are preserving natural resources. ZipCar for example rents cars by the hour, 24 hours a day, with no paper work, by reducing private car usage, Zip Car contributes to reduced emissions and reduced load on the nation’s transit infrastructure.

Source: New Era Management