The Greening of Organizations

One way to think of how organizations can begin to apply sustainable development to individual decisions is to see how much stakeholders care about the natural environment. Today, environmental awareness is at all time high. We are sure that you have considered recycling at least some of your waste and you have made at least one purchasing decision during the last year where the natural environment was a factor in your decision. There are at least four postures that organizations can adopt to become more sensitive to the environment.

The legal posture: Organizations can adopt a posture that they will obey any laws, rules and regulations about the environment willingly and without legal challenge. Such a posture means that the organization will try to use the law to its own advantage. For instance, if an organization can invent a technology or a process to make it more efficient and satisfy environmental regulations, then it will have an advantage. Indeed, a Harvard Professor has suggested that countries which have strict environmental regulations produce firms which are more competitive on a global basis. The reason is simple: these firms must innovate to find ways to satisfy strict laws while remaining competitive with firms that have no such rules.

The market Posture: Organization can adopt a posture that they will respond to the environmental preferences of their customers. Some industrial customers of manufacturers require that the manufacturers meet certain environmental standards for their products and their manufacturing processes. In some markets, customers want products that can easily be recycled, or that are made from recycled paper. The pulp and paper industry has undergone dramatic shifts as the move of using recycled paper has increased. Many companies have investments in old plant and equipment to use recycled paper rather than new pulp from forests.

The Stakeholder Posture: This posture takes the market posture one step further to include responding to multiple stakeholder groups on environmental issues. Paying attention to recyclable material in consumer packaging, educating employees on environmental issues, participating in community efforts to clean up the environment, and appealing to investors who want to invest in green companies are all a part of the stakeholder posture. And these multiple stakeholder policies seem to go together. Dupont’s CEO has tried to make Dupont more sensitive to stakeholder environmental concerns by adopting a policy of Pollute as little as possible, in part to turn around Dupont’s reputation as a large polluter. When he announced that a plant would have to close if it couldn’t meet the company imposed pollution requirements, the plant engineers busily reinvented the processes at the plant to meet the requirements. When the CEO asked them how much money it would cost Dupont to invest in the new technologies and processes, the engineer replied that if they did it the new way, Dupont would actually save money.

The Dark Green Posture: Some organizations are beginning to experiment with adopting environmental values that tell us we should live in a manner that is more in harmony with the earth. We should not exploit the earth’s resources for our own gain, and certainly not in a non-renewable, non-sustainable fashion. We should not treat animal cruelty or use them for unimportant experimentation such as cosmetics testing and we should live in a way that sustains and respects the earth. Based on a group of ideas known as deep ecology from the Scandinavian philosophy this posture is very hard to imagine in our present state of environmental awareness.