A movement started in Australia to encourage individuals to come together to clean up the world in teams. It was begun by yachtsman Ian Kiernan, who represented his country in the BOC challenge, a solo around the world yacht race, in 1987. On that trip he began to take note of the plastic garbage floating in the sea. The racers themselves had agreed beforehand to keep their garbage on board rather than throwing it overboard, the traditional means of disposal at sea. When he returned home to Sydney, Kiernan noticed broken glass on the beaches where he swam and decided to do something about it. Kiernan and a public relations consultant friend teamed up and launched Clean up Sydney Harbor Day. On the designated day, 40,000 citizens picked up 5,000 tons of trash. Jubilant over their success, the two expanded their efforts and launched ‘Clean Up’ Australia days in January of 1990. In March of 1993, 400,000 Australians gathered 25,500 tons of garbage at more than 5,000 waterways, parklands and road side crossings across the continent. In September 1993 the two promoted a worldwide cleanup effort. More than 7,000 communities in 79 countries took part in the three day cleanup, with individuals combing parks, beaches, roadsides, and city streets. It is estimated that as many as 30 million people participated. Ecologically minded citizens were found in the Philippines, Mexico-, Nepal, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Burkina Faso. While these projects have received some corporate sponsorship, Kiernan hopes the success of the first worldwide clean up will bring more companies on board.
Can Business Really Save the Earth?
One of the themes of this article has been that organizations can adopt a posture that helps to protect and clean up the environment. Companies like McDonald’s have begun that process. But how far should a business go? After all, businesses must be profitable in order to survive. Is it possible to be profitable and adopt an approach such as sustainable development?
One Entrepreneur suggests that business has no other choice. A Declaration of Sustainability that every act of commerce, every business deal or transaction, helps to destroy the environment. Many times, acts that are meant to help protect the earth end up hurting it. We have to think about business differently. Everyday business actions should be made to help preserve the environment, but this cannot occur with the kind of economic thinking that we currently have.
It is proposed to have a set of “green fees” to replace all of taxes that we currently have. Such a redesign of basic economic structures would be far reaching to say the least. The whole key to redesigning the economy is to shift incrementally most, if not all, of the taxes presently derived from good to bad, from income and payroll taxes to taxes on pollution, environmental degradation, and non-renewable energy consumption. Because green taxes are incorporated into the price a company or customer pays for a resource, product or service, they create powerful incentives to revise and constantly improve methods of production, distribution and consumption, as well as a means to reconsider our wants and needs.
Imagine the result of very high taxes on gasoline, say $2 per gallon. Such a tax would raise $220 billion in the United States, equivalent to one half of the total income taxes currently paid. People and companies would have incentives to use different modes of transportation to avoid these taxes, creating more value by doing so, and avoiding the pollution that comes from using carbon based fuels. Taxing heavy metals would lead to an end to mining and a move to capture these metals from the waste streams industries.
Paul Hawken is not just another theorist. He has used his ideas to start several businesses aimed at helping to protect and preserve the environment. Business can in fact bring out the very best in people. The vision that informs green taxes assumes that human beings are enormously adaptive and creative and that there is great untapped potential and goodwill that is repressed and inactive in current economic culture. Green taxes can be used to make our society better.
Can you think of other taxes that could be levied on goods and services that would result in taking care of the environment? Managers in the next century will undergo a green revolution taking the environment into account in their decision making on a routine basis. —