Corporations are composed of individuals. It’s only natural that their behavior will parallel that of the citizenry. Some citizens display community spirit and consistently act in a socially responsible manner; some totally ignore the welfare of others and behave in an intensely selfish and irresponsible manner. The same can be said of corporations that appear to be focused solely on the bottom line (as opposed to the triple bottom line). They seem to feel no responsibility for the general welfare or patriotism for their country. This is apparent in the adoption or rejection of environmentally responsible practices.
Corporations that outsource jobs to lower production costs are often disregarding environmental concerns. Of course, hiring cheap labor abroad costs less than paying domestic workers with master’s degrees and higher living costs, but one other reason developing countries have lower production costs is that their environmental standards are not as stringent. Companies that outsource without enforcing environmental standards are contributing mightily to world pollution. Many companies that are environmentally conscientious with their operations in the United States may still be guilty of contributing to global pollution abroad.
Recently, a ranking of the most environmentally responsible companies in the US. Making seventh place on the list, Adobe is committed to operating their office buildings in a green manner of their office buildings. Up to 97 percent of their solid waste is recycled. The packaging of their software is designed with environmental principles in mind for production and disposal.
Hewlett Packard was ranked number two. HP’s founders “believed technology can improve society.” It follows they would have a particularly strong concern for environmental policy. Similarly, the number one company, Dell, has taken it upon itself to be environmentally responsible. Since 2008, Dell has significantly reduced the power needs of its equipment, used millions of pounds of recycled plastic in manufacturing new computers, and will recycle used Dell equipment without charge.
On the other hand, the electric power industry is responsible for a majority of sulfur dioxide and carbon emissions responsible for smog, acid rain, and climate change. Electrical generation companies still rely mainly on burning coal, oil, and natural gas, fuels that release large amounts of pollution. Reduction of these pollutants requires considerably expensive measures, yet environmentally conscientious choice, and the most sustainable one in the long term.
The high-tech companies with outstanding environmental policies are companies that have been successful and can afford to support potentially costly environmental policies. Some environmentally friendly measures, like more efficient power consumption, do improve the bottom line as well. The favorable public image also is advantageous business-wise. However, companies struggling financially may not be able to afford the initial investment necessary to commit to such green practices.
The ultimate issue is perhaps that executive officers of many corporations receive compensation based on net profits of the company. That is, the success or failure of management is usually measured only by monetary gain. There’s often little investment in research and long-range planning because those pursuits temporarily cut into the bottom line. Environmental investment tends to fall into this category. Because of this ultimate concern for profit before all else, companies cannot be relied upon to invest voluntarily to develop the environmental practices necessary for our survival. Though some companies demonstrate an admirable sense of corporate responsibility beyond the bottom line, that ideal is clearly not yet strong enough across the board.