I don’t like Green Meanies

Everywhere I turn, I see, hear and read about ‘going green.’ Whether it’s my neighbors buying hybrid cars,Gogreen
major Fortune 500 companies announcing huge sustainability efforts or big PR firms declaring their workplaces will be carbon neutral by 2009, it seems like everyone’s jumping on the environmental sensitivity bandwagon.

And, that’s cool. It’s a noble effort to be sure. But, is it a futile one as well? Auden Schendler, who Time Magazine anointed just last year as a ‘climate crusader’ thinks so. He laments in a current BusinessWeek profile, "How do you really green your company? It’s almost f***ing impossible."

It seems that no matter what any of us do, it will have very little, if any, meaningful impact on reducing global carbon emissions. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Or course not.  But, the ‘doing well by doing right’ corporate mantra du jour, is apparently just that in many cases: a mantra du jour.

According to BusinessWeek, some companies are already abandoning their green efforts because they don’t provide an immediate return. CEOs, pressured by Wall Street to produce quarter-to-quarter results, simply can’t wait seven years to show an ROI (which is understandable).

What really bugs me about the whole green movement,
though, isn’t the corporate double-speak. That happens all the time.
What gets to me is the holier-than-thou attitude some greenies take. In
many ways, they’re just as strident in their proselytizing as the most
vociferous vegan or Christian Fundamentalist. We, for example, had a
guy who insisted on turning off the men’s room lights in an effort to
‘contribute.’ While I appreciated his intentions, I didn’t enjoy
fumbling around for the nearest urinal. And, I’m still in the dark as
to how my playing ‘guess’ at a urinal slows global warming.

It remains to be seen whether the green movement will take root or end
up as the latest, greatest corporate fad du jour. It’s great that 300
million Americans are trying their best. But, will that ever offset
2.75 billion Chinese who could care less?

9 thoughts on “I don’t like Green Meanies

  1. The point of the BizWeek article is that buying carbon credits or renewable energy certificates isn’t the panacea that a lot of companies hoped for. Like wealthy Christians in the Middle Ages who thought they could do as they pleased on Earth and still get to heaven by buying papal indulgences, a lot of misinformed companies hoped they could assuage guilty consciences and make themselves look good by going carbon neutral through carbon credits.
    But while credits can contribute in a small way to the creation of renewable energy, they do NOTHING to reduce a company’s carbon footprint. So the effect on reducing GHGs in the atmosphere, at least over the short term, is nil.
    We are certainly dependent on companies to change their ways if we are to come out of this, literally, alive. The good news is that even institutional shareholders will be holding their portfolio companies more responsible for their environmental practices. And we know from history that when you hit companies where it hurts most — in the wallet — we begin to see real change.
    In the meantime, even if you do just one thing a week — reuse a bag, switch a light bulb, refuse takeaway foods that come in Styrofoam — you really will make a difference.

  2. I agree with the premise of the BW article that it’s very difficult to achieve ROI from going green, especially for a large company. But I also agree that apathy among people like us is detrimental to the cause of managing climate change.
    But, here’s the bottom line: Whether they like it or not, companies are going to be forced to reduce their carbon emissions sooner or later because of pending government regulation and the deterioration of the planet’s health.
    The smart ones will figure out how to begin the process now so they can do it on their own terms. The laggards will stall and find themselves with a slew of regulations thrust upon them when govt. is finally forced to act.
    So, it really shouldn’t matter if going green is profitable or if it can demonstrate clear ROI. Climate change is a fact of life and we’re all going to be forced to sacrifice come hell or high water.

  3. I am concerned that this blog will just increase apathy to what is an important issue. Whilst I am worried by the attitude of some big business towards the climate, and people who make a big deal about being green irritate me, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to do our own things.
    One of the biggest issues that will help push green ideas over the top, in my opinion, is the cost factor. Simply put, thinking green can be much more efficient on your wallet in the long run. Who doesn’t like saving some money from their electricity bill?
    Furthermore, if companies are to go green to gain a positive reputation (or avoid a negative one), then fair play to them.

  4. And there lies the problem, the more people that feel that what they do won’t make ‘much of a difference…’ then it won’t. Perhaps when consumers vote with their feet, directly impacting quarter-to-quarter results, then big businesses will truly embrace ‘going green’ however with consumers attitudes like the above then you’re right – it won’t make ‘much of a difference…’.

  5. It certainly is technically possible to limit and control global warming (and so yes ‘going green’ can only be a good thing) but the fact is most carbon emissions are a byproduct of industrial development, not from me leaving my TV on standby. While these big polluters continue to resist all efforts to curb carbon emissions, I’m not sure if going to the toilet in the dark is really going to make much of a difference…

  6. Thank you Ted “Light One Candle Don’t Curse the Darkness” Birkhahn. (How about candles in the men’s room? No wait, they require energy to be manufactured. And are wrapped in plastic. And wax comes from bees, which makes it an animal product.)

  7. I really don’t get the point of your blog. Since the corporate fat cats are throwing in the towel, does that mean we should all just give up? I think not. In fact, it’s all the more reason to push even harder to do your part. And while turning off the lights in the men’s room clearly won’t solve the problem, I’d rather do my part than carelessly waste even more electricity.
    Your defeatist attitude is exactly why we’re doomed. The planet is warming and there are too many people like you who just don’t care.