BLOOMBERG DISCOVERS HUGE BREAKING NEWS FROM 2006: Corporate America Has Found a Way to Turn a Profit Off Being Green.
It’s time to stop crediting corporate sustainability efforts as acts of altruism. For big business, protecting the environment often means padding the bottom line.
Nike Inc. has come up with a way to weave more efficiently, reducing the raw material and labor time needed to make each shoe. That has kept more than 3.5 million pounds of waste from reaching landfills since 2012. But the good news doesn’t stop with the environmental impact. The company is spending less on transportation, materials and waste disposal.
The shoemaker’s “more environmentally conscious product has been a source of cost savings,” said James Duffy, an analyst at Stifel.
Those flimsy plastic water bottles sold by Nestle SA? The ultra-thin design has a smaller impact on the environment while pushing down costs associated with packaging and shipping. Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. have poured tens of millions of dollars into a fund that builds out recycling infrastructure, reducing landfill tipping fees and recovering material that could be sold as new products.
Tech giants have spent billions of dollars on solar and wind power, cutting greenhouse-gas emissions and energy expenditures at the same time. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon and Facebook Inc. are now some of the largest buyers of green power in America.
Turns out it’s not just easy being green—it’s also profitable.
Heaven forefend! But as Katherine Mangu-Ward of Reason wrote in 2006, during the 1990s, big business “learned that it’s pretty easy being green:”
Ask Bob Langert about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and he starts to chuckle. “When we meet the regulators, it’s kind of nice,” says the senior director for social responsibility at the McDonald’s Corporation. “We just got an award from the EPA. When we see the regulators, we always hope it’s because they’re giving us an award.”
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The idea of the rich corporate villain gleefully dirtying Mother Earth is powerful and appealing. Children of the 1980s encountered this supervillain in comics, movies, public awareness videos, and science textbooks. Times were good for mandatory recycling, for mandatory emissions reductions, for anything mandatory aimed at restraining corporate polluters.
But in the late ’90s, something peculiar started happening. The men in suits were still middle-aged, round, and white. They were still just as concerned with profit and golf. Very few of them sported tie-dyed attire, aside from the occasional whimsical Jerry Garcia tie. But the men in suits started caring. Or at least acting like they cared. Which, if you ask a spotted owl, is the same thing.
So environmental activists across the nation bought their own ties and started dealing with corporations as almost-equal partners in planet saving. Businesses in turn learned that it’s pretty easy being green.
All the way up to Obama’s crony corporatism and beyond.