Good Works, Good Business or Greenwash?
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Many businesses tell us that they are doing a great deal for the environment today. The programs are varied, diverse, and potentially wide-ranging – as are the public’s responses to them. Some see real prospects for a whole new era of environmental protection, harnessing the resources and creative energy of business to advance this larger public goal beyond where traditional regulatory controls can take it. Others see cynical greenwashing, using corporate environmental programs as a diversion from more firmly based government regulation. And it is not hard to find specific instances that support either view, often ones that provide all the confirmation required for the viewer’s opinion. This book tries to look more broadly and deeply, to collect and present the empirical evidence across the large number of programs and individual company efforts. Are business environmental programs effective in protecting the environment, and in generating greener products and business operations? I look beyond starting assumptions and preconceived political values, including my own, to consider what we know from the empirical data. The empirical reality is complicated, messy, and incompletely studied, yet with some kinds of business programs we have enough information to start drawing policy conclusions. Even if some of the programs are effective, should we care? More specifically, do business programs have anything to offer beyond what we can do with traditional regulation to protect the environment? In the United States, our traditional environmental protection regulatory system is about 40 years old; even with its many imperfections, it has achieved...