Myths and Realities of Business Environmentalism

Myths and Realities of Business Environmentalism

Good Works, Good Business or Greenwash?

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Kurt A. Strasser

Many businesses profess to be voluntarily taking steps to protect the environment, and going beyond compliance with environmental regulations to do so. Kurt Strasser evaluates these claims in this timely and cutting-edge inquiry.

Chapter 8: Conclusion

Kurt A. Strasser

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, environment, corporate social responsibility, environmental law, law - academic, company and insolvency law, environmental law


Many think the term ‘business environmentalism’ is an oxymoron. Business does not take care of the environment, but it will despoil it at will for profit if not restrained by regulation. In this picture, business environmentalism is a misleading, indeed fraudulent, distraction and deception. Certainly, supporting evidence can be found. We now know that while BP was loudly proclaiming itself to be a green energy company – going ‘beyond petroleum’,1 complete with a blooming flower logo – at the same time it was running serious risks in its deepwater drilling operations, risks which have now certainly contributed to the worst oil spill in US history. GE loudly proclaims that its Ecomagination program will bring forth a whole new generation of profitable green products and services,2 yet it has spent a generation and untold money litigating and negotiating furiously to avoid cleaning up the long stretch of the Hudson River that it has contaminated with PCBs. The chemical industry touts the environmental and safety contributions of its ‘Responsible Care’ program, while objective empirical analysis finds that companies that participate in the program have poorer environmental performance than those that do not. Environmentalism indeed. Yet, the contrasting view enjoys equally committed support, again with some real evidence. Beyond specific successes already achieved, there is a great need to do what only business can do. Only business has the energy, the resources, and the incentives to lead a transition to sustainability. Regulation has achieved some environmental protection success, but it will not be...

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