Go Green or Get Out?

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In writing a paper for another class, I have begun to research certain industries and their effect on the environment, specifically as it relates to global warming.  Organizations today are constantly facing the pressure to “go green.”  Southwest is leading the airline industry in making the first green plane with recyclable carpet and lightweight products to reduce labor costs and waste. Proctor and Gamble have put an emphasis on green products such as laundry detergent that works at low temperatures.  Why not go green?

One of the main issues involved in going green for companies is the affect it has on the cost of their products and inputs.  However,  an article I recently read, Bringing the Environment Down to Earth answers the question, “does it really pay to be green?”  The article highlights environmental product differentiation and the fact that going green can give organizations an advantage over their competitors.  Businesses may be able to charge more for green products, gain a greater share of the market because of improved products, or both.   Lowering environmental costs can increase value and with government protection through patents can give businesses a leg up over competitors.  In a CNN article, A professor that studies corporate responsibility states that, “Outside of obvious costs, their returns are also measured in corporate reputation gains and the ability to continue operation into the future.”  Paying attention to the environment saves them money as well and as noted by these articles is a win/win situation.  There is really no reason not to make an attempt to help the environment with daily business processes.

But what are the implications of going green?  In addition to their economic pressures, do organizations really have a social responsibility to adapt their business processes in order to better help the environment?  As I’ve argued, I would hope everyone agrees that the answer is yes but a further ethical question can be raised.  If so much of the industry needs to be changed in order to prevent harming the environment, should the industry exist at all?  One example of this could be the ski industry.  These businesses use much energy in their daily operations for powering lifts and lighting lodges.  This energy contributes to many carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants generating this electricity.  Does the economic impact of the industry outweigh the negative environmental effects?  A parallel might be drawn between these kinds of organizations and the tobacco industry.  It is clear that the harms of this industry far outweigh the benefits that anyone may get from this industry.  Although I am not one of the few advocating for the complete abolishment of the popular ski industry it is something to think about.  Of course, these industries do help the economy but at what cost in the future?

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One Response

  1. Good thoughts. I think that it is important to recognize that there are many types of costs and I think that these transcend just financial and environmental ones. There are also sociological, psychological, cultural, etc. costs to consider. For example, it may be far-fetched but perhaps the mental health benefits of skiing make the industry worth having.

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