Magazine

Corporate Eco-Efforts: Not Such a Bright Green


What shade of green is today's brand of corporate environmentalism? "Little Green Lies," BusinessWeek's investigation into business' efforts to tackle climate change (Cover Story, Oct. 29), didn't paint a positive portrait. To illustrate how companies are struggling with this issue, we followed the rocky travails of Aspen Skiing's environmental director, Auden Schendler. Some readers applauded the article--and Schendler's assertion that inflated rhetoric and dubious green initiatives are undercutting corporate environmentalism. Many others, especially those involved in the corporate environmental movement, felt the story tarnished legitimate progress and could discourage companies from adopting green strategies.

At last, some realism on this great green debate. The notion that free enterprise, unregulated, will act for the common good without remuneration is rubbish. Government will have to give business some incentives to implement green changes.

Screen name: Patrick

Your article paints a dismal picture of corporate greening, yet relies on scarcely more than one data point: Auden Schendler and his experience at Aspen Skiing, an 800-employee resort. A more comprehensive treatment would have yielded a much more encouraging picture. Business is the only economic engine with sufficient resources to tackle these key environmental problems.

Neil L. Drobny

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

CENTRAL OHIO SUSTAINABILITY ALLIANCE

COLUMBUS, OHIO

Amory Lovins, chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute and, your article says, Auden Schendler's guru, never said it would be easy for companies to go greener. He simply said it can be done--an assertion borne out by companies such as 3M (MMM), S. C. Johnson & Son, Interface, Duke, and Wal-Mart (WMT). It's important to take to task those companies that exaggerate their environmental efforts. But portraying the economics of sustainability as impossible may dissuade others from taking steps.

Jeffrey Hollender

CHIEF EXECUTIVE

SEVENTH GENERATION

BURLINGTON, VT.

Let's give credit where it's due. In the absence of action by the federal government, companies deemed Climate Savers by our organization are voluntarily seeking to reduce their carbon emissions. The article failed to recognize the important role played by the Climate Savers program in making awareness of carbon emissions a key part of corporate responsibility.

Carter Roberts

PRESIDENT AND CEO

WORLD WILDLIFE FUND

WASHINGTON

The article gives a misleading assessment of the role of renewable energy credits (RECs) [usually purchased by companies to support develoment of renewable energy]. It incorrectly argues that because REC prices are low and purchases are annual, RECs do not result in new renewable energy. Renewable energy projects face higher upfront capital costs. Revenue from REC sales certified by the independent group Green-e helps make recent investments profitable--and that encourages reinvestment in the next project.

Jonathan Lash

PRESIDENT

WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE

WASHINGTON

We agree that Renewable Energy Credits are not appropriate to be used as offsets for direct emissions. But they are valuable as a way to signal market demand for renewable energy. We recommend that companies follow our "Four C's" hierarchy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions: Conserve energy first. Convert to clean energy. Consider credible offsets. Call for action from government and suppliers.

Gwen Ruta

CORPORATE PARTNERSHIPS DIRECTOR

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE

BOSTON

Renewable Energy Credits give companies an easy way to say they are green. But emissions still rise. Businesses aren't buying the cow but still get the milk for free!

Screen name: Michelle

At Johnson & Johnson, we support the use of RECs as a means of offsetting our emissions. But it is only part of our efforts to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint. We have made significant investments in on-site cogeneration and renewable energy projectsincluding solar, landfill gas, geothermal, and biomass. We have also advocated for more aggressive public policy on climate change.

In 1999, we set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 7% from 1990 levels in absolute terms by 2010. In 2006 the company reduced emissions by 17%. The article correctly stated that without the REC credits we have seen a 24% increase, but failed to explain that during that period we increased sales by 372%, bought new businesses, and expanded operations globally.

Dennis Canavan

SENIOR DIRECTOR, GLOBAL ENERGY

JOHNSON & JOHNSON

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.

I applaud Mr. Schendler's efforts and candor in discussing this issue. Measures that allow people to feel good about their contribution without bringing about any appreciable benefits are worse than doing nothing.

Screen name: J-Bob

I subscribe to the philosophy that "every little bit helps." Mr. Schendler's seems to be that "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that bling," an attitude that encourages apathy in the little guy who waits for the Lone Ranger--the government?--to come along with a silver bullet.

Screen name: Astonished

Mr. Schendler can relax. Manmade global warming is a religion, not a disaster. We who realize that environmental changes are natural are insulted by the actions of businesses looking to cash in on the idea that they are green and thus better than their competitors.

Screen name: Elby

To our profound disappointment, the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina was not given the opportunity to participate in BusinessWeek's 2007 ranking of part-time MBA programs. We have a long history of offering a part-time program that combines high-quality instruction with the flexibility that our students demand. We have more than 75 electives, and the classes in our program are taught by highly capable, full-time members of our faculty. We offer a concentration in international business, with significant overseas field experience.

In 2007, 160 students began our program; their average GMAT score was 605, their work experience was 81.5 months. We look forward to participating in future BusinessWeek rankings to further demonstrate the merits of our part-time MBA program to readers of this publication.

Hildy Teegen

DEAN

MOORE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

COLUMBIA, S.C.

Editor's note: The Moore School was omitted from the part-time MBA programs considered for ranking because of an editorial oversight.

Saturn's no-haggle car- buying experience certainly played a role in the purchase of a 1994 SL2 and a 2001 LW300 ("Haggling starts to go the way of the tail fin" What's Next, Oct. 29).

My wife and I still drive both cars today. Saturn heavily marketed this approach, as it was unique at the time (a decade ahead of Scion). While the dealer wouldn't bargain on a $150 fog light option on our first vehicle, we learned that Saturn would negotiate on trade-ins and financing when we purchased our second. Saturn was indeed a different kind of car company at one time.

Paul Rubin

ALPHARETTA, GA.

The current crazy admissions standards plaguing higher ed are simply a function of that demographic trend sparked by an increased birth rate after WWII ("I can get your kid into an Ivy," In Depth, Oct. 22). When this demographic trend subsides and the last spoiled child of the spoiled baby boomer generation graduates from college, Hernandez and her intellectually dishonest ilk will have to find new careers, perhaps as life coaches for those former clients who still can't think for themselves.

Chris Kwasizur

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF.

In your article, the dean of admissions at Yale says about college consultants: "We do not believe they have much, if any, effect on who we accept." Even I, a graduate of a public university, know that to be correct the sentence should read: "We do not believe they have much, if any, effect on whom we accept." So much for a very expensive Ivy League education.

Leon Reinstein

BALTIMORE

As your article correctly notes, my overall experience with Michele Hernandez was very positive, and I'm grateful to have met her.

But a few clarifications: Before meeting Michele, I had already chosen the courses for my two-year international baccalaureate curriculum. I had also made significant contributions to Habitat for Humanity and to another club focusing on food distribution in Bosnia. Finally, though Michelle is quoted as saying that we "spun" my story, that term does not correctly reflect the advice she gave me in writing honest application essays.

Andrew Garza

HAVERFORD, PA.

It is great for the elderly that there are now enough of us to make adult vaccines a market worth pursuing. But the headline on your otherwise interesting article, "Roll up your sleeve, Gramps" (What's Next, Oct. 22), was insulting and demeaning.

Matt Schein

JERUSALEM

It amazes me that the petroleum industry laments the subsidies allowed for ethanol and biodiesel ("The bumpy road to a biofuel future," Feedback, Oct. 22).

What subsidies do we have for oil? Let me see, the war in Iraq and the military protecting the oil-producing countries of the Middle East. Is that not an indirect subsidy?

Donald Barry

SAN ANTONIO

When it comes to how drug companies market to doctors, the pharmaceuticals and the physicians are equally at fault ("Will pharma finally have to fess up?" News & Insights, Oct. 8).

The winner in this relationship used to be the patients and medical personnel, who would benefit from the shared knowledge.

There are still plenty of people on both sides hoping to share information that will benefit patients. Meanwhile, pharma should cut back on the number of reps that hound doctors, reducing the pretty talking heads and putting intelligent, ethical salespeople out there.

That's the way to help physicians and their staff members as they try to provide the best health care.

Screen name: Shaman

As someone who has been a rep since 1989, I can say that the physicians have been spoiled over the years. Also, while it's true that pharma has been wining and dining its customers to try to get prescriptions written, no one complains about other industries wooing customers in this way.

Screen name: Ex-Rep

The pharmaceutical industry does a tremendous amount of education with doctors on disease states and new treatments.

I have been in the industry for 20 years, and I have never met a doctor who changed his or her prescribing habits based on a dinner--or a gift that had a product's name on it!

On the other hand, if a doctor attends an educational conference sponsored by a pharma company and then changes treatment decisions based on what's been learned, that is absolutely appropriate. Drug company reps are a quick source of continuing ed for well-educated doctors who work in a very fast-paced environment.

Don't punish the masses to get at the few abusers! And by the way, not all doctors expect to be courted.

Screen name: Hello


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