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Lacking information means being ignorant. This is a self-evident truth that seemingly doesn't fully apply to the business world. Usually, in the domain of business, being "uninformed" about some things is regarded as normal if you happen to know enough about the "relevant areas." For example, it is OK to have little global culture (the arts, history, geography, "foreign culture," languages, philosophy, etc.) if you are a "financial wizard."
Traditionally, it has seemed acceptable that a senior executive have only superficial information on ecology or, even worse, be completely illiterate in that area. After all, ecology has been considered just one of those "irrelevant" issues in the "mental models" that have so far prevailed in the minds of most business people.
Now that ecology seems to have become a priority issue in every field of human activity, being ecologically literate is definitely a very desirable qualification for senior managers who hold the power to decide and make things happen in corporations. But being just literate is no longer enough. Business leaders must have "higher-level education" in ecology. It is the same rationale strategists apply in other key areas of business such as international affairs (as globalization radically changes the frontiers of the traditional business world) or telecommunications (as technology can strongly affect the strategies and the modus operandi of the organization).
Actually, ecology must be placed on a higher platform in the realm of strategic concerns of business endeavors because it is something basic, fundamental, connected to the values, mission, and purpose of the corporation. Providing high-quality products to consumers while at the same time destroying the ecological foundations of their society is, to say the least, a contradiction.
It follows that business executives should be continuously provided with adequate information on deep ecology rather than getting it in a biennial fashion or through periodical "special reports."
In the short run, we should ensure that the proper information effectively reaches all senior managers, not only through printed newsletters, clippings or memoranda, but also through personal contacts.
In our work with large corporations, we have been recommending that specific key senior managers be assigned special responsibilities regarding non-traditional issues like globalization, participation in community life, deep ecology, and the quality of life of employees and customers. Our thesis is that unless these key issues have "owners" sitting in the boardroom, they will receive only very superficial and generic attention, if any.
Of course, this doesn't mean that other key officers are not supposed to study and consider those issues while managing their areas. The main idea is that the "owner" should make sure that high-quality information is being captured and properly disseminated throughout the organization, including other senior managers, directors, and the CEO. Moreover, the "owner" is the person who carries out all the necessary steps to make things happen in the company whenever a specific piece of information is supposed to receive further attention from the corporation since it may lead to changes in policies, processes, or products.
In the long run, all the relevant information on deep ecology should be embedded in the formal management information system of the corporation. Management information systems have been transformed consistently in the last few years as corporations have been reinvented in order to cope with the demands of today's world. Quantitative data and measurements have yielded space to qualitative non-numerical information. The concept of the "balanced scorecard" clearly reflects that trend in the management information systems area.
Information on deep ecology and on how other corporations are evolving in that area should be a natural part of management information systems that include both competitors and "model companies" against which the company should benchmark itself in terms of strategies and management policies. The educational power- over the formal realm of management and the informal daily operations of this practice is evident since it brings the concern to the heart of the company's life. A great benefit is the generation of intense dialogues on the subject in the company, leading to increased consistency in walking the talk throughout the whole organization.
As a complement, the company can create periodic information campaigns on deep ecology aiming at further raising the consciousness of employees, customers, and suppliers. But those campaigns should always be viewed as complementary media. Stronger emphasis should be placed on embedding deep ecological thinking in the daily mainstream of corporate life.
Best practice educates. Pragmatic business CEOs are sensitive to real-life actions, actual examples, and results.
If we agree with the assumption that major transformation in an organization can only be possible when the main leader is actively engaged in it - is actually leading it - then the continual education of the CEO is a key factor in the cultural change necessary to bring about deep ecology consciousness in the organization.
However, CEOs are usually not easily permeable to "external" education. They tend to be averse to formal educational programs. It is our experience that even when an educational program is directed exclusively to CEOs, some of them are so sensitive that, for example, before attending a session they first check to see who the other participants are. The resistance - be it of psychological nature, an image problem, or intellectual impermeability - is usually present and should not be ignored.
The solution lies in taking the path of least resistance - using benchmarking and informal dialoguing with people they may respect, particularly other CEOs and renowned specialists who combine "advanced viewpoints" with pragmatic minds.
But a basic problem remains. How can we start the virtuous circle? How can we get the CEO involved in a benchmarking program centered on deep ecology practices? How can we get the CEO interested in talking to other CEOs and specialists about ecology?
Our experience is that those efforts should not be too narrowly focused in deep ecology and sustainability. We should keep in mind that CEOs are subject to multiple demands from a number of stake holders - shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, the community - and that their need for updating and education is extremely wide in scope.
A mirror approach to that multiple-demand picture leads to benchmarking programs that are systemic in their nature. It means that research aiming at discovering the best practices in the world should help CEOs get relevant information in all the fields they are interested in - not only ecology.
Fortunately, we already have companies that can be viewed as powerful benchmarks also in the area of deep ecology and sustainability (for example, Södra Cell in Sweden, Bischof and Klein in Germany, and 3M in the USA ecologically sophisticated companies that are also showing excellent market share and bottom-line performances).
When presented to the CEO as part of a global benchmarking program, these cases will likely receive higher attention and have more credibility more so than when presented as part of a benchmarking program "on ecology."
The same approach is recommended to round-table type programs with other CEOs and specialists. Some guest CEOs should be from companies that have best practices in quality, management of people, high technology, community services, or financial engineering. Some others should be from companies with advanced practices in deep ecology and sustainability. An interesting by-product of those gatherings (round tables could be quite informal over breakfasts or luncheons and in some cultures during "happy hours" and dinners) is that by organizing those CEO round tables the host company is also helping other CEOs to become more ecologically aware - presuming that always at least one of the members of the group is from an ecologically advanced corporation.
To start a benchmarking or round-table program with a broader scope is easier and can be suggested by anyone in the company. We already have a receptive climate in the business world for those kinds of initiatives.
Once those programs are started it is our experience that further exchange of information among the CEOs involved will quickly become a regular practice, generating accelerated evolution. Another interesting derivative phenomenon is that people from other levels of the organizations that participate in the round tables also start to exchange information and knowledge, further speeding up the process.
Planning is a powerful educational tool. Planning is thinking. Planning is creating the future through vision and orchestration of action. Planning is a process that requires a systemic perception of the corporation and of the global context in which it is inserted.
"Global context" has so far been understood as markets, the economic scenario, the social and political climate. Lately, it also includes the new connections opened by advancements in information technology and telecommunications and increased globalization. One further step in "global context" naturally takes us to deep ecology and sustainability. This is the ultimate advancement in systems thinking.
Our view here is that this ultimate step has different unfoldings. One of its dimensions is the systemic connections of the corporation to the whole - the effects on the society and on the environment of what the company does. The other dimension is its systemic effects over time, the consequences for future generations - the survival and success of the company in the long run and the well being of the society in the future.
When a company decides to engage in systemic planning, it will naturally be led to a process of thinking that takes into account deep ecology and sustainability. Our experience here is that companies are generally trapped in one or more of the following pitfalls when planning:
they do not dare to take the ultimate step: the "traditional market" is their natural limit;
they do not dare to go beyond the perceived possible (e.g., if they think that there is nothing they can do to improve the quality of life in society as a whole, they do not even try to think about possible solutions or contributions);
they accept the assumption that they represent just "a drop in the ocean" and therefore are powerless;
they accept the assumption that there is a natural limit beyond which business concerns should not go ("businesses should not enter the political realm").
Those pitfalls should be avoided. They are assumptions that have to be overcome if the corporation is to go beyond the mere concern for short-term survival and effectively create its future in a better world.
Systemic planning helps to overcome those traps and negative assumptions, educating everyone involved with it - from the CEO to the plant worker.
Systemic planning necessarily opens up possibilities for the achievement of ideal futures. Nothing is impossible when we consider the outstanding achievement potential of an aligned society. We can create a better society if we all decide to and have the political intention to do so. If that can be envisioned through systemic thinking and vision, its achievement is just a matter of creativity and joint effort.
Systemic planning opens the minds of senior executives to the interdependence of everything in the world, thereby calling their attention to the importance of deep ecology and the concept of sustainability. It also shows a new range of possibilities for the future through full cooperation among all segments of society. It helps create a new vision of the possible for business and for the society.
In the pragmatic business world we usually have few opportunities for deep thinking in the midst of daily affairs. But planning is already an accepted institution in most corporations. When systemic planning displaces guesswork and mere budget-building processes it becomes an outstandingly valuable non-threatening educational tool for senior executives. Systemic planning naturally leads all of us to a more ecological way of thinking.
Individual and collective learning
Learning is much more than being educated. Learning implies something that comes from the inside of the person. "Being educated" implies that the learning is coming from the outside (if the paradigm is the old-fashioned way of educating top-down, from the one who knows and has the right answers to the ones who don't have the knowledge and don't know the "correct answers").
There is a lot to be done both in the areas of individual and collective learning and in education in the new paradigm (educators and learners evolving together, educators as catalysts of learning). Although ecological awareness should come up more from daily activities and not just from formal courses, we should not place formal education on a secondary level.
In our view, a lot can be achieved in the area of ecological education through business schools, in-house courses and institutional programs geared to foster self-learning and collective learning.
Our post-graduate course for experienced business executives has been a pioneering program in Brazil in preparing senior managers in systems thinking focused on leadership/top management issues. Details of this program as related to ecological principles are described in the insert at the end of this chapter.
By raising the level of awareness of its participants, the program naturally leads to deep ecology and sustainability values. The program covers a broad set of issues related to modern management, balancing highly conceptual questions with very pragmatic ideas for action allowing the participants to be connected to their daily experiences. But every topic covered in the program is probed in terms of basic human values and the importance of raising the level of consciousness.
The outcome of the approach is a fundamental transformation of the participants' view of life, work, and the community. As one of the participants put it: "the course is a synthesis of something broader . . . as we work the 12 competencies, we naturally go beyond the process of managing business concerns: it is a deep reflection about the best we can do for humankind ... about our legacy for the society as a whole . . . "
Business schools in general can help achieve a lot in the short run through executive development programs aligned to systems thinking and broad ecological principles. As business schools also play a fundamental role in developing future senior managers, their contribution to the development of a higher ecological awareness cannot be neglected. Changes currently being introduced in the schools' curricula can have tremendous positive impact in the medium/long run. For example, the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in the U.S. added a course on environmental issues for business to its MBA program. This is an excellent start. The hope is that other business schools will follow the trend, adding courses in deep ecology and sustainable development.
However, in our view, changes in business schools should go beyond that. The ideas and values of ecology and sustainability should be present in every course covered by the program. In finance, the issue of quantitative/qualitative returns will bring ecological concerns into the right perspective; in marketing, the issue of ethics and changing values of the customers will raise the awareness of the students, etc.
As to the in-house courses, the principles are similar to the ones applied to business schools. Almost every training program under way in corporations may have to be changed to reflect the new values of deep ecology and sustainability.
Our experience here is that senior managers will be getting themselves more and more involved in coaching and educating new managers, rather than using their time to control and to supervise. As senior people start to play the role of coaches, an interesting phenomenon will tend to occur: they will absorb and internalize more deeply the "content and values" of what they teach. In short, they will learn a lot as they "teach."
Also, the results of the training process - when senior people are the facilitators of the programs - will tend to be quite more significant, as participants feel that the company has better conditions to actually walk the talk. Needless to say, those in-house programs have to be consistent with what the company is actually achieving in the area of ecology and sustainability.
As to other institutional programs, two areas should be emphasized. The first is the climate for self-development and continuous evolution. As the company makes every possible learning tool (including computer simulators in systems thinking) available to everyone and motivates people to look for self-development, the organization will tend to build quickly the necessary critical mass for the overall evolution to a higher level of awareness in ecology and sustainability.
The second area is the incentive for collective learning. As "people who know" feel that they are responsible for disseminating their "know-how" to others (a company value to be cultivated) "communities of learning" will tend to proliferate throughout the organization. Since the objective of these communities is everyone's professional and personal evolution, the subject of ethics, values, and consciousness will come up naturally, later evolving towards the issues of ecology and sustainability.
Professors, professional trainers, leaders as coaches, and consultants are "multipliers" and "opinion makers." As we focus on the education of business executives in the area of ecology and sustainability, that group should receive special attention in terms of alignment of values, systemic mindsetting, and "non-threatening" communication approaches.
Also, in the medium to long run, as ecological values become "official" within the corporations, human resources systems will have to be thoroughly adjusted to them. For example, the evaluation and reward systems will have to be aligned to new values adopted by the organization. Likewise, overall management policies and systems will tend to be transformed accordingly.
In this chapter, we shared some of our ideas and experiences in management education geared to deep ecology and sustainability. They represent above all a metaphor about the balance between conceptual thinking and pragmatic action.
Business concerns are rapidly becoming the most powerful institution of the planet. They have a tremendous power to help create a considerably better or worse world. And most of that power does not come from their financial or technological resources. It stems from the people. People who have been trained to be productive as a group. People trained to make things happen.
Nonetheless, paradoxically, the business world still hesitates in fully using its strength to build a better world. A world with a higher quality of life for everyone on the planet.
Businesspeople are hesitant because they are still bound to a lower level of consciousness. A level where the prevailing assumption is the "survival of the fittest" in a world of limited resources.
As we quickly approach a new world where resources are no longer the leverage factor for change, where values, ideas, knowledge, and human talent are the new key factors of "success," we also become conscious of the new possibilities open for the human being. The "impossible" is becoming possible.
The "possible impossible" seems to be the realm of the people who dare to act. The ones that courageously take the first steps towards their ideals, their dream.
A good story that illustrates that point is the case of Mrs. Jocélia Santos de Souza, a young wife of a construction worker living in a very poor neighborhood of São Paulo, Brazil. Noticing that many small children in the region did not have anything to eat because both parents were at work the whole day, she decided to offer lunch for three children who were playing with her own children. The following day she had six children coming for lunch. And they kept coming: 10, 20, 50. As the group got larger, help from neighbors naturally started to come. Today, she is providing almost one thousand meals every day and keeps creating new projects to help those children develop a decent future for themselves through better education and better work opportunities.
The fundamental question that is in the heart of that story is: What would have happened to her "project" if she - before offering the first three meals had decided to make a "feasibility study," as we are used to doing in the business world? Would she have started it?
Businesspeople seem to be still hesitant, spending their time with unending feasibility studies on "ecology projects." This is a time for action. For first steps. Ideas are great but they must be quickly followed by courageous action.
This is a time for global action. As globalization is definitely something beyond a mere theory, and as high technology actualizes, for the first time in history, the idea of humanity, we seem to have today all the necessary conditions to create a better world for all.
It is time to act. And as we go in the right direction, unexpected doors will be open, making the apparently "impossible" a reality.
That certainly is not a typical business assumption. It is an assumption that transcends the traditional business realm.
Educating for deep ecology and sustainability goes beyond the education of minds. Ultimately, it leads to the evolution of the spirit.
Amana-Key's Systemic Executive Development Program
The emergent understanding of business organizations as living organisms in permanent change stresses the need for a new breed of managers. This new manager faces novel roles beyond the traditional technical approach to business. Totally new competencies are required to manage a corporation under the new vision in a world quite different from the past. Based on those assumptions, the Amana-Key Group created in 1991 an innovative systemic executive development program. The program is an educational process in which the new roles of managers are intertwined with principles of systems thinking to evoke ways to lead business towards an unprecedented future. Amana-Key's program, offered only to experienced executives and focused on top management issues, is based on twelve key roles of the new business leader. Eight of these roles are naturally interwoven with principles of deep ecology. Those eight roles are:
The Executive as a Statesman (The Principle of Interdependence)
The performance of the corporation's role in the community implies the understanding and application of the principle of interdependence. When "corporate citizenship" is perceived as an overarching value, executives apprehend how interconnected we all are and how we influence the biopolitical and social fabric of the whole.
The Executive as a Strategist (The Principle of Flexibility)
The "new strategy" draws on concepts such as strategic intent, and resources leverage. These ideas trigger non-linear processes that require leaders to know the fluctuations that their organizations can cope with. When managers realize the need for higher levels of flexibility they re-evaluate their beliefs and tend to become more aligned to an ecological, more natural "style" of creating the future.
The Executive as a Change Agent (The Principle of Ecological Cycles)
The permanent interchange of matter and energy among the elements of an ecosystem becomes evident in a corporation that looks at itself as a living organism. Under this perspective, innovation becomes "biological," i.e., naturally accepted as part of a dynamic flow of ideas, resources, and people who make things happen.
The Executive as an Architect of Processes and Networks (The Principle of Partnership)
The emerging idea of organizations as "communities of learning" is an outcome of the principle of partnership. More and more managers realize that they, customers, suppliers, the community, and the eco-social environment are all interconnected in a network of cooperative relationships.
The Executive as a Negotiator (The Principle of Diversity)
Mastering the skills to deal with the complexity of human interactions and reconcile divergent interests leads us to recognize that the richness of a group of people (or ecosystem) depends on its diversity. To be a negotiator the manager has to learn to respect the uniqueness of each living organism and find out how to deal with diversity.
The Executive as an Educator (The Principle of Co-Evolution)
The principle of co-evolution calls for creative interchange and adaptability. The executive as an educator draws on those qualities to deploy the capabilities that will transform the company into a learning organization. People, then, become the main value of the organization as the evolution of products and technologies tends to be come a natural consequence of the learning processes and the optimal unfolding of the group's full potentials.
The Executive a Living Example (The Principle of Energy Flow)
The "solar energy" within an organization is generated by quality of the flow of actions of its people. To become a living example of this principle the manager has to shift from "knowledge" to "wisdom" and walk the talk. That behavior in itself opens the "flow of energy" throughout the organization and keeps the way to it in a sound state of "dynamic equilibrium."
The Executive as a Cultivator of Values (The Principle of Sustainability)
The effective practice of universal values in the organization is consistent with the development of an "overall culture" compatible with the present and future needs of the planet. That culture is organically fostered by the executive that always takes into account the welfare of the whole today and tomorrow. This is the essence of sustainability that arises when the thoughtful manager sees himself/herself and the company as part of an indivisible and integrated whole.
5. Assessing corporate environmental performance
Assessing environmental performance
Diffusing environmental information
Social monitors: The case of CEP
Consumers of environmental information
Impacting business practices
Improving data availability
Improving data dissemination
Luis L. Martins, Charles J. Fombrun, and Alice Tepper Marlin*
José Lutzenberger and Oscar Motomura both emphasized in previous chapters that access to fast and reliable environmental data is crucial for designing strategies for ecological sustainability. This recognition is spreading rapidly in today's business world. The most influential daily paper in business is the Financial Times of London. Ten years ago there was no page on the environment in the Times, but when the last appointment for editor in chief was considered, Francis Cairncross, a leading environmental writer, was seriously considered for this top job. And when the Worldwatch Institute published the latest version of its Vital Signs last September, the Financial Times gave it front-page attention. Not only that, the ordering information for the book was placed right there as well.
The business media are realizing that there is an urgent need for providing corporate executives with relevant environmental data. As the financial media, both print and electronic, search for new services, environmental data provision is becoming one of the hottest areas of development. Reuters, the undisputed leader in electronic financial data and news, has established a task force to design a framework for online information on environmental performance of publicly traded companies. Based in the UK, Reuters serves mainly European customers and, as Japanese and American companies listed on European stock exchanges have noted, European investors are highly conscious of environmental performance.
When Mitsubishi organized a road show in 1990 in preparation for its entry into the Paris and London stock exchanges, the president of this large trading and industrial group had prepared carefully for all imaginable questions. However, in previous years, Mitsubishi had been widely criticized by NGOs for its environmentally destructive forestry practices in the Southern Hemisphere, and the company's president was shocked about the detailed knowledge of that critique among institutional investors who kept asking him extremely tough questions. For a moment he even thought he had entered the wrong room and was facing a panel of activists from Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network.
With increasing interest in environmental information by institutional investors there is increasing demand for data on corporate environmental performance. To be sure, most of this information is of a qualitative nature, unlike data on sales, cost price structure, return on investment, and the like. This makes the job for the data providers more difficult, since the information needs to be timely and correct even though it is always subject to interpretation.
However, we need to remember that value judgments are always qualitative. As more data on environmental performance become available, potential investors may change their mind on the present value of a company. If its environmental performance is outstanding, the company is bound to gain from this recognition, increase its sales, expand its profit margins, generate higher customer satisfaction, and create customer loyalty. On the other hand, if the environmental data reveal that the company is lagging behind its competitors and only meets the minimum environmental standards, present shareholders may decide that the risks involved are too high and may sell, driving the stock price down.
Traditional information providers such as Reuters, Quick, Telerate, and Quotron, as well as Dunn and Bradstreet, are important sources of environmental information. However, over the next few years much more information will become available over the informal electronic networks emerging on the Internet. For example, Econet offers a review of all companies currently boycotted because of their shortcomings in environmental or social performance.
In the past these boycotts had very little international exposure, but through today's Internet, data on environmental performance can be made available globally almost instantaneously. As the Internet expands, business will have to become aware of the fact that soon ten times more people will be connected to it than to Reuters, Quick, Telerate, and Quotron combined. This will represent the kind of free in formation postulated by Adam Smith as a precondition to a perfectly functioning market. Businesses will then either have to tap into this network to know what the world thinks about them, or risk exposure to a world opinion detrimental to them.
Making environmental data available is one thing; producing reliable data is something else. Rating the environmental performance of corporations is a complex task that has been developed to a high degree in the United States by organizations like the Council on Economic Priorities. The organization's founder, Alice Tepper Marlin, and her colleagues Charles Fombrun and Luis Martins of the Stern School of Business in New York City survey the criteria for environmental assessment, the ways in which awards are given, ratings are established, and corporate shortcomings in environmental responsibility are spotlighted. They show how these techniques combine both to influence consumer buying behavior and to help corporations achieve more satisfactory environmental performance.
Although environmental organizations in the United States often possess impressive technical expertise, they tend to focus on individual dramatic issues of pollution or toxic hazards rather than on broader questions of how corporate activities impact the natural world. Systematic assessment of corporate environmental performance has been pioneered by the Council on Economic Priorities as part of its wider assessments of corporate "citizenship." CEP's ratings in the category of "environmental stewardship" depend on grading such factors as compliance with federal and local laws, product design and packaging, energy efficiency, and minimization of toxic releases. The resulting ratings are widely publicized, as we will explain below, and influence both consumer and management behavior.
CEP has accumulated a large data bank enabling it to make objective comparisons among companies. A top-rated company on the environment is one that has relatively low and declining toxic releases, adjusted for the size of the company. It is one that has made achieving environmental goals an integral part of management performance review and compensation systems. It discloses specific goals, timetables, and progress. Often, top-rated manufacturers participate in voluntary Environmental Protection Agency programs on toxic release reduction or energy efficiency.
CEP also rates companies on building-design features like energy sources, energy efficiency of lighting, use of sustainably harvested timber, user-friendly provisions for collecting returnable and recyclable materials, and adoption of CFC substitutes in refrigeration. Supermarkets get credit for sizable offerings of organic produce and minimal packaging on private labels. Companies that adopt "green" specifications of products, components, or services and communicate them to vendors and contractors are rewarded. Ratings also credit environmental shelf-labeling derived from government or other independent sources - Swedish supermarkets are especially outstanding at this.
Since environmental stewardship is the most complex and data-rich criterion on which CEP rates corporations, it publishes 20-90 page reports detailing corporate environmental programs and performance. Based on public information as well as company reports, these often serve corporations as the equivalent of paid outside consultant reports and provide the basis for ongoing environmental improvement programs. CEP's methods are now being employed by sister organizations in Britain (New Consumer), Germany (IMUG), and Japan (Asahi Shimbun). Although CEP is not hesitant to name low-performing companies in its Campaign for Cleaner Corporations, its aim is to motivate such companies to improve their performance and secure credit for genuine responsiveness in future ratings, and it can point to some success in this direction.
In the United States, some environmental organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council have been concentrating attention on specific companies with the aim of decreasing their environmental impacts. These efforts, based on expertise rivalling and in some areas surpassing that of the companies themselves, have had profound effects. The EDF, through a long-standing program that was often sharply adversarial, brought about fundamental changes in the investment policies of Pacific Gas & Electric (the country's largest investor-owned utility). In a contrasting cooperative vein, NRDC has engaged in an extensive (and unpaid) consultantship with McDonald's which has led to changes in practically every aspect of that company's fast-food operation.
Environmental awards have become increasingly popular tools in the U.S. for recognizing companies that try to promote energy efficiency and minimize pollution. Sponsors hope that awards will encourage other companies to imitate them, and will thereby foster greater ecological awareness and interest in questions of global sustainability. There are now many environmental awards. Some are backed by government agencies, some are given by watchdog groups, others are sponsored by companies themselves. Two of the more prestigious awards are the Gold Medal for International Corporate Achievement, and the Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement.
The Gold Medal Award honors industrial companies that have shown outstanding, sustained, and well-implemented environmental management policies in their international operations. In the late 1980s, the Award was repeatedly singled out by U.S. President George Bush, adding to its visibility.
The Global 500 is sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program. Nominations are made by third parties and awards are given in 27 areas of environmental accomplishment. The awards identify individuals and NGOs, and a few companies, that have demonstrated sustainable development practices; that have mobilized public attention and support, or taken action toward solving an environmental protection issue; or that have contributed significantly to intellectual, scientific, or theoretical approaches to environmental concerns.
Other environmental awards given in the U.S. include:
The DuPont/Conoco Environmental Leadership Award: Based on nominations from customers of DuPont or Conoco Mining Services, companies with mining operations in North America are assessed on their success in reclaiming mines, protecting land-use and water quality, and in local environmental leadership.
The Edison Award for Environmental Achievement: Sponsored by the American Marketing Association, the award champions American companies whose commercial products contribute significantly to source reduction.
The Environmental Achievement Award: Given to companies whose environmental projects exceed regulatory requirements and who develop creative and innovative solutions with proven economic and environmental benefits. The award is sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation's Corporate Conservation Council.
The Safety Award for Excellence (SAFE): Targets oil companies that achieve the highest levels of safety and environmental compliance in U.S. off-shore drilling operations. Nominees are picked from inspection reports, and the award is sponsored by the Minerals Management Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Searching for Success National Environmental Achievement Award: Sponsored by the not-for-profit group RENEW America, awards are made in twenty environmental categories to individuals, community groups, schools, companies, or government agencies with outstanding environmental programs.
America's Corporate Conscience Awards: Sponsored by the Council on Economic Priorities, a non-profit public policy research organization based in New York, a group of both small and large companies are recognized annually for their achievements in five categories of social and environmental responsiveness.
Despite their apparent diversity, all of these awards, in fact, rely on common sources of information about firms and their environmental performance. In this chapter, we review:
the principal sources of environmental information in the U.S.,
the process through which environmental information gets conveyed to outside observers, and
the effects that these environmental data have on the business practices of U.S. firms.
Fig. 1 Assessing Environmental Performance
We conclude with a brief discussion of future prospects for improving corporate environmental performance. Figure 1 sketches the basic framework of the chapter.
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