Going Green: The Corporate Push for Environmental Consciousness

By Anderson, Eric R. | Business Credit, January 1992 | Go to article overview

Going Green: The Corporate Push for Environmental Consciousness


Anderson, Eric R., Business Credit


The facts loom large but most of us tend to ignore them. According to the Earth Works Group - an organization of writer committed to saving the environment - of almost two billion pounds of printing inks used, about half will end up in the waste stream. Each year, U.S. industries generate roughly one ton of hazardous waste for every American citizen. It takes a tree 10 years to grow enough lumber to manufacturer one wooden pallet. American businesses flush more than one billion gallons of fresh water down the toilet every working day.

While these statistics are startling, the list goes on and on. Our natural resources are diminishing at an alarming rate, and the state of the environment is in jeopardy due to the practices and policies of many businesses and corporations in America today.

Can you name a company that is enviromentally conscious? Many Americans can't. But take a look around and you just might be surprised. The environmental movement is gaining steam as corporations join the "green wave" that emerged on the first Earth Day in 1970 and has since grown stronger with the involvement and dedication of more and more companies.

Businesses, large and small, have joined the ranks of the environmentally concerned and are making an effort to protect the earth. Whether it be by implementing a company recycling program, or eliminating toxic materials from their products, more than ever before, companies are getting involved in the environmental movement that is sweeping into the '90s.

Setting the Tone

Since the early 1980s, Herman Miller, Inc., a furniture maker and one of the 500 largest firms in America, is a company that has set the tone for corporate environmental consciousness. In 1982, the company finished building an 11 million dollar waste-to-energy plant which provides a large portion of its energy needs by burning waste products as fuel. This plant supplies all of the power necessary to heat and air condition Herman Miller's central plant in Zeeland, Mich. The co-generator, which uses heat to create steam, produces low-cost energy and has cut the trash that Herman Miller hauls to landfills by 90 percent since it began operation.

Known for protecting the environment with innovations like its waste-to-energy plant, Herman Miller has recently taken a strong stand in the push for protection of the world's rain forests.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 17 million hectares of rain forest are destroyed each year, worldwide. It is statistics such as this that have driven Herman Miller to eliminate tropical woods that cannot be obtained from sustained-yield forest sources from its standard products.

"We are sharing the growing worldwide concern about the tropical rain forests," states Richard H. Ruch, chief executive officer, Herman Miller, Inc. "The destruction has been caused by those who stood to gain from the elimination, rather than the preservation, of the rain forests. We believe our influence and the influence of those who are working with us will create policies throughout the world that are for the benefit of both the environment and mankind.

"Herman Miller has always been an environmentally conscious company," Ruch continues. "This corporate decision does not make new policy, but instead, extends our environmental conscious to the protection of rain forests."

Cleaning-up the Nation

"The issue of environmental responsibility is permanent and is not a passing fad," says Pat O'Brien, corporate director of environmental affairs at First Brands Corporation, located in Danbury, Conn. "At First Brands, we take a very proactive stance in all areas of environmental affairs."

First Brands is a Fortune 300 company and makes such well-known products as STP, GLAD bags, and Prestone antifreeze. The company created O'Brien's position three years ago and has a separate entity, its Corporate Environmental Affairs Group, to oversee environmental responsibilities. …

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