Business, Ethics, and the Environment: The Public Policy Debate

Business, Ethics, and the Environment: The Public Policy Debate

Business, Ethics, and the Environment: The Public Policy Debate

Business, Ethics, and the Environment: The Public Policy Debate

Synopsis

This volume studies the ethical obligations that businesses may have for protecting the environment. It explores the public policy debate of how to regulate corporations--or how corporations should regulate themselves--to deal with important environmental issues. The essays are grouped in three separate sections, covering business and government interaction, public attitudes and involvement in environmental issues, and environmental problems and solutions. The focus throughout is on specific environmental issues and case studies.

Excerpt

On October 26 and 27, 1989, the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College held its Eighth National Conference on Business Ethics. The topic of the conference was Business, Ethics, and the Environment. Prominent members of business, government, academic, and public interest groups made presentations. Many of those presentations are collected in this volume, and others are in a companion volume, The Corporation, Ethics, and the Environment.

The conference marked a departure from a number of other discussions on business and the environment since the major focus of the conference was not the monetary cost-benefit of environmental protection. Instead most of the papers were intended specifically to address, in ethical terms, the ethical obligations businesses may have for protecting the environment. If there are such obligations, then businesses are morally required to consider them when business activity has an adverse effect on the environment. But are businesses obligated to protect the environment? Should private enterprises take an active and leading role in solving this national problem? Or should the solution be entirely a matter of public policy, not involving businesses except to the extent that they are required to act by law and regulation?

Environmental problems and concern for the environment are not new. Warnings came out in the 1960s that lakes were dying of industrial wastes. Our foodstuffs were tainted with methyl mercury and radioactivity. The World Health Organization even warned us of the contamination of mother's milk by DDT. It was reported in 1969 by the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center that there was not a breath of uncontaminated air anywhere in the North American hemisphere. In 1970Thor Heyerdahl found no oil-free stretch of ocean during his RA II crossing, and Jacques Piccard in 1971 reported to the United Nations that oil . . .

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