Magazine article Workforce

Ecology, the Next Apartheid

Magazine article Workforce

Ecology, the Next Apartheid

Article excerpt

Twenty years ago, employees were asking HR directors, "Does our company invest its money in South Africa?" Divestment was a litmus test for corporate social responsibility.

The apartheid issue is no longer on the front burner. In its place is environmental awareness, which-particularly to Generation X and Y-represents the dividing line between a company that cares about something other than profits and one that does not.

One may ask, Isn't turning a profit enough? Do we have to offer telecommuting as an option in order to save gas? Do we have to analyze what percentage of our materials is made from recycled and recyclable components? Do

we have to review all of our company's eco-practices?

Yes, according to environmentalists.

And these days, there are a heckuva lot of environmentalists.

Some of the more hard-core have a Web site, Ecopledge.com, where they've gotten commitments from almost 100,000 employees to reject offers at corporations that "fail to take specific, positive environmental actions identified by ecopledge.com researchers." These steps include discontinuing the sale of polluting products, increasing recycling, and halting controversial developments. Ecopledge is targeting Boise Cascade, BP Amoco, Coca-Cola, Citigroup, Daimler Chrysler, Dell, Disney, Nestle, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sprint, and Staples.

The group was partially responsible for getting Ford and GM to abandon their membership in the pro-business "Global Climate Coalition," and also helped get GE to increase washing-machine efficiency. In April, job candidates dumped hundreds of "embargoed" resumes at BP's regional offices. BP is now negotiating its position on Alaska oil drilling.

I should mention that I have stock in a couple of the companies on the Ecopledge list. So might you. So might your company. This matters, because environmentalists could eventually boycott companies that invest in other companies they don't like. During the divestment era, you didn't have to conduct business directly in South Africa to get on someone's bad list.

In the environmental game, doing good isn't always bad for the balance sheet. "Being environmentally responsible almost always makes good business sense," says John Zurcher, IKEA's North America environmental coordinator. …

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