Leave More Than Footprints
The New Corporate Responsibility
Glenn T. Prickett
Ian A. Bowles
American lovers of the outdoors have a slogan: “Take only photographs, leave only footprints. ” As is shown in this book, resource extraction in rich tropical ecosystems—the ultimate “outdoors”—takes far more than photographs and can leave devastating footprints. In some cases, like national parks, other protected areas, and the lands of indigenous peoples who oppose extraction, this means that natural resources should stay in the ground. Where development proceeds, however, companies have an obligation to minimize their impacts and to leave more than small footprints; they should also contribute to biodiversity conservation and the welfare of local people.
Conservationists see this as a moral obligation. A private company that profits from an ecosystem's resources should make the investments required to ensure that the land's other values—from local subsistence needs to global biodiversity benefits—are maintained. Governments are beginning to enact this obligation through laws and policies that require environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and social impact assessments (SIAs), best management practices, and revenue sharing with local communities and conservation areas.
Enlightened companies, meanwhile, are beginning to see conservation and community development initiatives as good business. Often this extends beyond compliance with government requirements. Voluntary action to minimize environmental impact and to advance conservation and community development can enhance a company's reputation in the eyes of regulators, consumers, shareholders, employees, and citizen activists, whose opinions ultimately affect a company's