Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Green Inc.

Is the proliferation of corporate sustainability initiatives an indication of shrewd capitalism, a dedicated response to climate change, or both?
March 2012 - Beginning in the 1980s, when McDonald's stopped putting its burgers in polystyrene clamshells, and accelerating dramatically in the 2000s when An Inconvenient Truth highlighted the dangers of greenhouse gases, businesses large and small have made it a point to be sensitive to the environment. While there may be an almost across-the-board belief that reducing pollution is important, being "green" means different things to different companies.

Some corporations do it to cut costs, others to attract customers, and still others to practice what they preach philosophically (or all of the above). The ways to be eco-friendly can vary wildly, too, from using energy-efficient lightbulbs to illuminate stores, to cleaning up harmful chemicals at overseas factories that don't even have the same corporate parent. More than three decades after the green wave began, corporate America is now almost reflexively embracing the trend, even businesses that might seem unlikely converts. Critics say some of this is greenwash, a calculated attempt to appear environmentally conscious, but the companies would beg to differ. "I think it's very possible for a for-profit business to be green," says Jamie Meyers, sustainability manager at Walgreens. Since 2010, Walgreens, which is the largest drugstore chain in the country, has opted for 25-watt fluorescent tubes and high-efficiency mechanical systems. In addition, since 2007, 133 stores have added solar panels, though these stores make up less than 2 percent of the total, Meyers admits.

Can Walgreens and other companies, whose mission is to increase market share whenever possible, really be green while developing new stores which utilize significant resources, and which often require that customers drive to do their shopping? Yes, says Meyers, despite the fact that Walgreens has almost tripled in size, from 3,000 to 8,000 stores, in a decade. Parking lots are shrinking to 50-car lots, "less than what most cities mandate," he says. read more>>>

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