About 10 days ago Jared Diamond stirred up a bit of a debate with his NY Times Op-Ed: Will Big Business Save the Earth?
If you read this blog for any period of time, you'll eventually see me talk about how green commerce (products, services, etc.) will never go mainstream until it delivers the same value for the dollar as non-green commerce. You'll see me talk about how I may be a vegan, among other things, but I'm all in favor of baby steps. That taking a few steps towards a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle is better than taking no steps at all. You'll see me argue that absolutism or perfectionism is the enemy of progress.
So, at first glance, Diamond's Op-Ed speaks to me. It makes sense to me that it is only when multi-national conglomerates start not only to care about their environmental impact, but to seek to publicize any positive impact, that we can make mass change and improvements. Part of me does believe that small improvements from a company like Walmart may net out better results for the planet than the small personal improvements from thousands of individuals.
We need both. That's for sure.
Food Politics, however, doles out a cold splash of reality (and incredulity) about Diamond's Op-Ed in: Saving the earth: Coca-Cola?
And the pendulum swings the other way. Crediting companies like Coke for what they plan to do does seem premature. Questioning the motives of for-profit companies in this country, where corporate social responsibility programs still need to somehow contribute to the bottom line in order to be fiduciarily responsible, seems rational, not cynical.
For me, it's a tough call. How can big companies become more responsible citizens overnight and in one fell swoop? Don't they have to take incremental steps? Not just because they have fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, but also because they have massive numbers of employees and processes in place...let's be realistic about what it takes to re-direct Titanic companies (and I don't use the metaphor lightly).
So, I'm just a bundle of non-answers and gray areas on this. How about you?