Sunday, December 6, 2009

Corporations Are Good for the Environment?

In an interesting op-ed at the NY Times, the always controversial Jared Diamond suggests that some firms are actually making a significant effort to improve the environment and that it makes competitive sense.

Let’s start with Wal-Mart. Obviously, a business can save money by finding ways to spend less while maintaining sales. This is what Wal-Mart did with fuel costs, which the company reduced by $26 million per year simply by changing the way it managed its enormous truck fleet. Instead of running a truck’s engine all night to heat or cool the cab during mandatory 10-hour rest stops, the company installed small auxiliary power units to do the job. In addition to lowering fuel costs, the move eliminated the carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to taking 18,300 passenger vehicles off the road.
 The piece also does a nice job busting myths about the economic disincentives to engage in sustainable practices.

I have come to the belief that the world will adjust to the shortage of energy supplies by conserving and coming up with alternatives because companies will see it in their interest to do so--so that they can remain competitive and become even more so.  On the other hand, I think climate change itself, well, we are not going to do so well, as it will require cooperation, extensive cooperation that is not that easy to come by.  This week's meetings in Copenhagen are illustrative, as Canada will face much abuse for its tar sands exploitation.

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