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According to Shirley Duke in her book, Environmental Disasters, oil spills top the charts in the cause of ecological harm. A significant oil spill occurred on the night of April 20, 2010, in which a gas explosion accident killed eleven people and injured 16 others on an oil rig of the Deepwater Horizon located in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion leaked 8,000 barrels of crude oil per day in the Gulf. The accident resulted in a tragic scene in which the news media showed nightmare pictures and live video of an uncapped pipe. The tragedy was imprinted on Americans who began to brainstorm ideas on how to plug the pipe. This accident lasted 87 days and discharged 4.9 million barrels of oil. In 2014, it was ruled that corporate oil giant BP was responsible for this oil spill and paid $18.7 billion in fines, which was the largest fine in corporate America. Although money was paid, the environmental repercussions are irreversible. Many people cite that the impact of this catastrophic event led to significant impacts on the environment, marine life, and humanity.
The environmental problem of the use of fossil fuels is real. Each day society hears about news stories of how climate change from the use of fossil fuels has deteriorated our environment. Scientists have developed facts, graphs, and charts to indicate that climate change has arrived. The melting glaciers led to sea levels rising from five to ten feet along coastal areas and the water consistency has become acidic. In the winter season, one week it snows and the next week the high temperature rises to 60 degrees. Heat waves, droughts, floods, super storms, hurricanes result from the damage of the melting ice. “It has been well documented by many renowned organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and many others that the warming trend is being seen globally” (Wong 5).
The nation gets its energy from fossil fuels which are non-renewable and the consequences of burning the fossil fuels are so dangerous it has changed our climate in an irreversible manner. “Even more ominous, global crises such as ozone depletion, greenhouse warming, deforestation and the loss of biodiversity are in one way or another rooted in corporate products and production systems” (Shrivastava 154). Our eco-systems are disrupted as a result of the climate change. Marine life, including plants and animals, is damaged. “One of these systems is located 6 km south of the Macando Wellhead and over 90 percent of the coral showed impact from fossil fuel damage” (Vidas 123).
The United States has the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and assures that the nation has clean air, water, and land. Legislation and laws help to promote protecting the environment. Federal and state laws are made in the form of statutes and regulations in order to protect the air, water, and soil. Governments have made laws protecting the “…environment from pollution, and governments must enforce those laws” (Vidas 123). However, some of the laws are weak and, at times, the enforcement of these laws is not clear. Like many areas, environmental policy has goals and guidelines but the implementation takes root at the state level.
Although there is legislation that safeguards the environment when accidents occur, there is another partner whose goal is to respect nature and the environment. Conservation agencies respond to ecological disasters to implement responsible and eco-friendly practices. Removal of oil in the oceans through the processes of skimming, burning, and evaporation create the need for new businesses. The problem of finding successful ways of controlling the spill, the use of dispersants, the testing of animal survival all mean significant income opportunities resulting from a disaster.
Many people blame business for ecological damage. These individuals think that business is the enemy. However, this is not true; in fact, it is quite the opposite. Corporate America has realized that they are part of the solution and state that environmental issues must be part of corporate responsibility. In order to promote their businesses, companies are finding that ecological claims are a way to increase market share and even avoid monitored regulatory systems. More needs to be done to protect the environment. Because society needs to address the ecological crisis, all of corporate America needs to stand up to take the lead and employ a green environmental approach to revolutionize and create value to build their sustainability.
Ecological Practices to Revolutionize
Fossil fuels are not renewable and eliminating their use will help sustain our future. Is the answer as simple as solar energy incorporation and wind turbines being populated all over the earth? America gets advice on how to help and how society can do their part to not only reduce their carbon footprint, but to eliminate an addiction to fossil fuels. Business is part of the plan to revolutionize.
The environmental problems facing global society are complex and there are no easy solutions but there are plans which can be used to create a sustainable future. “The recycled toner cartridges,…the replanted trees, the soy-based inks, and the monetary gifts to nonprofits were all well and good, but basically we were in the junk-mail business, selling products by catalog. All the recycling in the world would not change the fact that doing business today is an energy-intensive endeavor that gulps down resources” (Hawken x). Steps are taken by business to help but this is not enough to make a difference. “Making matters worse, we are in the middle of a once-in-a-billion-years’ blowout sale of hydrocarbons. They are being combusted into the atmosphere at a rate that will effectively double-glaze the planet…with disastrous climatic results predicted by scientists” (Hawken xi). Steps are small compared to the strides of innovation. These plans are ways which society, and business can jointly team to devise revolutionary products for the success of society.
The plan seems simple and the benefits of a sustainable business appear to be a responsible choice in satisfying the global challenge of society. However, in reality, only a few businesses seriously engage in the idea of environmental sustainability. Many times, companies are reacting to a disaster, such as BP and the Deepwater Horizon explosion or the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents. The Exxon-Valdez oil spill accident cause is still unknown while 257,000 barrels of oil were lost as the tanker crashed into a glacier. But, in the case of Deepwater Horizon, the cause is known as maintenance inspections were inadequate.
According to Bill McDonough, a green architect, “We (businesses) need to look at environmental issues in a new way (because) eco-efficiency isn’t good enough” (Esty 195). There are “vast opportunities to redesign products or even reconceived how and why we use them” (Esty 195). These innovative approaches make new opportunities for new businesses and new industries to support the vision of sustainability in a greater way. Like many top innovators, businesses have found success in creating ground-breaking new technologies and provide a superior understanding of their customers. While doing this, the company has gained insight into customers, and developed innovative and practical value to their product.
Today’s company needs to fulfill the expectations of the consumer in order to succeed in the marketplace. The companies of yesterday are gone if they are not responsible with the goals of its customers. “The role of companies has been changing…as it is crucial for businesses that enter into…marketplaces to go beyond their core business lines and help…protect the environment” (Pilot 1). “Going green” is a necessity to sustain the environment, as well as the business. These breakthrough priorities of redesigning and re-imagining satisfy the consumer need of helping with sustainability by reducing their footprint and saving the planet to create new business. The innovative culture is upon our world. “Many CEOs can learn a lot from (those) who value(s) not only creativity and innovation but also…responsibility to the planet” (Pilot 2).
Environmental Strategy to Create Value and Build Corporate Sustainability
In CRM Magazine, an article “Going Green Saving Green,” the author, Lauren McKay describes global warming and why large corporations in the United States should switch to green energy to create value. McKay’s message shows that a business going green is a very good thing and is not as difficult, as first thought. If America’s large corporations can switch to alternative energy and try to reduce the carbon footprint, then it will benefit the company and the environment. Many business owners believe that it is too challenging for their business to switch to green energy but the value of utilizing this environmental strategy far outweigh any disadvantages as seen in the green practices of Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo.
One big business that created value is Wal-Mart, which is not normally thought of as environmentally friendly with their cheap prices and questionable foreign import practices. However, Wal-Mart has successfully implemented their environmental plan. According to Lauren McKay in her article, Wal-Mart uses produce which has been locally grown. This encourages farming all over and is helpful because plants take in carbon which makes transportation to the stores cheaper and better on the environment. Delivery trucks contribute to global warming because of the emissions from gas exhaust, so having the trucks drive fewer miles, reduces the carbon and lowers the effect on the environment. Further, Wal-Mart uses bio-diesel fuel in their shipping process and has implemented a solar panel plan into their stores in Hawaii and California (McKay 20). Considering these actions, explained McKay, “Wal-Mart is arguably one of the top green companies in the United States creating value for society’s future” (McKay 20).
Another example of how big business creates value through sustainability which McKay discusses is Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo, a financial giant, has according to McKay, invested $5 billion in businesses that are environmentally green (McKay 21). Wells Fargo has allocated additional money for solar and wind projects (McKay 21) because these new green energy sources are much cleaner than fossil fuels explained McKay. If all the banks invested as much money as Wells Fargo, there would be more solar and wind farms which would help stop the warming trend according to the EPA. Wells Fargo is helping the movement towards green energy by investing their money into green projects and creating value in society with other companies.
Although becoming environmentally friendly today is trending, this topic has more implications for society. Reducing energy, reusing resources, and recycling practices are important but, innovative practices need to be implemented by business leaders. In his book, Green to Gold, Dan Esty claims that “Environmental leaders (find) opportunities to cut costs, reduce risk, drive revenues, and enhance intangible value” (Esty 14). Substantial value to the business, the consumer, and the planet was created by implementing “environmental thinking into their business strategies” (Esty i). Businesses have immense power to take this responsibility and properly communicate why their innovative products are safe for the environment.
In an effort to help society move into a sustainable future, more businesses need to address the environmental issue. They need to address the environment from a proactive point of view rather than reacting to an environmental disaster. Certain benefits beyond environmental sustainability exist to those who incorporate this strategy. New technology results in new practices, products, and even industries, which continues this mission. Incorporating sustainability initiatives creates value and assists with greater customer satisfaction. Having a mission to help the environment by using natural resources or using renewable resources with zero waste affirms our tomorrows are met with hope. The mission of using environmentally friendly practices is an option for all. If society purchases products from those companies that are green, then more businesses will respond to the incentive of increased sales and customer satisfaction. The incentives are good but useless unless these practices are done on a global market.
Some of the commendable actions of some of the finest companies in the world are highlighted. These companies have become models. The data show global consequences of careless behavior are imminent. The first step has been taken, but now the challenge is for all to demand the change because it is our future.
- Duke, Shirley Smith. Environmental Disasters. Rourke Educational Media, 2011. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.libcat.widener.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e700xna& AN=391608& site=eds-live.
- Esty, D. C., & Winston, A. S. (2010). Green to gold. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Hawken, Paul. The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993.
- McKay, Lauren. “GOING GREEN, SAVING GREEN. (Cover Story).” CRM Magazine, vol. 14, no. 4, Apr. 2010, pp. 18–23.EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.libcat.widener.edu/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=iih&AN=48965435&site=eds-live.
- Pilot, M.Jayne. Driving Sustainability to Business Success: Management System Integration and Automation–the DS Factor. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2015., 2015. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.libcat.widener.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05821a&AN=ecp.EBC1810505&site=eds-live.
- Reynoso, Ramon; Heusinger, Steve. “States Offer Rich Incentives for Going Green: Is Your Company Leaving Money on the Table with Unrealized Credits and Incentives,”Journal of State Taxation vol. 28, no. 6 (September-October 2010): p. 29-32.HeinOnline, https://0-heinonline-org.libcat.widener.edu/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/jrnsttax28&i=331.
- Shrivastava, P., & Hart, S. (1995). Creating sustainable corporations. Business Strategy and the Environment, 4, 154-165.
- Vidas, Davor. Protecting the Polar Marine Environment: Law and Policy for Pollution Prevention. Cambridge University Press, 2000. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.libcat.widener.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=112489&site=eds-live.
- Wong, Kaufui Vincent. Climate Change. Momentum Press, 2016. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.libcat.widener.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e900xww&AN=1135116&site=eds-live.
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