America’s “Toxic 10,” a special report put out by Conde Nast portfolio.com, demonstrates that we have entered a new realm of corporate environmental governance. We frequently read headlines that highlight corporate sustainability initiatives, like “Ford’s New Green Roof Initiative” or “Boeing’s New Fuel-Efficient Airplanes.” But the sad reality is that corporate giants, by and large, continue to commit egregious crimes against human health and nature. Almost every company listed in the “Toxic 10” has promoted some form of corporate greening, but this article shows that these may be attempts to legitimate and continue their polluting practices more than anything else.
What’s even more disconcerting are some of the companies listed in their “Top Green 11.” Bank of America, for example, is touted for its recycling program and hybrid-car incentives for its employees. Yet, this month I received an action gram from Co-op America asking members to reprimand Bank of America for their continued investments in coal plants.
Conde Nast admits that their list uses subjective criteria for assessment of the “Toxic 10” and “Top Green 11.” However, I think it’s fascinating that journalists really can’t tell who’s legit and who’s not in this field. As we know, corporate sustainability initiatives are often “add-ons” to existing operations. We also know that they are completely voluntary and unregulated. As a result, we can expect to find contradictions and inconsistencies at this stage of green business development. Yet, we also know that there is a difference between organizations founded on green principles, such as Tesla and Organic Valley, and those that are motivated primarily by profits, such as GE and Walmart. However, all four of these companies are listed side-by-side in the “Top Green 11.”
There has never been a better time for a systematic, verifiable strategy for assessing the “green-ness” of a company.