As business uses natural resources, spreads technology across the globe, and creates trade, it also has the power to lead social change. As business continues to develop and strengthen its global links, it has an important opportunity to exert environmentally prudent leadership both in the United States and in many developing countries where the environment is still a low priority for business despite serious environmental degradation.
Environmental management makes business sense, as greener and cleaner products and processes meet consumer demands, result in enhanced product marketability, decrease future environmental liabilities, and, ultimately, lower costs. Environmental management fosters a competitive business advantage through efficiency in production, minimum generation of waste, and a more productive and healthy work force. Companies used to be more concerned with "end of the pipe" solutions to environmental compliance regulations. Now, as Sandra Woods, vice president of Environment, Health & Safety Systems of Coors Brewing Company, quotes Chairman of the Board Bill Coors, "All waste is lost profit." Coors sells its spent grain as fertilizer and recycles its aluminum scraps and cans at its subsidiary, Golden Recycling.
Businesses can create partnerships with government, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations to work toward solutions to environmental problems. You can find examples of such partnerships in the "Company Directory" (page 219).
Sustainable development requires international cooperation to manage the air, water, and other natural resources that comprise our global commons; and it requires responsible individual choices in all aspects of our lives at work and at home. It requires that all of us—activists, artists, designers, consumers, farmers, manufacturers, and ordinary citizens—realize that we are the real environmental decision-
makers. We are the key to sustainable development. When the people lead—people who understand the connections between business development, human development, and the environment—leaders in policy and business will follow.
When people understand their connections to nature, their decisions may be better suited to the system of which we are all a part. This requires us to ask ourselves about the rules by which we work and the lifestyles we choose. Individuals and businesses have the power to value the environment as a priority and, in so doing, to create both ecological health and economic wealth.
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