The Right Gets It Wrong on Corporate Sustainability
If the root of "conservative" is "conserve," why does sustainability drive so many of our friends on the right side of the aisle to apoplexy? It's gotten so bad they're even attacking free-market favorites like Costco for being green. And that's a mega-jumbo-economy-size triple family-pak of pure nuts.
Last week at Costco's annual meeting, Justin Danhof of the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), accused the company of making "unaffordable capital expenditures that do not have prospects for a reasonable payback… (and that) will harm Costco's shareholders, suppliers and customers as they will bear the cost of these self-imposed green regulations." Sustainability, said Danhof, was "extreme environmentalism."
Really? Maintaining clean air, pure water, a stable climate, healthy ecosystems--in short the life support systems that give humanity its pulse--is "extreme?" Costco doesn't think so, and calmer, wiser heads applaud their industry leading programs to save energy, reduce resource consumption, lower emissions, use sustainable materials, and eliminate waste.
They're doing right by our collective future, and guys like Justin Danhof (who need to be reminded that they, too, rely upon a healthy world for survival), should be clapping as well. Instead, they're berating efforts like these because they come with a price tag, and you know… nothing's more important than the money, right?
Even if that soulless perspective was true, which it is not, using it as justification to protest corporate sustainability misses the point by such a vast margin that it would be laughable if it weren't so alarmingly uninformed.
Here in Reality, which appears to be a place many anti-environmentalists never visit, corporate sustainability programs make money. When you save energy or install renewables, your power bills get lower. Reduce waste, and you pay less for sanitation. Recycle, and you turn trash into income. Redesign your packaging to fit more on a truck, and shipping costs fall. There's no end to the green you can make being green.
Yes, you'll spend extra up front, and that may impact the quarterly report, but study after study shows that over the long haul corporate sustainability is a profit center that boosts the bottom line by lowering risk and reducing expenses. It's like a flu shot. Pay for one now and you hurt your wallet for a day. Or you can save a few pennies, go without, and get sick later, which will cost you a lot more.
Then there's this: In a ruined world, there are no Costcos or anything else. If the weather is haywire and the rains wreck cities and the droughts scorch crops and the air makes us sick and the water is poison and missing ozone turns a walk to the mailbox into sunstroke, the economy is toast, too. What happens to all that precious money then? Surely keeping one's customers alive is worth a little investment, yes?
You'd think. Then again, the NCPPR doesn't appear to follow a traditional moral compass. A few years ago, it got caught laundering cash for corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.* It was embroiled in financial scandals surrounding disgraced congressman Tom Delay.** It fundraises by subjecting vulnerable senior citizens to floods of "fright mail."*** Or it just takes money from its fellow climate deniers at ExxonMobil.****
You get the picture. And the NCPPR doesn't even stick to its own questionable code. It "advocates free market solutions to environmental problems"***** yet disingenuously takes companies like Costco to task when they try to implement the very same.
All of which is why when people like the Mr. Danhof and the NCPPR gin up their outrage over sustainability, it's impossible to take them seriously. Fortunately, Costco isn't. Solutions like those they're courageously forging are the key to a secure and healthy future for our kids. For that, the company deserves our complete support. The NCPPR, on the other hand, deserves something else entirely.