Green Ethics as a Foundation of Green Business

The word is facing immense and daunting challenges. Since The Rio Earth Summit more than one decade age, the global environment has been constant decline. Nature is mutilated and over exploited while humanity is suffering. The people on the planet are now faced with such major challenges as global warming, desertification, losses of biodiversity and poverty.

Business Corporation, the main engines of industrial growth face real pressures to respond to the environmental concerns. Customers are demanding safer and cleaner production facilities and waste recycling programs.

How business leaders can more environmentally responsive to develop pro-environment attitudes values, and postures within their business

Environmental ethics depend on how we understand the relationship of humans to nature and how we implement that understanding through our organization and institutions.

Historically, humans are placed at the center of this relationship (anthropocentrism). Humans separate from nature and superior to it. Nature exist for the sake of human welfare. Humans arrogate to themselves an unquestionable right to subdue, use and exploit nature without regard for any limits. Nature has no right to exist for its own sake.

Arrival of industrial technologies, humans development immense power and capacity to exploit nature and consume it.

As a result, humans have consumed more natural resources and the last 200 years than in the previous years. This rapid exploitation is altering the earth’s natural equilibrium.

Anthropocentrism is now being questioned people are beginning to see the unfairness of arrogating all rights to humans and none to nature. The perceive this as unfair to other species and not in the best of humans. Animal rights protection groups have lighted to plight to animals the old human-centered world views and acknowledging the rights and inevitability of nature to exist on its own.

Questioning the old values leads us to new visions of eco-justice. Eco-justice is also concerned with social justice for “natural resource communities”, communities that derive their substance from the natural resources around them. Millions of people (indigenous peoples, tribal people, the rural poor, for example) depend on local natural resources for drinking water and crop irrigation. They get food, medicinal herbs, wood for fuel and shelter materials from local rivers, lakes, forests, and other common resources. Destroying nature destroys their sustenance.

This destruction is done by industrial activities (mining, manufacturing, and mechanized farming) and development projects (dams, roads, and urbanization). Similarly, imposing a market economy on natural resource communities limits their ability to sustain themselves.

Even if humans do not respect the rights of nature, it will continue to exist, despite exploitation. However, it may become more hostile to human needs. By recognizing the rights of nature, humans can create powerful laws for protecting nature and preventing a few ruthless people from exploiting its resources, and thereby destroying it for all.

The translation of moral judgment to corporate responsibilities for preservation of nature is a complex issue. Corporations have other social responsibilities. Among other things, they are responsible for earning a reasonable return for investors, creating jobs, ensuring community stability, and providing safe products.

The ethical question these conflicts raise is not whether corporations should choose between protecting human interests or ecological ones. Both interests are important and deserve consideration. The central issue here is for corporations to invent a broader social-ecological ethic.

This broader ethic would apply to all decisions that involve techno-environmental hazards. Decisions would be made on the basis of ecological sustainability, long-term perspective, social participation, transparency, and a longer time frame. Corporate decision processes involving techno-environmental risks should be made as transparent as possible without compromising competitive information. Transparency of decision processes helps in monitoring them and keeps all parties honest. Extending the time frame of a solution allocates the costs for ecological projects over longer time horizons.

How well corporations fulfill their ecological responsibility will determine their legitimacy. Public support for business enterprise as a whole hinges on fulfilling this responsibility. By greening corporations can meet their moral obligations, augment their legitimacy and burnish their public image.

by: Prof. Surna Tjahja Djajadiningrat

taken from: Jakarta Expat magazine 14-27 September 2011