Yes Virginia, maybe there is such a thing as big, green and … corporate

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Corporate Social Responsibility, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainability | Posted on 02-10-2009

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By Shauna Lawyer Struby

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down.

– "Something's Happening Here," Buffalo Springfield 

As our world meanders through the waning months of the first decade of the new millennium, a funny thing has happened along the way. Around the globe folks are waking up from a century and a half of unbridled expansion and resource consumption enabled by abundant supplies of cheap, easily produced fossil fuels. Along with a helluva an oil addiction hangover, loads of "ah ha" moments about everything from climate change and peak oil, to overpopulation and acute ecosystem distress are dancing in our heads.

Sustainable "ah ha" moments are evidenced in the ubiquity and astounding array of sustainable initiatives by individuals, non-profits, large NGOs and large corporations from around the world. And while to some using the “c” word and sustainability in the same sentence, may seem like an oxymoron, to borrow from Buffalo Springfield, maybe something really is happening here.

Newsweekgreenrank
This week Newsweek published their first Green Rankings, billed as an exclusive environmental ranking of America's 500 largest corporations. In an introduction to the rankings and related stories Newsweek's national correspondent, Daniel McGinn addresses why Newsweek chose to produce the rankings:

" … the economic case for going green is becoming more compelling … with scientific consensus that carbon emissions threaten our climate, there's growing political will to curb them …"

And,

" … among our Top 100 best-performing companies, 70 voluntarily disclosed the data … 'One of the purposes of this is to improve the transparency of corporations … and encourage them to provide an even higher level of disclosure.'"

And,   

"Rankings inevitably provoke controversy — and we welcome that. Our hope is to open a conversation on measuring environmental performance — an essential first step toward improving it."

Hats off to Newsweek for having loads of green chutzpa to publish a list such as this, and for starting whatNewsweekgreenrank2 will hopefully be a meaningful conversation about the ins and out of operating a business sustainably. No doubt there will be plenty of commentary on methodology and the list itself. Good. We should have this conversation! And, we can thank Newsweek for their courage in attempting such a thing and then have fun browsing the list and related coverage which you may find is full of surprises.

Green washing is certainly a valid concern as Newsweek notes in this related article. But in "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," Jared Diamond observes that often what has separated a collapsing society from one that survives is simply a society's willingness to respond to the threats, to do what it takes to prevent collapse. So while the companies on Newsweek’s list may be big, corporate and wholly imperfect, if they're willing to take steps in a sustainable direction, I say let's applaud the steps and then keep on asking that they take another and another. That's how change happens … one foot in front of the other.

Now to raise the sustainable bar for Oklahoma companies and corporations, as far as I know no Oklahoma media outlet has yet compiled a green ranking for Oklahoma companies and corporations. If such has happened, please let me know. If not, this could be a grand way to not only profile of those in Oklahoma’s business community taking the lead on the sustainable path, but to encourage others to join the rest of the world in making the greening of Oklahoma businesses a reality.