Persuading executives and organizations to adopt win-win environmental practices, they say, requires change in entrenched attitudes and behavior. Companies must be convinced to move from “Does it pay to be green?” to “How and when does it pay to be green?” To do this, policymakers must take the lead, Professors Hoffman and Bazerman argue, by designing environmental legislation to elicit more effective — and less environmentally damaging — responses.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) is a case in point. The law allows the U.S. government to designate animal or plant species as endangered and to place legal constraints on property to protect those species’ natural habitat. As the woodpecker example above illustrates, many landowners and businesses have viewed this legislation as a threat to their assets. This view persisted even though Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) were introduced in 1982, allowing landowners to negotiate settlements that safeguard their livelihoods. It took the introduction of a “No Surprises” policy in 1991 — reassuring landowners that the government would stand by these agreements and would not seek to impose further restrictions at a later date — to begin to change attitudes. That effort by policymakers to lessen the resistance displayed by many companies toward environmental mediation has paid off handsomely, Professors Hoffman and Bazerman say: By 1997, there were 243 HCP agreements in place in the United States. The authors contend that many similar steps by government agencies and lawmakers are required to demonstrate to companies that protecting the environment and protecting profits are not mutually exclusive. They add that without such intervention by policymakers, it will be impossible to transform environmentally suspicious companies into environmentally aware ones.
Des Dearlove (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a business writer based in the U.K. Mr. Dearlove is the author of a number of management books and a regular contributor to strategy+business and The (London) Times.
Stuart Crainer (email@example.com) is a business writer based in the U.K. and a regular contributor to strategy+business. He and Des Dearlove founded Suntop Media, a publishing and training company providing business content for online and print publications.