Corporate Green Deeds: What’s the verdict?

Yesterday on Twitter I stumbled upon a comment by a Green Blogger, The Good Human, who directed his readers to a post that outlined the 10 most polluting companies in the United States. Included was a link to the original article dictating the full list with the Top 100, as conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute.

Here are the top 10 worst polluters, along with their Toxic score (pounds released x toxicity x population exposure):

  • E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co. – 285,661
  • Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) – 213,159
  • Dow Chemical – 189,673
  • Bayer Group – 172,773
  • Eastman Kodak – 162,430
  • General Electric – 149,061
  • Arcelor Mittal – 134,573
  • U.S. Steel – 129,123
  • ExxonMobil – 128,758
  • AK Steel Holding – 101,428
  • Many of the worst offenders (on this and the extended list) did not surprise me. Exxon, BP, Shell, Cargill, ConocoPhillips, Honeywell, 3M… they’re all there.

    (SIDE NOTE:  I don’t mean to target American companies as if they’re all on the naughty list. The only reason these are here is because they pollute worst in the US, because they are in the US. Ford Motors is on the list, and it should improve its practices. But that doesn’t mean we should all switch to Mitsubishi.) Another side note: I spelled Mitsubishi right on the first try, just fyi.

    Anyway!

    Since many of my friends are on the job search these days, I copied the article link and put it in the body of an email with the subject: “A list of places you’re not allowed to work.”

    But then I had to pause, and another commenter did too. Have a look:

    While the Exxon thing doesn’t concern me and neither does Forbes’ useless awards, the comment about GE’s EcoImagination program did.

    One of my best friends, who is also concerned with environmental initiatives, just interviewed with GE and was particularly interested in working for them due to all their work with efficient appliances and benevolent initiatives (e.g. installing water filtration systems in Africa), not to mention good salary, benefits, and the like. Despite all this, I have to admit that at the time of her interview I was pretty skeptical since I knew of their dirty deeds.

    Was she wrong for wanting to work for GE for these honorable reasons, even though the company is in the top of the top polluters in the US?

    Is a corporation’s benevolence measured by the amount of “good” they do when compared to the amount of “bad?” Should working for these corporations be avoided at all costs so as to support grassroots efforts with more transparency? Or, is a good deed a good deed, no matter what other shenanigans happen behind closed doors (or from pipes dumping into rivers)?

    I wasn’t quite sure.

    So, today at Clean Wisconsin I officially instigated, “Environmental Chat in the Communications Office,” and brought the matter to the table.

    My wonderful advisers commented that if everyone went to work at GE with the intentions of my friend, GE would probably do even more to increase the effectiveness and occurrence of these green initiatives.

    Moreover, Exxon is a company that inherently pollutes, foundationally, no matter what. They sell oil, and as a result, they must promote our use of oil. Bottom line.

    GE however is a self-described, “technology, media, and financial services” company, so whose to say that their green efforts are not sincere and with potential for great progress?

    Could it be that working for these corporate polluting giants could end up being more socially beneficial than working for the little grassroots non-proft? (Or is it about the same?)

    What do you think?

    But really, I really wanna hear what you have to say about this one.

    I have applications to send!

    In the spirit of good intentions (and procrastination of final paper-writing),

    -Jenny

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    3 thoughts on “Corporate Green Deeds: What’s the verdict?

    1. sally Almond says:

      2 cents: Conscientious people need to speak up on behalf of their passion. Sometimes a “dirty” work environment is an opportunity to make a great (or small but noticeable impact). I agree with your co-workers

    2. Alexandra says:

      In my neck of the woods (Cape Cod), we are fighting the utility company, which wants to spray up to five herbicides under our power lines. This company claims, on its Web site, to be green. I actually wrote a post about it last month:http://chezsven.blogspot.com/2010/04/when-are-herbicides-part-of-green.html

      I think not only should your friends not work for these companies, they should put pressure on them to clean up their act. We all need to help Lisa Jackson in her effort to make the EPA really do the work it is supposed to be doing.

      Did you hear the good news today about the governmental report connecting chemicals to cancer?? So exciting that the word may get out now.

    3. Adi says:

      This is such a difficult question. Should employees’ work be judged individually, or should we judge the work of their corporation as a whole? I think if you believe that you can make positive change and be happy working for a company like GE, you shouldn’t avoid working their for purely ideological reasons. But I agree with Alexandra that we all need to be more vocal about the unethical things these corporations are doing.

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