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I agree that business and environmental interests will usually be at odds. The truth is that businesses want to raise their profits, and the individuals making the decisions usually do not mind sacrificing the environment to do so. The other problem is that keeping the environment safe is often very costly and complicated. Businesses see profits falling through their fingertips, and want to cut corners. Therefore the only way to protect environmental interests is through regulation.
Money seems to be the driving force in most all situations. As long as this is the case the environment will always be on the losing end of business. The big businesses are not concerned with protecting the environment because it usually costs them more money to do so.
I think the only way to bring these two separate and conflicting ideas together, as other editors have suggested, is to take the long term view and realise that the choices that we make today for money are not sustainable. This therefore calls for a massive rethink in how we do business to consider how we can work with the environment rather than against it and explore different ways of ensuring that today's "gain" does not contribute to tomorrow's "loss" for all of us.
When you place the protection of the environment in direct opposition to the desire for profits in a capitalist system, one side is going to lose, and probably the environment. Environmental protection laws and programs look at the long term stewardship of the Earth as their goal, and to practice environmentally-friendly manufacturing, sales and consumption, companies often have to sacrifice profits. So if the laws aren't strict, then businesses rarely comply. Self-regulation and voluntary compliance have been environmental disasters. So the balance has to be reasonable, common sense and science-based protection laws that don't put companies out of business, enforced strictly with incentives built in for businesses to go green.
Until business actually suffered the consequences of their bad behavior (i.e., running out of trees for lumber without any reforesting; facing the financial consequences of polluting land and water; using up resources without any plan for replacement or restoration), few of them were concerned about anything but their bottom line. The environment really was seen as something to be used without much thought or care--an attitude more common for everyone decades ago, by the way, not just businesses. We've come a very long way since then, and companies are generally at least aware of their environmental impact, even if they choose to ignore it in favor of a better bottom line. As they are penalized as well as offered new technologies and opportunities to be more environmentally friendly, business will continue to improve. It's hard to fight the almighty dollar.
Regulators have to develop incentives that induce businesses to respect the environment and local ecologies in order to achieve this goal. When tax breaks are granted, corporations pay attention and follow regulations. An example is the provision of tax incentives to construction companies to build homes in particular areas of a city or county in order to achieve gentrification of decayed neighborhoods. The same principle could apply to companies that employ "green" standards in manufacturing and other industries.
I tend to agree with post #3. If everyone would stop worshipping the almighty dollar and acted on the premise of doing what is right (do the right thing, all the time), then we would be able to have both protection of the environment in which we live and advancements in technology and business. However, since human beings are mostly greedy and power hungry, I'm not sure it will ever be reached. The same goes for manpower as a resource. Some businesses tend to get rid of those whom they think will be more of a hindrance than a benefit--such as people over 50, smokers, those who are overweight or perhaps are in other ways endangering their health. These people are seen as a drain on the pocketbooks of the businesses as far as insurance costs vs. production.
It is unfair, but unfortunately, it is the nature of the human beast.
One of the great ways to do this is to extend the thinking into the very long term. If you can do that, you can make it so that the two are absolutely in line with each other.
If you can think long term about a business that wants access to plentiful energy and water, thinking long term about where both of those resources will come from when water usage is severely curtailed because people continue to want to water lawns in the deserts of Arizona and Nevada, or where the power will come from when cheap coal is no longer available can help businesses invest in long term renewable energy and water conservation, etc.
But because most businesses think the short term and profit are the only things that matter, it will be very difficult.
There is no easy way to do this because these two things are really pretty opposed to one another (in many cases).
There is no way to make rules that will completely satisfy both environmentalists and people with business interests in sectors that pollute (people who do things like making solar power equipment wouldn't have a problem). This is because just about all businesses use resources and can harm the environment in some way. The simple act of getting to work harms the environment unless you walk or bike, for example.
So there is no easy way. You have to make rules that are somehow strong enough to protect the environment but will not unduly hurt the economy. But both of those ideas (protect and unduly) are not very precise and some people on both sides will always be upset.
It's easy to balance them if one considers safety and preventing ill effects from commercialization. Companies have learned that large class action lawsuits are extremely detrimental for business continuation and have somewhat come around to making products safer. But operations wise, they have a long way to go.
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