Another interesting article about the convergence of interests between corporate executives and environmental activists appeared in the March 12th edition of BusinessWeek.
Hugging the Tree-Huggers by John Carey leads off with a story about the recent mega takeover of Texas utility TXU Corporation and the importance of the public support for the transaction by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The TXU takeover is a sign of a remarkable evolution in the dynamic between corporate executives and activists. Once fractious and antagonistic, it has moved toward accommodation and even mutual dependence. Companies increasingly seek a “green” imprimatur, while enviros view changes in how business operates as key to protecting the planet.
A visit to the homepage of Environmental Defense Fund while writing this post revealed the congratulatory headline: “Global Warming Victory: We brokered a buyout in Texas that will lead to a cleaner energy future.” (article)
The BusinessWeek article also presents Greenpeace and other activist organizations new relations with companies that were once targets.
For companies, alliances with environmentalists can help both the bottom line and the public image. “We used to see Greenpeace as the enemy,” says DuPont CEO Charles O. Holliday Jr. Now DuPont employs Paul Gilding, former head of Greenpeace International, as a paid consultant, and the company ranks high on lists of green leaders. “We work with our enemies,” says Holliday.
The article also dispenses a dose of reality:
“Our job is not to please or convince the activists,” says Scott Noesen, Dow’s director of sustainable development. “The best we can do is set meaningful targets and report on our successes and failures and dilemmas.”