The business of environment

IN NOT too distant a future, much of the pep and zing may disappear from environmental campaigns. Business may well reduce a concern for the environment into advertisement copy to burnish its own image among the public and in stockmarkets. Business today has its own vision of an approach to the environment but the media's placards hold the attention of the larger public.

Taking a dull view of an emotionally charged issue, one could say that environment is an aspect of the larger middle class concern for the quality of life. In manufactured products, the Japanese demonstrated that quality and price reduction are not conflicting goals. Both can be achieved if production methods are designed to reduce waste. The Japanese reoriented the statistical quality control methods acquired from the Americans and developed cooperative working methods to reduce rejections and related costs.

It is unlikely, however, that the common person will pay a higher price for environmentally benign products. The commercial acceptance of environmentally safe products is contingent on reasonable pricing. To achieve this goal, business will have to alter its current mode of response to environmental legislation from pollution abatement-quality control to waste reduction, technological innovation and reorientation of production methods.

The book shows that the media has about the most important influence on business decisions concerning the environment, although consumers are playing a role of increasing significance. In the early stages of the environmental movement, the dramatic campaigns of activists drew attention to an issue that had hitherto been neglected. Today, activists are themselves confused in their attempts at formulating realistic legislation.

Companies can now contribute in a way that the media cannot. Business has access to data and an understanding of scientific laws which can help to evaluate proposals before they are enacted as laws; and business can help stabilise the modalities of battling for environment. What will be lost will be the excitement that the environment now evokes.