What's so new, you ask, about "doing well by doing good," that well-worn slogan of socially responsible types who think treading lightly on the Earth doesn't preclude making a buck, too?
The participants, for one thing. Green business, for example, once conjured up "eco-entrepreneurs" selling shoes with hemp uppers and soles made from old tires.
Today, no less a consumer colossus than McDonald's claims a 30-percent reduction in its waste-disposal bills after a decade of eco-tweaks (like slicing an inch off paper napkins).
A bottom-line move? Sure.
But at many companies, the motivations are broadening.
There have always been green-talking giants who promise much but do little. And there are those that don green mainly as an act of contrition - just after drenching seabirds with oil or mining too close to a refuge. They'd vow to work harder at working safer, then close the boardroom door.
Today, more firms may view environmental practices as profit centers (see our lead story). Even so, you can count on public pressure to keep them on the path.
"It's no longer enough to do no harm," says a release from Brand Futures Group, an international consumer-trends watcher. "Companies in the 21st century must be seen as actively 'doing good.' "
Why? In the eyes of some global citizens, powerful companies may represent better standard-setters for "good behavior" and ethics than some of the world's struggling governments.
In that lofty role, global firms may find it hard to revert to their old ways. Holding them to it: investors and consumers who keep pressing for more activist do-gooders in the business world.
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