Today in Daily Grist we pointed to a story by Joan Lowy on the momentum building in the U.S. business community toward taking global warming seriously. And Monday, we noted a Joel Makower post making the case for environmental optimism based on action in the business world.

Via Gil Friend, an article in MarketWatch (protected behind a stupid registration wall, but there’s always this) makes a broader point:

Corporate America, it seems, is charging in where liberal government is refusing to tread, supporting more social programs to help not only employees but also people in their community, throughout the country and all over the world.

In the meantime, as the Bush Administration scales back on social programs affecting the environment, education and retirement, corporations are there to pick up the slack — and there are signs that they want to tow more of the freight.

The number of corporate social responsibility (ethics) officers has doubled over the last four years to more than 1,000, according to Waltham, Mass.-based Ethics Officer Association.

Worldwide, more than 2,000 companies have signed with the United Nations Global Compact, which requires members to abide by particular responsibility guidelines with regard to the environment, social programs and corporate governance. And more and more major corporations are showcasing their "sustainability" initiatives as part of their financial reporting.

Curiously, the new face of "liberalism" may just turn out to be none other than Corporate America.

How much of this is harbinger and how much hype? I couldn’t say. But for now, I’m opting for high hopes.