Kathleen Frith, Center for Health and the Global Environment
Tuesday, 1 Apr 2003
NEW YORK, N.Y.
Up at 5:30 this morning to catch the shuttle from Boston to New York City for the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies conference. I’m always surprised at the gender gap on the shuttle, a frequent commute for business people on the East Coast. It’s usually about 90 percent men in suits (although I did notice a bit more fleece than usual today). The ratio is surely some proxy of the lingering inequalities in the professional world, and it always serves to strengthen my resolve to work toward more recognition for women’s skills and contributions in the professional realm.
The ultra-tight security also captures my attention. Before falling asleep last night, the idea of purchasing my own gas mask crossed my mind. Upon reflection, I realize I am slipping into the same mindset I had as a kid in the 1980s about the threat of a nuclear war. Now, as an adult raising my own daughter, I’m not sure which I fear more — an actual attack or the prevailing sense of fear that is now woven into the fabric of our society.
In any case, my cab driver and I made it past the Manhattan check points and to the conference. In the past few years, I have begun treading (albeit lightly) in the corporate world. I came in with the somewhat naive and narrow-minded perspective of an idealistic environmentalist (“can’t we all just work together and save the environment?”), but I have realized that it is foolish to blindly follow one’s ideals without an acute awareness of the myriad obstacles to and consequences of doing so. Economics is one very important piece of the picture of our current environmental threats and potential solutions.
The sheer power of big business in this country and internationally is so great that one is left feeling that large corporations will have to lead the way to a healthy environment by adopting environmentally responsible practices. At a time when I have been utterly disgusted by corporate greed and lies, I have also been introduced to large (mostly foreign) companies that seem to genuinely recognize the value of environmental responsibility — and by value, I mean both the social/moral value and the very tangible bottom-line value.
This morning, I attended a workshop about “green lodging” — hotels, cities, and meeting planners that take environmental issues such as energy use, water use and waste into account in their work. Once again, I was delighted to hear from people who are happy to report stronger profits, better PR, and happier employees thanks to reducing energy waste, serving organic food, using environment- and health-friendly cleaning supplies, and taking part in community efforts to conserve the environment. The message this morning, as it has been at every CERES event I have attended, is that good environmental practices equals good business.