Foundation Sells Businesses on Green Practices

Across the U.S., businesses are being pressured to adopt more eco-friendly, sustainable practices — not by government regulation, but by their own shareholders. This ground-up movement is coordinated by organizations like As You Sow, a San Francisco-based consulting firm that helps grassroots shareholder groups find major-investor backing and put their requests into the language of business — that is, the language of dollars and cents. The firm outlines the economic case for reform, stressing that long-term financial health hinges on the value of the corporate brand name, which is best served by resolving controversies over social and environmental issues. Its efforts have led to green initiatives at Dell, Home Depot, and a host of other large companies. “The best management incorporates environmental and employee practices that are more sustainable long term,” says As You Sow’s Thomas Van Dyck. “You can make as much money by doing what’s right as [by doing] what’s exploitative; and in the long run, you’ll do better.”