Monopoly, Multinationals and the Green Industry

I read from cnet.com about the steps large companies are taking to improve their environmental sustainability, such as Walmart and greener energy sourcing, McDonalds and greener food packaging, etc.  This led me think about a comparison between the sustainability activities of large multi-nationals and local small green businesses; more specifically, how should we compare responsibility between the two so that we give proper weighing to their fundamentally different contribution to the common good?

Large multi-nationals have never been a group to demonstrate exceedingly good environmentally responsible practices; I remember McDonald’s 80’s Styrofoam burger containers and, more recently, Starbuck’s ubiquitous landfill-only coffee cups. These are examples of how bad companies can get, not to say that they are all operating in this manner; however, some companies have now created corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments and many of them have begun earnest efforts to become green companies. When a giant firm makes certain market commitments, they are bound to have ripple effects, leading to either job creation and technological change. This will also force its competitors to take notice and follow suit, which will–in a perfect world–lead to a paradigm shift and a new way of thinking. I will confirm this last note and make an addendum later.

On the other hand, the tradional green small-medium businesses (SMBs) appeal to green consumers’ desire for locally sourced products, simple packaging and social connections. Local small green businesses have smaller carbon footprints than large multi-nationals and there is a sense, however misplaced, that there is a greater propensity for bigger companies to “greenwash.” However, green SMBs are limited by their size and their circle of influences are considerably smaller. Whatever a company is doing in Toronto has very little effect on the green practices of SMBs in another province, let alone in the States. I think that at the end of the day, the main takeaway is that while both are good, we see more established multi-nationals taking the plunge and creating CSR/sustainability policies, correcting for past mistakes; and many green SMBs are building their business plans from the ground up with a view to be as environmentally sustainable as possible.

I am not terribly happy with that end portion, originally I had a better ending but this one post has been swimming around in draft form for sometime and I think publishing it is the best I can do for it.

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About eatonkwan

Engineer by profession, interests lie in environmental development, LEED and sustainable development.
This entry was posted in Reduce Reuse then Recycle and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Monopoly, Multinationals and the Green Industry

  1. Eaton,
    At this point in time large companies going green is a good thing. The pressure to do so was and is the public voice that is the market. These companies know they cannot just pander to “green” they have to change they way they do things or they loose market share. Government mandates simply set a deadline and expectation, but the market still drives corporate decisions.

    Small and medium sized businesses may in fact one day become large, so putting sustainable practices in place early in a companies development means that the practices become part of the corporate culture as the company grows.

    The bottom line…it all starts at home.

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