One of the greatest victims of humanity’s rush to progress has been our environment.  From local watersheds to global warming our impact on this earth has not always been a good one.   However, with expensive costs to clean pollution or update to more earth-friendly machinery, and little or no direct money to be made from conservation efforts, there is little wonder that industrialization in general has taken a heavy toll on our planet and until recently there have been very few incentives for businesses to clean up their act and conserve.

Today people all over the world are coming to understand humanity’s impact on our world, and business analysts are no exception. Environmental damage does not harm just the cute panda bears and Amazon rain forests, the challenges we look to face in the future hurt humanity in general. As sea level rises due to melting ice caps, companies and  factories located in the low laying north-east will be forced to relocate, if they can. Companies that utilize rivers to transport goods will have to deal with drying up as global warming continues, and of course the ever present threat of increased hurricanes benefits nobody. As a result, there is hope. Companies do have a self-preserving interest in improving their policies to manage the environment.

After reading Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” I felt a very good point had  been made.  We have done a lot of harm, but through pressure and awareness, we are starting to at least try to turn  things around. Our cars run more cleanly, paper products often sport that “recycled” label, and this is largely thanks to that self-interested business policy of doing what it takes to make the most profit. Environmentally friendly consumers push for more regulated products using their purchasing power, and some businesses are looking into the long term future and understand that in order to continue making money they will need to sustain their resources. However, when reading the August 20th issue of ICIS Chemical Business magazine Weather Changes to Impact Chemical Production I was reminded of the fact that a business’s commitment to the environment was a balancing act. Many companies understand that their business will be hurt by oncoming weather changes, but according to this article, as we have already damaged the environment so much, companies must look to adaptation in the new environment. “’Even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, we’d still see over the next 100 years an increase in the temperatures of the atmosphere and oceans,’ warns Bernd Eggen, ‘That’s why it’s important to look at migration issues –reducing greenhouse gasses- and adaptation issues – preparing for extreme weather events and rises in sea level.’”  If one day it costs a company less to build higher levees than to cut down on emissions to lessen global warming and thereby decrease storms, the company will opt for the levies. Once a company had prepared for the worst of climate change, they may lose their incentive to continue with prevention, regardless of the people they displace or the cancers they are indirectly responsible for. Where would the profit be in that after all?

We as consumers, advocates, humans, however, need to make sure we never get lax on our pressure on business and government to reduce emissions and sustain our resources, because they will take short cuts if they can. Because business is focused on profit, and only environment indirectly, if it becomes clear that money can be better made in other ways, they will change their policies unless we take a stand. We only have one earth.