The Lords of Industry

Sometimes the big companies surprise (and sometimes they don't)

| May / June 2006

Scanning for good news from corporate America is like reading Highlights for Children magazine -- for every old lady that Gallant helps across the street, there's Goofus, throwing rocks at cars. Following is a heroes gallery of corporate overachievers to inspire hope (and a nod to the rogues, to keep things in perspective).


Gallant: In 2005 the Swiss pharmaceutical company began paying a methodically calculated living wage to its 78,500 employees in 140 countries, an unprecedented step among major international industrial companies (the latest internal review found that just 93 Novartis employees had compensation below a living wage). This year, the company is asking third-party suppliers to pay the same wage.

Goofus: People allergic to peanuts may have been deprived of something much more than a living wage when the drug maker teamed up with Genentech last year to ruthlessly squash the release of an effective allergy drug made by a smaller biotech rival.

General Electric

Gallant: Deciding that doing environmental good, in the long run, could be hugely profitable, GE launched 'ecomagination' last May, an initiative that will double its investment in green technologies to $1.5 billion by 2010 (twice the proposed 2007 federal R&D budget for renewable energy and conservation); rolls out new products, like diesel-electric hybrid locomotives; and pledges a 1 percent absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. (Based on GE's projected growth, those emissions would otherwise increase 40 percent.)