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
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.
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.)
Goofus: Most environmental groups applauded the turnabout from
one of the world’s largest polluters. But even among GE’s senior
management the move was greeted with skepticism, since the
company’s ecological (and public relations) footprint (and foot
dragging) still looms large, in particular with respect to the
cleanup of PCBs it once dumped in New York’sHudson River.
Walt Disney Company and McDonald’s
Gallant: The two have teamed up with faith-based groups, local
organizations, and socially responsible investors on Project
Kaleidoscope, a labor monitoring and compliance effort to promote
better working conditions at 10 Chinese factories that make their
toys, shoes, and clothes. (McDonald’s has exclusive restaurant
marketing rights to Disney properties.) The idea is to work with
factory management to create a ‘culture of compliance’ that would
catch sweatshop abuses beforethey occur.
Goofus: The effort comes amid claims made last year about
accidents, long hours, low pay, and abusive foremen at Chinese
factories making Disney’s children’s books.
Gallant: The world’s third-largest oil and gas company has
reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent below 1990
levels, introduced a system for internal business units to trade
emissions allowances, and launched a profitable solar subsidiary.
BP also recently partnered with Home Depot to sell installed home
solar power and is working with other energy companies to build
theworld’s first hydrogen-fueled power plant.
Goofus: Don’t be fooled, say critics, by BP’s ‘Beyond Petroleum’
makeover. Oil still makes up the majority of its reserves and fuels
controversial energy projects like a 1,100-mile pipeline in the
country of Georgia that runs along an earthquake fault and through
a national park, several villages, and the famous hot springs of
Borjomi. The company churns out an estimated 6 percent of the
world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Gallant: DuPont has been piloting greenhouse gas emissions
programs, such as the Chicago Climate Exchange. It’s on track to
cut its emissions by 65 percent from 1990 levels and has saved
nearly $2 billion through renewable energy and conservation
measures. It has also developed a range of energy-saving products,
including better-insulating Tyvek HomeWrap and a less polluting
refrigerant. The company has partnered with the U.S. Department of
Energy to build the world’s first ‘biorefinery’ and produce
chemicals and fuels made from corn and other renewable
Goofus: Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is
pushing DuPont to phase out perfluorooctanoic acid, a likely
carcinogen, which the company is emitting into the environment and
the bloodstream through its beloved Teflon products. As for
harnessing energy from corn, DuPont need only turn to its
subsidiary Pioneer, a leading developer of genetically modified