Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Corporate Environmentalism Questioned—But That’s All

By Joseph Kellard

Last week, BusinessWeek featured a good cover story on an executive of an Aspen ski resort, Auden Schendler, who has long championed corporate environmentalism, but has since become disillusioned—at least to the extent that it is cost effective for his company.

The article is encouraging only in that it features, amidst a time when American businesses are frantically scrambling to bill themselves as "environmentally friendly," a businessman openly challenging the faith that environmentalism and capitalism are compatible, particularly as a means to combat so-called "climate change."

Here are some excerpts:

"'Who are we kidding?' [Schendler] says, finally. Despite all his exertions, the resort's greenhouse-gas emissions continue to creep up year after year. More vacationers mean larger lodgings burning more power. Warmer winters require tons of additional artificial snow, another energy drain. 'I've succeeded in doing a lot of sexy projects yet utterly failed in what I set out to do,' Schendler says. 'How do you really green your company? It's almost f------ impossible.'"

"For all his hard work, however, Schendler began to feel a creeping disappointment. Combined, the hydro and solar projects eventually will generate less than 1% of the company's power needs."

"Schendler explains his confessional mood as the result of cumulative frustration: with foot-dragging colleagues, with himself for compromising, and with the entire green movement frothily sweeping through corporations in America and Europe."

As Objectivists have unfortunately come to expect in today's polluted philosophical environment, the problem is that even businessmen such as Schendler fail to see that the problem is with environmentalism as such, and so he never questions the green movement's roots, nor discovers how its is fundamentally opposed to capitalism. That, apparently, is asking too much of an executive who studied environmental science in college and considers himself a "nature-lover," which to many equates to being an environmentalist.

As a solution, predictably and tragically, Schendler is calling for his company to "favor more meaningful green projects," and more governmental regulation of carbon emissions.

Of course, what Schendler needs is a good lecturing. Perhaps he can begin with Richard Salsman's "Corporate Environmentalism and Other Suicidal Tendencies":

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard


Burgess Laughlin said...

I doubt that a "good lecturing" while change this businessman's views. Environmentalism is a whole worldview. For some individuals it is a religious worldview; and for others it is philosophical. Either way, fundamental ideas, for most people, come from the intellectuals in their society, past and present.

Until the fundamental ideas available in the culture change for the better, this businessman and others will continue following one or the other of many bad worldviews available today.

Burgess Laughlin

Joseph Kellard said...


Thank you for your reply--and, certainly, I agree. My post was originally written for HBL, where the rule is that posts cannot exceed 400 words. So I was restricted in elaborating on my last point, my "lecturing" comment, which was intended to succinctly suggest a starting point for this executive to change his mind about pursuing “corporate environmentalism.” It was written in the same way that an Objectivist on TV -- after making a detailed argument about the evils of government intervention into the free market – might say when he’s told he has just five more seconds to talk: “For further details, read Atlas Shrugged.”

Joseph Kellard