Saturday, 21 April 2007

Is going green bad for business?

Is going green bad for business? Yes, says Peter Schwartz from the Ayn Rand Institute in this video interview on CNBC ahead of Earth Day. "'Going green' is cowardly appeasement," says Schwartz bluntly.
You're trying to mollify an ideology that is opposed to your fundamental values. Environmentalism does not want to protect nature for man, it wants to protect nature from man... Environmentalists want to sacrifice man for nature, and to nature... Appeasing environmentalism is self-destructive for businessmen.
The video link is here: Going Green:Bad for Business. Can the invisible hand of the market deliver a 'sustainable nation'? I answered that one myself a few weeks back.


  1. Being indisposed this afternoon, I watched the video. The ARI guy came across as having a few key pre-prepared pithy statements he wanted to hammer in (your quote for example) but the other bloke was even worse, obviously reading off notes.

    In terms of the ARI guy though, what a crock! Equating 'going green' to compelling women to wear hijabs? I can't think of a more ridiculously overstated heart-string-tug that I've seen in the media of late.

    Businesses 'going green' of their own volition, the subject of the debate, doesn't come about due to any form of compulsion. It comes about due to customer demand. The simple fact is that a larger, more identifiable sector of consumers are voting with their wallets. Calling this form of catering to consumer demand 'craven appeasement' is total, utter bullshit. It's like saying that our architecture form is practicing a form of craven appeasement for catering to the huge demand for environmentally sustainable demand coming from our clients.

    Credibility down the gurgler on that one, ARI-guy, and surprised that you would swing in behind, PC. Make the case in a supportable way, rather than mud-slinging.


  2. DenMT said : Businesses 'going green' of their own volition.

    You're exactly right there. WHY? There is no other reason but just to appease nature (a feel good factor). The message to appease nature is hammered non-stop 24hrs a day to the general public, by environmentalists and Greenies. Look at what Jeanette Fitzimon is doing?

    BTW, have you made any bet from here
    yet for climate prediction? If not then why not?m

  3. Not if you're Al Gore and head of a Carbon Credit trading company!

  4. Jim, I don't possibly see how, within the confines of a 'free market' mentality, businesses need a 'reason' to cater to consumer demand in order to retain their competitive end, let alone one predicated solely on morality - ie drawing the long bow that environmentalism is somehow 'wrong'.

    Regardless of the 'wrongness' of 'green' marketing, I can't see how free market proponents could possibly criticise ostensibly hard-headed business decisions to retain market share in an increasingly environmentally conscious world.

    Lament the shift in consumer opinion all you like. But attacking business for following their customer base is bizarre.

    And I couldn't find the bet you refer to, but if you want to render such a complex issue into a simple 'win/lose' scenario, then that is your prerogative.


  5. DenMT, surely you can see that any business chasing the 'green' market is endorsing a movement that seeks their end? The green movement is completely anti-business, so by catering to it, business is only increasing the speed of it's demise.
    Sure they might get a temporary increase in market share by going 'eco', but only until a Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons gets to power and places a ban on business. Complete, short-sighted madness.

  6. Mitch, some people are only satisfied when concepts like 'sustainability' are rendered down to absolutes, like 'anti-business' and 'anti-human'.

    As a real-world example, how is our architecture firm shooting itself in the foot by catering to client demand for better energy efficiency in buildings? We have other motivations outside of the monetary (ie we do buy in to the perceived necessity for energy efficient building) but the pressure comes from the client. If they are asking for energy efficient design, what kind of business sense does it make for us to convince our clients that we would not be 'acting in our own best interests' to provide them the particular service they require?

    The growing desire for more energy efficient building does not mean the end of building, just as the growing demand for low-VOC paint does not mean the end of paint, just as the growing demand for low-energy compact fluorescents does not mean the end of household lighting. Part of reducing energy usage is attempting to lessen our energy footprints, but that does not necessarily entail a return the caves, as many dyed-in-the-wool skeptics would have you believe. Businesses who 'go green' by expanding or modifying their offered products or services to cater for the growing market demand are not acting against themselves, they are (for whatever reason) ensuring their future viability in a CLEARLY changing global marketplace.

    And all the clamour from the desperate 'business-as-usual' proponents will not change a thing.


  7. > Businesses who 'go green' by
    > expanding or modifying their
    > offered products or services to
    > cater for the growing market
    > demand are not acting against
    > themselves, they are (for
    > whatever reason) ensuring their
    > future viability in a CLEARLY
    > changing global marketplace.

    Yes, they are acting against themselves - for the philosophical & political underpinnings of that new demand are the same that will lead to their destruction.

    Put in terms of a simple analogy: should a black sign-writer write signs for the KKK?

  8. Duncan: If one wishes to entertain the seemingly outlandish notion that providing 'green' goods or services might not actually be inherently anti-business, the whole house of cards that this absolutist argument is predicated on falls apart.

    For example, what specifically is anti-business about a lighting company specialising in fluorescent fixtures switching the bulk of their production over to low-energy compact bulbs? They are still manufacturing the same number of units, they are possibly charging a premium, and they are satisfying demand from their customer base.

    The whole argument as espoused here is so interminably bound up in woolly 'philosophical and political underpinnings' that a grasp of the real world appears to have been lost.

    If you could be guaranteed an increase in sales and market share by switching from manufacturing Product E to Product G, would you honestly forsake the opportunity on ideological grounds? Thinking in a very real, hard-headed, common-sense way?


  9. PS: I should qualify the above by saying that of course there will be ideological or morality-based factors which would prevent businesses from capitalising on market openings. Black guy signwriting for the KKK might well be an example.

    My point is that I believe only a very, very small sector of society would see 'sustainability' or 'green-ness' as an ideological barrier in moral terms.


  10. Richard McGrath23 Apr 2007, 10:34:00

    Denmt - I can understand and agree with some of your comments, e.g. advising people on energy efficiency makes sense to me - perhaps you should write to Al Gore with some suggestions as his mansion is said to use about 20 times the amount of electricity as the average American home.

    But the green agenda is to first promote energy conservation which seems reasonable at first glance; then to promote the use of expensive alternatives to hydro/nuclear/fossil fuel-derived energy such as wind and solar power; and then when these become more economically viable to oppose these new technologies (using laws such as the Resource Management Abomination) on the grounds that they desecrate the landscape, make too much noise, etc.

    The ultimate aim of the green activists is to shut down the ability for man to harness potential sources of energy, thereby crippling industry and driving man back to less efficiant means of production with a resultant lowering in the standard of living so that human life expectancy decreases. For many environmentalists, that is the final goal, the final solution as it were.

    The greenies seem like nice earnest people but they are in fact a threat to continued human existence on this planet.

  11. Richard: I hope Al Gore's personal practices are as much of an embarrassment to him personally as they are galling to the rest of us who listen to his pious diatribes on how we should live our lives. I don't disagree with much that he says, but if he wants to be credible, he should clearly scale his own lifestyle back a few notches.

    I do wonder however, which Greens you are talking about whose ultimate goal is the culling of the human population through the stultification of our living standards. I think you'll find the opponents to clean energy sources are not the 'Greens' you describe, but more the NIMBY types of all political persuasions who typically complain about new projects of any stripe.

    As someone who self-identifies as a 'Greenie' and generally practice what I preach, I find it troubling that so often people who subscribe to 'sustainability' in the same way are pigeonholed and caricatured in this manner. Reducing energy use in a smart manner doesn't entail a huge lifestyle change, but *ahem* far be it from me to use PC's blog to proselytise.

    The bottom line is no actual traction can be gained in any argument over 'sustainability' with a group who believe that any action motivated by 'environmentalism' is fundamentally wrong in a moral sense. I guess I'll keep plugging though!


  12. Den, may I add my 5c worth.

    1. I doubt you'd find a libertarian who would disagree with the economic sense of "reducing energy use in a smart manner".

    "The bottom line is no actual traction can be gained in any argument over 'sustainability' with a group who believe that any action motivated by 'environmentalism' is fundamentally wrong in a moral sense."

    That's a generalisation. It's not that environmentalism, per se, is the problem. Eg, we believe that full respect of private property rights will invariably lead to cleaner environmental outcomes.

    The problem lies with the old super-socialist practitioners who have latterly re-labelled themselves 'environmentalists' to achieve the same old collectivist/people-controlling goals.

    And I see nothing 'moral' in one adult using force against another/s.

  13. I doubt you'd find a libertarian who would disagree with the economic sense of "reducing energy use in a smart manner".

    Exactly. My wife asked me why I was opposed to shutting the lights off in Sydney during 'earth hour' - after all, she said, it's rational to reduce waste when it's costing you materially.

    My reply was that waste reduction is fine & dandy - but that 'earth hour', and environmentalism in general, doesn't have human benefit through waste reduction as a goal.

  14. Sus: Re your '5c worth'... I agree, you'd be hard-pressed to find a human of any kind opposed to the reduction of energy use 'in a smart manner'! I further concede the existence of all manner of environmentally-minded basket cases, who espouse all manner of weird and unnatural ideas.

    The link I am keen not to attribute as closely as many others on this site is that between 'super-socialist practitioners' and actual environmentalists. I'm sure they're out there. But they are not the fundamental core of the 'greens' here in NZ, they are the nutty fringes. And I just think it's unfair to ascribe their mentality to everyone who believes in 'green stuff', or to paint these shadowy super-socialists as a secret cabal directing the whole environmental movement for their own dark purposes.

    I might come off above as sounding unnecessarily tongue-in-cheek, but often the language used to describe environmentalists and their motivations is like something out of a comic book.

    The bottom-line: Fruit loops are out there.

    Duncan: Like yourself, I regulate my actions with my own moral compass. I just find it bizarre when the staunchest proponents of the free market start to talk about dissuading business from capitalising on market opportunities based on a narrowly-held moral perspective! You never answered my little question above by the way ;)


  15. "The green movement is completely anti-business"

    Yeah, it's totally killed Wal-Mart.


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