Last weekend, I attended Ralph Nader's conference: Taming the Giant Corporation. According to the conference's website, the event aimed to "galvanize discussion, insight and strategic thinking to subordinate corporate power." No, I wasn't one of "Nader's Raiders" booing and hissing in response to the words Exxon, McDonald's, and Nike. Rather, I was a silent observer, fascinated -- my mind contemplating this concept of "corporate environmentalism."
Many multinational companies (GE, Starbucks, Wal-Mart . . . to name a few) have received waves of criticism for disingenuous green politics or "greenwashing." According to Philip Mattera's, The Greenwashing of America, large corporations approach green schemes out of diversion or defeat and "[activists] shouldn't be joining any company's environmental initiative."
Obviously, it's terrible that corporations haven't been responsible from the beginning and are just now waking up to some serious problems, but Nader's conference and the recent blitz of greenwashing condemnation have me wondering . . . are corporate contenders wasting their breath? The world is globalizing at a rapid rate and the corporate behemoth isn't going anywhere. Given these realities, shouldn't activists be working with powerful organizations, not wasting their voices on "shutting them down?"
American corporations are an incredible source of power and influence, better organized and more efficient than our government could ever be. Well-oiled machines, they make decisions for the consumer through their sourcing, supply chains, production, manufacturing, and stock. Take Wal-Mart -- the world's largest retailer. If it is sourcing organic cotton, using LED lights in its superstores, and buying hybrid trucks (if such a thing is even possible), isn't that a giant step?
When such massive corporations purchase such massive quantities of energy efficient products, and fill their shelves with eco-conscious merchandise, they're giving a huge boost to industries that desperately need support. And what about the educational benefits? People across the world, who may not have the resources, exposure, and know-how are now receiving mass environmental exposure.
Most of all, old habits die hard. Yes, we all want to support the local farmer and make better choices, but convenience trumps conscience. If environmental options can be more convenient to all then how is that a loss?
Unless you've been living under a rock, it's pretty obvious that the world is globalizing at a rapid rate. Giant corporations aren't going anywhere. Rather than putting our fisticuffs up to "take them down," isn't it a better use of our time and energy to work with them?
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