Working Wounded Blog: Earnings vs. Environment, Part II

News Flash: Eighty percent of readers support the position taken by GE to voluntarily cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In last week's blog I wrote about a Wall Street Journal article that was critical of General Electric for making a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Journal article quoted Adam Smith and pointed out that the best thing a corporation can do is to pursue profit and leave the "do-gooder" behavior to others. I encouraged people to tell me what they thought, and I got a flood of responses from all over the world.

Interestingly, I did not get one letter critical of my stance supporting GE. Below are just a few of the reasons why people support corporate social responsibility:

      "The Wall Street Journal's position reflects a perfumed prince's attitude that corporations have an inherent right to exist rather than merely being a creature of the state itself."

      "GE should be given an award for bravery under fire! In this self-centered, selfish and terribly short-sighted era, they are a beacon of light in the almost insufferable madness that passes for corporate responsibility. When will all corporations come to understand that the lands they desecrate, abuse, waste and destroy are the very lands their children will have to try to survive on? GE's stand gives me hope that we may yet come to our senses in time to save this beautiful planet. We should be shouting of their courage from every rooftop. Think I'll go out and buy some light bulbs!"

      "Perhaps it is time for higher education to 'rethink' introductory business concepts, and relegate Adam Smith to a historical footnote."

      "Shouldn't the question be why wouldn't corporate America want to make a clean profit?"

      "This is a complete misreading of Adam Smith and his legacy. The 'invisible hand' metaphor is not evidence that Smith advocated laissez-faire and a hands-off policy toward 'merchants and manufacturers.' Given he wrote in the 18th century in Scotland, he never knew capitalism (a word not invented until the mid-1850s), nor the modern corporations of today. His 'manufacturers' were lowly tradesmen (blacksmiths, locksmiths, coach builders, saddle makers, candle makers, iron mongers and such like; individuals who sometimes hired help, often worked alone). His 'merchants' were market stall holders, not the likes of Wal-Mart. 'Wealth of Nations' itself is a polemic against leaving 'merchants and manufacturers' to their own devices, and Smith provides many examples of the wholly negative consequences of doing so."

      "I believe that the public wants large corporations to have environmentally responsible policies, and that this is an excellent public relations policy for GE. I do not agree that we as a society must choose between a good economy and a healthy environment, why can't we have both?"

      "The shareholders must hold their corporations accountable not only for the 'bottom line' but for how they achieve it."

      "Indeed, thank you GE. We'll need new appliances next year, and we were not sure which to choose: Kenmore or GE. Both are very good and about the same price. After reading this, we choose GE for sure."

      "I am one of the people sacked by Jack Welch's personnel procedures and I have no long-term affection for them. However, this GE policy displays forward thinking and should be praised. You have shown courage in detailing that in your article and challenging the short-sighted approach recommended by the Wall Street Journal. Thank you."

Quote of the week:
"A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear." -- Herb Kelleher, former chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines.

Weekly book excerpt:
From "Transitions: Making sense of life's changes" by William Bridges (Da Capo, 2004)

"New beginnings are accessible to everyone, and everyone has trouble with them. Much as we may wish to make a new beginning, some part of us resists doing so as though we were making the first step toward disaster. Everyone has a slightly different version of these anxieties and confusions, but in one way or another they all arise from the fear that real change destroys the old ways we have learned to equate to 'who we are' and 'what we need.' To act on what we really want is the same as saying that 'I, a unique person, exist.' It is to assert that we are on our own in a much deeper sense than we ever imagined when we were originally setting up shop as adults. That earlier process involved only independence; this involves autonomy and the firm individual purpose on which that is based."

Working Wounded Mailbag:.

"After having been told of the company's sexual harassment policies by the senior HR director and signing the company's policy statement to acknowledge my having been instructed and understood their policies, the HR director wanted to introduce me to some of the department heads in other offices. As we proceeded to walk down the corridor several female employees came out of an office and spoke to the director, a man of about 55 years or so, as they passed us, he placed his hands down by the butts of two of the ladies and made a squeezing motion with his hands while turning to look at me and winked his eye! I could not believe this! I did not laugh or say a thing, I'm thinking: Is this guy for real? Is this a test? He was fired a year later for sexual harassment …"

Blog Ballot Results

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ online ballot:
When is it OK for even the best kind of a boss to be a jerk?

       Criticizing them for sticking their corporate nose where it doesn't belong, 6.6 percent
       Neither cheering or criticizing, 13.3 percent
       Cheering them on, 80 percent

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.