Working Wounded Blog: Earnings vs. Environment, Part II

News Flash: Eighty percent of ABCNews.com 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."

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