Companies That Go Green Really Help

Environmentalists say green initiatives like News Corp's will help the climate.

January 8, 2009, 1:16 AM

Sept. 11, 2007 — -- Corporations that are going green, it turns out, really are helping the environment.

If Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which encompasses Fox News, the New York Post and soon the Wall Street Journal, is successful in becoming carbon neutral by the year 2010, the impact on the climate will be substantial, according to environmentalists.

"[The impact] isn't small," said Kert Davies, the research director for Greenpeace. "Their footprint is 641,150 tons of carbon. That's the equivalent of taking 130,000 cars off the road."

Murdoch's climate crusade was announced last May, and the company has since released details of it plans on becoming greener. Off-setting their carbon emissions by investing in wind turbines in India is one of those ways, as is a more energy efficient set for their hit TV show "24."

Similarly, companies such as NBC Universal, Dupont and BP have also done their part to cut back on carbon emissions and help the environment.

NBC Universal organized "Green is Universal," a weeklong programming stint to educate viewers about issues affecting the environment. Universal has also committed to improving their corporate energy emissions.

The amount of money saved by these corporations cutting back on power supplies is huge, said Gwen Ruta, director of corporate partnerships at Environmental Defense.

"Dupont set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by the year 2000, and it received a reduction of 72 percent by 2004," said Ruta. "They avoided a cost of more than $3 billion."

Similarly, BP saved more than $15 billion, according to Ruta, simply by scaling back its green house emissions.

"Murdoch will make more money because energy efficiency is a great way to make money -- you're saving money by preserving energy," said Davies. "You're going to save money which means making money."

But the scope of the impact these corporations have on the environment goes further than the direct result on the climate, said Davies of Greenpeace.

"What it signals is leadership and it's going to eventually make it the status quo," said Davies. "If News Corp. does it then NBC has to do and CNN has to do it. And then together you save a lot more carbon."

Critics say that big corporations like Murdoch's, as well as those like Wal-Mart, which has also vowed to reduce its greenhouse emissions from the products it sells to the trucks that deliver them, may have a variety of reasons to help the environment – money being one of them.

Some say green-washing, or what Davies describes as when companies try to gain "green brownie points" by appearing greener than they actually are, is a concern. But advertisers and consumers are attracted to being green, and company executives may capitalize on that.

Marshal Cohen, a chief industry analyst for NPD Group, told in a previous interview that many companies are green-washing by taking advantage of the popularity of going green to make a profit.

"There are some companies that are coming out of the gate and using it as a marketing tool with no genuine long-term plan to it," said Cohen.

Other environmentalists aren't as worried about green-washing for now, and say that the corporations who are going green, no matter what their true motivation, are definitely improving the climate.

"The motivation doesn't matter, the action matters," said Davies. "Motivation is irrelevant. The thing that matters is moving forward and reducing carbon dioxide – that's what matters to the polar bears."

"If the governments of the world aren't going to act then great, if it's the self-interest and profitability that's going to motivate companies to move then it's great and I'm going to applaud it," Davies added.

Environmentalists are optimistic that as more and more companies catch on to the greener lifestyle, more viewers, consumers and citizens in general will also start caring about the environment.

The leadership these companies demonstrate, they say, will make plenty of progress.

"News Corp. isn't alone going to save the polar bears," said Peyton Fleming, communications director for Ceres, an organization that works to promote global climate change. "But the pressure they exert on even the news media or the sector they are in or more broadly as a political and corporate voice is important."

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