mizzoni_Climate_Business

mizzoni_Climate_Business - Global Climate Change and...

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Global Climate Change and Sustainable Business J OHN M IZZONI , P H .D. Associate Professor of Philosophy Division of Arts and Sciences Neumann College One Neumann Drive Aston, PA 19014 mizzonij@neumann.edu 610.361.5496 1. Interface and Sustainable Business Ray Anderson is the CEO of Interface Corporation, a carpet tile manufacturing company with $1.1 billion in annual sales and 38% of the global market for carpet tiles (Dean 2007). In 1994, Anderson vowed to change Interface into a sustainable business. Formerly, Interface was a company that merely complied with environmental regulations and through that compliance, put five billion tons of carpeting in landfills (DesJardins 2007: 111). Anderson sees Interface as a company that was abusive to the environment: it relied on petroleum both as energy to make carpet and as material out of which to create synthetic carpet; it produced large amounts of CO 2 emissions in the process; it used large amounts of water for dyeing carpet and created wastes in its production operations, as well as contributed to landfills (Dean 2007). Anderson vowed to transform Interface into a company that would take nothing out of the earth that 1
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cannot be recycled and regenerated, and that does no harm to the biosphere (Dean 2007). Interface now “accepts responsibility for the entire life cycle of the product it markets” (DesJardins 2006: 199). It has redesigned its business from selling carpeting to leasing floor-covering, and it accepts responsibility for the entire life- cycle of its product (DesJardins 2006: 199). The story of Interface is well-known because it has been a success: it brought its use of fossil fuels down 45% and its net greenhouse gas production down 60%; it uses 1/3 the water it used to, and cut its contribution to landfills by 80%. By many important measures, Interface is an environmental success. But because its sales are up 49%, Interface is also a business success (Dean 2007). In the light of global climate change, what must businesses do to maintain sustainable business practices? Is redesigning business a moral responsibility? What are businesses’ environmental responsibilities? There are many different ethical aspects to these questions. In this paper, my focus will be on the moral responsibility of businesses to change, as Interface did, from taking lightly their responsibility to the environment, to becoming sustainable. I will sketch five arguments that support the position that businesses have a moral responsibility to move toward sustainability. 2
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2. Obligatory or Supererogatory? In chapter nine of his An Introduction to Business Ethics (2006) Joseph DesJardins sets out to discuss business’s environmental responsibilities. DesJardins claims that it is difficult to specify what environmental responsibilities
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mizzoni_Climate_Business - Global Climate Change and...

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