Environmental protection emerged as a major issue in the 20th century in the face of increasing evidence that pollution, uncontrolled use of natural resources, and population growth were putting increasing pressure on the long-term sustainability of these resources. 27
Partly in response to federal legislation such as the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and partly due to consumer concerns, businesses are responding to environmental sustainability issues. Some companies are finding that environmental consciousness can even save them money. Efforts to make products, packaging and processes more environmentally friendly are called “green” business. Many firms are trying to eliminate wasteful practices, the emission of pollutants, and/or the use of harmful chemicals from their manufacturing processes. Some large companies have created a new executive position, a vice president of environmental affairs, to help them achieve their business goals in an environmentally responsible manner. Environmentalists are concerned that some companies are merely greenwashing , or “creating a positive association with environmental issues for an unsuitable product, service, or practice.” It is important to recognize that, with current technology, environmental responsibility requires trade-offs. Society must weigh the huge costs of limiting or 28
eliminating pollution against the health threat posed by the pollution. Environmental responsibility imposes costs on both business and the public. 28
Another significant issue for businesses are their responsibilities to the general welfare of the communities and societies in which they operate. Many businesses simply want to make their communities better places for everyone to live and work. The most common way that businesses exercise their community responsibility is through donations to local and national charitable organizations. Even small companies participate in philanthropy through donations and volunteer support of local causes and national charities, such as the Red Cross and the United Way. 29
Unemployment has become a significant problem. While unemployment is an economic issue, it also carries ethical implications. Protests often occur in areas where unemployment is high, particularly when there seems to be a large gap between rich and poor.Hiring standards are coming under fire because companies are not hiring unemployed workers due to their lack of experience. While it is important for employees to have certain skills, many feel that businesses must be willing to train employees if they want to fill vacancies and decrease the unemployment rate. Factory closures are seen as unethical because it contributes to unemployment. Protesters say unemployment adds to the growing gap between rich and poor. On the other hand, several businesses are working to reduce unemployment. Additionally, businesses are beginning to take more responsibility for the hardcore unemployed. These are people who have never had a job or who have been unemployed for a long period of time. 30
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