Sued for Sustainability? No More in CA

Sued for Sustainability? No More in CA

Well, it’s no wonder why businesses are not more sustainably run in a general sense across the nation. I always figured it was the general bottomless pit that each businessperson called a heart that ran the companies of the world, constantly trying to fill itself with cash and baby seals and toxic fumes. But in reality, did you know that businesses could be penalized for “going green”? (I am willing to admit that I may be the last person on earth to become aware of this fact…)

It turns out that if a company tries to make itself more socially or environmentally responsible and loses profits in the process, in most states shareholders and investors can actually sue the business! This is absolutely ludicrous. I get that they don’t want to lose money, really I do; you see, they’ve been laying off the country—including dozens of people I know, family, and friends—left and right, and I know these people and I, well, we don’t like to lose money, either.

But this whole concept makes attaining sustainability nearly impossible! All of us environmentalists like to think that we can make the world a greener place in our lifetimes but with policies like this, it really cannot be done. I’m simply outraged that such a policy exists in the first place; maybe it was appropriate once upon a time, but today, with so many threats to our future on this planet, we really don’t have the luxury of worrying about our country cottages and yachts—unless, of course, we have no intention of sharing them with our grandchildren, since they won’t have any Earth left to inherit.

The good thing is that California—often a leader in such scenarios—is trying to make this policy a thing of the past. The state senate recently introduced a bill to make sustainable businesses legal. (See, doesn’t the fact that such a thing doesn’t yet exist even sound ridiculous?) The Corporate Flexibility Act of 2011 could help pave the way to sustainable business growth, however. Attorney Susan H. Mac Cormac, who helped draft the bill, says, “Any company establishing in California will be permitted to negotiate to include a social and environmental mission that is given equal weight, perhaps even greater weight, than profits.” This model of business is intended for both private as well as public businesses.

Critics say that even if it passes, it’s still just one step in the right direction, as businesses will need increased incentives and public support to “go green” before they make such a move. Still, you gotta start somewhere.