Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Business and Environmentalism: From Heresy to Dogma?

Instructor: Bette Bauereis

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Corporations have made dramatic changes since the 1960s in the environmental philosophy that has been translated into corporations' business, political and social networks. The history of corporate environmental response began with "we are the experts in our business and we know best." The activism of the 1960s for civil rights swept with it the right to a clean and healthy environment. Environmental controls were viewed with animosity and compliance was clearly a financial burden on the corporate bottom line. Over the next years some enlightened corporations have viewed environmental issues as a competitive advantage. Some corporations are taking the lead in the United States on such thorny issues as sustainable development and global climate change.

Our initial focus will be on the triggers for the environmental movement and the resulting legislation and regulation. Once we understand the rules of the environmental issue we will explore the responses of industry in organizational changes and management practices. When possible we will have representatives of industry and environmental groups present their views and experiences.

In the 70s and early 80s the focus of industry was limited to regulatory compliance or how to meet the "letter of the law". From 1982 to 1988 there was change in corporate philosophy with a movement toward "corporate social responsibility" and environmentalism as a basic expectation of workers and customers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s corporations began to explore strategic environmentalism by looking at cost effective mechanisms, e.g. pollution prevention. We will examine the effectiveness of technological, organizational and cultural corporate changes. What does the future hold with economic globalization? Many groups contend that third world countries will be disenfranchised. Are environmental issues being redefined in global terms? Where does the United States fit in global environmental leadership? What is the effect of the US position on global climate change? The role of multinational corporations may be critical in future environmental policy.

Last Update: February 10, 2008