NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Capitalism Benefits The Environment

September 6, 1995

Businesses can best help the environment through innovation and increased productivity, rather than an uncritical, uninformed commitment to "green" policies. Environmentally friendly policies that are sustainable by business in the long run are ones that improve the bottom line, rather than subsidize inefficiency, as the experience of many American corporations shows. For example:

  • The "Pollution Prevention Pays" program at 3M has reduced emissions by more than a billion pounds while saving $500 million.
  • One Westinghouse plant in Puerto Rico reduced contamination spread by chemicals as they flow from one tank to another by 75 percent by shaking the tank to remove solids.
  • Chevron saved $10 million in waste disposal costs and reduced hazardous waste by 60 percent in the first three years of its "Save Money and Reduce Toxics" (SMART) program.
  • International Paper saved about $100 million in disposal expenses between 1988 and 1995 by recycling and reusing its manufacturing wastes.

These successful efforts can be contrasted to "green" measures in the pursuit of ideological goals - or public relations. For example, McDonald's switched from plastic containers to paper in response to a letter-writing campaign, but a subsequent study published in Science magazine showed that the plastic alternative was less environmentally harmful when all the relevant costs and energy expended were factored in.

Source: John Hood, "How Green Was My Balance Sheet," Policy Review, Fall 1995, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002, (202) 546-4400.


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