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Cause for corporate optimism

PERHAPS the biggest threat to the aggressive global dominance of big business is optimism – the belief that there is a better way to achieve a better world.

While many futurists are gloom and doom merchants, there is increasing proof that aggressive global big business is recognising they need to find a better way to do things.

The rampant economic rationalists of the 20th Century can no longer claim it is the only way the corporate world is and must be.

There is cause for optimism toward a healthy, sustainable future. Two recent items of huge corporate significance have shocked multinational boardrooms (Leverage Points, August 24, Issue 4).

The Ford Motor Company and 3M have made separate startling announcements to forego short-term profits in favour of long-term environmental and corporate sustainability.

In May, William C Ford, chairman of Ford Motor Company, admitted publicly that its sports utility vehicles – those 4WD macho monsters environmentalist Amory Lovins calls Urban Assault Vehicles – contribute more to global warming, emit more exhaust, and endanger other motorists more than standard cars.

Ford will redesign these vehicles to minimise the environmental damage they cause.

Pity the urban terrorists remain jurassick in their choice of transport, but at least Ford is open about the damage its vehicles cause and is willing to modify them. A small but mighty step on the highway to a healthy future.

Also in May – a busy month for corporate blood pressures – 3M announced it would voluntarily phase out many of its popular Scotchgard products. A chemical used in these products to prevent fabric, carpet and leather from staining has been found by company researchers to accumulate in human and animal tissue, posing a potential health and environmental risk.

Undoubtedly this dramatic turn around by two global business biggies has been influenced by the recent enormous financial judgments awarded by juries against the tobacco giants for the health risk of their cigarettes.

Ford stated that it was important his company, unlike the cigarette companies, was seen to be behaving responsibly toward its consumers.

What corporate America does today, corporate Australia will likely do tomorrow. For once this may be good news.

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