Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Short-Sighted Businessmen

My best friend, Rob Tarr, sent me these excerpts from the Wall Street Journal ("J.P. Morgan Adopts 'Green' Lending Policies", 4/25/05) along with his comments as an illustration of why businessmen need a philosophy if they hope to succeed (or even survive) in the long term.
"Following pressure by ecological activists and shareholder groups, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. will adopt sweeping guidelines that restrict its lending and underwriting practices for industrial projects that are likely to have an environmental impact.

The New York banking giant--third largest in assets in the U.S.--is expected to issue a 10-page environmental policy today that takes an aggressive stance on global warming...

And J.P. Morgan plans to lobby the U.S. government to adopt a national policy on greenhouse-gas emissions, becoming the first big American bank to pledge that kind of activism on such a contentious issue, according to shareholder activists.

The bank's move, on the heels of activist campaigns that produced similar pledges from Citigroup Inc., and Bank of America Corp., suggest that a shift in tactics by the environmental movement is paying off."
This last paragraph, though, was particularly maddening:

"Whether the environmental policies amount to much more than window dressing is still an open question. Some officials at oil companies who have bowed to environmentalists' demands, for example, privately say they did so because the move didn't require much new substantive action on their part--basically they agreed publicly that global warming is a legitimate issue. Most companies adopting green policies haven't lost much business as a result, nor spent huge sums of money on abiding by the principles, industry executives say."
An *oil* company (oil!) 'only' had to publicly agree that global warming is a legitimate issue. "Hey, all we had to do is admit that we have no right to exist as a business, and that we produce an inherently evil product that threatens to destroy all humanity! It didn't cost us a penny!!"

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