Laying off workers, winning “Green awards” – another fallacy of Green Capitalism
Earlier this week Newsweek announced its 2011 Corporate Green Rankings, with Michigan-based appliance corporation Whirlpool ranked at number 285.
This announcement was plugged on MiBiz’s weekly e-newsletter, which just linked to a Whirlpool Media Release. Whirlpool spokesperson Jeff M. Fettig stated, “For decades Whirlpool Corporation has led the industry in higher appliance efficiency standards, lower greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. This recognition is a testament to these commitments.”
But what exactly does all this mean in concrete terms? Newsweek has a methodology for determining their Green Ranking, but it is rife with limitations. More importantly, it starts with the premise that corporations are benign and can contribute to environmental sustainability by making certain adjustments. In other words, Newsweek does not question what these companies make nor the political/economic influence they have in the world.
Just look at the graphic for Newsweek’s online Green Ranking to give you an indication of how absurd this all is. You have Ford Motor Company, which has manufactured a product for 100 years that is inherently destructive to the planet. Even if auto companies produce more electric cars, this is not a sustainable solution, but a way for them to continue to make money.
You also have computer/software companies like Dell, IMB and Hewlett Packard, all of which make profits off the mining of minerals for computer components, which means high volume water consumption for manufacturing.
However, one the most offensive of all Green Ranked companies is Bank of America, which is one of the main targets of the Occupy Movement. This just illustrates the limitations, even the absurdity of corporate rankings through such a narrowly defined “green” lens.
We can ill-afford to separate ecology, human rights, treatment of workers, gender justice, racism and LGBTQ rights from how we view institutions. By limiting our lens to just one aspect, we not only make it easy for corporations to fools us into think they can be agents of justice, we make it probable that we will not move in the direction of demanding systemic justice.
The absurdity of Whirlpool’s announcement of being on Newsweek’s Green Ranking is that at the same time they were patting themselves on the back with that award, Whirlpool was eliminating 5,000 jobs. The level of absurdity is amplified when one reads that the company’s “third-quarter net income more than doubled to $177 million, or $2.27 per share, from $79 million, or $1.02 per share.”