Mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg stood before guests of Newsweek's second annual ‘Global Environment Leadership Conference' and urged big business leaders gathered that sustainable businesses cannot only thrive in, but improve the environment.
“Now, for far too long, environmentalism has gotten pitted against economic development. But that’s a myth that ought to be laid to rest. Arnold (Schwareznegger) talked about that at last year’s conference. He spoke about how we can protect the environment and also protect the economy.
“Today, I’m not only going to second that idea, but take it one step further. Because the fact is that we can actually improve our environment while growing our economy. Certainly, growing our economy is a major concern in Washington, and throughout the nation, too. It’s not going to be easy or simple. It’s going to require leadership in the public and private sectors and change in our public and private lives.
“One thing that I’ve learned in government is that there’s always a good reason to do nothing. But business – and government, too – both increasingly recognize that going green is the best – indeed the only – pro-growth strategy, not just for the long term, but in the short run as well.
“The other participants in today’s conference can vouch for that, too. Let’s start with the private sector, where today green business is clearly good business. Just ask the representatives here today from Starbucks, Saatchi & Saatchi, Stoneyfield Farms, and Fetzer Vineyards, who will be on a panel entitled ‘Profitability through Sustainability.’
“They’ll tell you that going green helps the bottom line by reducing energy consumption and lowering energy costs. It’s also a plus in recruiting and retaining top employees – men and women who are often very environmentally conscious and active. And in today’s highly competitive economy – where the best people can and will go where they feel most comfortable – that’s an increasingly, and even overridingly, important factor.
“Cities are intensely competitive with one another, too. Increasingly, quality of life provides the winning edge in that competition. It’s often what separates the front runners from the also-rans in the global economy. Believe me, I know where I want New York City to be in that race. And I know that – as big as the benefits of environmentalism are, and as big as the risks of climate change if we don’t act – a lot of people would still rather do nothing.
“It takes courage to ask people to change – even if it won’t really cost them much. Political leaders today are afraid of their constituents. As Evan Thomas notes in this week’s Newsweek, ‘it takes a very great leader to extract sacrifice from the voters, but if we wait until the water starts lapping over Manhattan to really do something to affect climate change, it will be too late.’
Hopefully, environmental activists and inventors who have long sought business reforms, can take some pleasure in this greenwashing, though it's unlikely that much gratitude will come their way for their decades of efforts. While it might take a great leader to extract sacrifices from the voters, it will take a humble activist to stop from saying, "I told you so."