Going green is in some ways like planning for retirement. In our heads, and in our hearts, we–including many of your clients, I’d wager—all agree it’s the right thing to do. But what exactly does that mean? When it comes to acting in a responsible manner toward the planet, as in investing for the future, there are a lot of choices to make and, if you’re serious about it, a lot of information to sift through. Moreover, it’s one thing to make decisions for ourselves, it’s another to recommend courses of action for others to follow, such as corporations in which your individual or institutional clients may have invested and to which you may want to recommend adoption of certain environmentally friendly procedures.
That’s where it starts to get difficult.
For years my wife and I had bought Marcal paper products because, as the packaging proudly proclaimed, they were “paper from paper, not from trees.” They were comparable in quality, and in some ways preferable, to the megabrands they shared the supermarket shelves with. The products were made from 100% recycled material, with a minimum of 30% post consumer recycled content (PCW), and many products had significantly higher PCW content.
The company claimed to recycle more than 200,000 tons of paper each year. To top it all off, it was a family-owned company in an industrial area of my home state that had seen more prosperous times. What’s not to like?
Then last fall I discovered to my dismay that the EPA wanted Marcal to pay $946 million to help clean up a stretch of the Passaic River that was polluted with dioxins and PCBs, which federal officials claimed came from their plant.
Marcal was not the only company responsible for the deplorable state of the Passaic River and ultimately agreed to pay $3 million to settle the claim, while, as is so often the case, not admitting any wrongdoing.