Understanding and managing the impact that business has on the environment today is crucial. The dominance of some companies over the nature of the society by means of unequal conditions of economic exchange with a sole objective to earn more and more profit is increasing day by day. Today’ business is not only driven by financial factors, but revolves around the three Ps – profit, people and planet. Let us understand this with the help of few examples.
TATA was constructing a port on TATA’s Dhamra port in Orissa, which threatens the olive ridley sea turtles, an endangered species. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study, done in 1997, considered a port with significantly different specifications from the project currently being built. Many NGOs were also campaigning for several years now to demand that TATA drop its plans to build a controversial port at Dhamra, Orissa.
By this we can see that the companies today are aiming for growth and development without looking into the protection of nature. As the company has a responsibility toward the Society which is called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), they also have a responsibility towards the Environment which is called as Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER). No one in the world is against growth and development but it should not be at the cost of the environment.
A world renowned company and one of the world’s largest MNC, but how are they doing business? In Kerala, the Coca Cola Beverages Ltd plant exceeded the limit to withdraw groundwater and harmed the farming and environment in the area by dumping solid waste. It quantified the damage suffered by various sectors due to the plant from 1999 to 2004 as agricultural loss (Rs 84. 16 crore), pollution of water resources (Rs 62 crore), cost of providing water (Rs 20 crore), health damage (Rs 30 crore), wage loss and opportunity cost (Rs 20 crore).
The company was culpable under several laws. By passing sludge as manure, the company had not only misguided farmers, but has become responsible for soil degradation, water contamination and consequential loss of agriculture. Besides a steady decline in agriculture in the area dominated by weaker sections and tribals, production of milk, meat and eggs had also suffered.
The general health of the people had been affected with skin ailments, breathing problems and other debilities. The drinking water had become scarce through over extraction by the plant and women had to go long distances to fetch water. A total of 900 households had been directly affected by the problems caused by the company. Children had to leave schools on account of the social, health and economic factors caused by the pollution and this “opportunity cost” should be realized.
Daily extraction of over five lakh liters of water by the plant had upset the natural balance and adversely affected availability of water. Toxic chemicals in the wastewater contaminated groundwater and made it unsuitable for irrigation. At one point the Left Democratic Front Government in the state had even imposed a ban on sale of Cola brands of various companies, which was later quashed by the Kerala High Court.
These are the faces of Neo-Imperialism in today’s world from the Corporate perspective. The companies today try to exploit all the resources available to its maximum with an objective to satisfy their needs without given any consideration its impact environment. It is greed which has made them blind.
The third example is of Nestle the world’s largest food and drink company, maker of Kit Kat, uses palm oil from companies that are trashing Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orang-utans towards extinction. We all deserve to have a break but having one shouldn’t involve taking a bite out of Indonesia’s precious rainforests. Already many MNCs have exploited Indonesia and now Nestle who is exploiting the natural resources. Let us eat chocolate but not by making the life of other people sour.
The result of forest and peatland destruction, which is speeding up climate change and destroying the home of the endangered orang-utan. The palm oil traders which they buy from are involved in the destruction of Indonesia’s precious rainforests as a result of your buying palm oil from notorious forest destroyer Sinar Mas. Sinar Mas continues to destroy rainforests for palm plantations, despite the negative impact on the people and wildlife that depend on it for their survival, and despite the fact that it is accelerating climate change.
As the world’s largest food and drink company, Nestle should influence to insist on positive changes in the supply chain that would have a real benefit for the rainforests of Indonesia but they still continue to buy the palm oil. Nestle uses over 320,000 tonnes of palm oil every year, which goes into a range of well-known products including Kit Kat. In the last three years, the use of palm oil has almost doubled according to their own figures. Let us give the rainforests and the orang-utans a break!
In order to solve any problem, we have to go to is root cause. The basic problem as to why man is doing all this is because he has basically lost the concept of the true God, he has become greedy, has no belief in the hereafter and is getting attached to the glitter of this world.
Islam teaches us that nothing in this world is owned by man. All resources have been given to man as the trustee of God and we have to use it as per the laws laid by Allah (swt). Man should have the concept of the true God (Allah), concept of accountability after death and remember that the life of this world is not the end and there is another life which is going to come where he will abide forever.
Business needs to regret as to how it functions. It should identify its role locally and globally, and is determined to build innovative models of how business and development can succeed in harmony with our ecology and society. I would like to conclude by saying; we all should work for growth & development but not at the cost of the nature. Let us follow the principal of “Live and Let Live” and live happily, because God has created us and divided us into nations and tribes so that you may recognize each other. The best among you in the sight of God is the one who is most careful.