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Millennium Post

Environmental policy for firms

That the Ministry of Environment and Forests seeks to widen the scope of corporate environmental responsibility for a sustainable future is welcome. It is well-known that corporates and private businesses cause immense damage to the natural environment for which they are not held accountable. The damage is of serious concern and is reaching crisis proportions in the form of pollution and the rapid loss of freshwater, fisheries and fertile soils for which no one pays. Corporates have a large share as well in the emission of greenhouse gases which are leading to climate change. Amidst rising global concerns about the role of corporates in environmental degradation, the MoEF has rightly sought to institutionalise the concept of corporate environmental responsibility by proposing that business organisations adopt a 'corporate environmental policy' at the company board level. The idea of such a policy is not particularly new and has been voluntarily adopted by progressive corporates the world over. In its essense, MoEF's proposed corporate policy would commit a corporate to higher environmental standards, above the existing guidelines. It would also ensure commitment from the corporate's top management towards achieving these goals, with efforts made to be reflected in the annual reports. Such steps will make sustainable development and eco-friendly corporate policies at the centre-stage of corporate activity. It has, without doubt, become necessary for Indian companies to participate in sustainable development. Companies must be committed not just to being responsible businesses but also to acting in the best interests of its stakeholders and society at large.   

For too long has environmental protection has been considered to be 'in the public interest' with governments assuming principal responsibility for creating and preserving a safe environment. It is the government that has directed the private sector to adopt environmentally sound behaviour through regulations, sanctions and incentives, with the private sector having been the laggard with notable exceptions. In view of the environmental crises at hand, these roles have to change, and the private sector has to become an active partner in environmental protection. Businesses have to realise that environmental protection and economic growth are not incompatible. Corporates must, therefore, adopt MoEF's proposal of a 'corporate environmental policy' voluntarily and in public interest.
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