The big business of going green

Environment and Business. First Edition
June 1, 2001

There is a large demand for books and articles about the relationship between business and the environment that is being met with a variable quality of supply. The major deficiency is the lack of any analytical structure(s) or behavioural models.

Alasdair Blair and David Hitchcock's Environment and Business fails the analytical test because its model of interaction between environment, environmentalism and business is naive and it lacks virtually any discussion of the role of regulation.

The book is elegantly written and at a basic level so that it will be suitable for introductory courses. The price paid for this concern to get simple messages across is that the messages are often wrong or ill thought-out.

Environment and Business builds a picture of environmental change and how that change influences firms. The most obvious way is through regulation, but only a few pages address this conduit and those omit, for example, the ways in which modern governments try to use regulators as their agents to deliver environmental and social goals. The book has missed the chance to address some key questions.

Environmental issues may also influence firms through ethical investment and green consumerism. There is some discussion, but the importance of green employees is not discussed, nor is there any perspective on how widespread these influences are.

Finally, some of the authors' writing reads as if it has come from bad non-governmental organisations propaganda rather than from researched knowledge of environmental and economic issues. The World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, we are told, promote "unsustainable industrial development"; free trade is inimical to environmental improvement; and business is "not interested in the poor", because they are poor customers and so on. These statements are fundamentally untrue. It is a pity that the authors perpetrate such bad scholarship by venturing into the unthinking world of modern-day political correctness. This is not a volume that can be recommended, despite its admirable intent.

David Pearce is professor of environmental economics, University College London.

Environment and Business. First Edition

Author - Alasdair Blair and David Hitchcock
ISBN - 0 415 20830 0 and 20831 9
Publisher - Routledge
Price - £50.00 and £15.99
Pages - 326

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