Last week’s mid-week post discussed one of the major ways we humans intersect with nature: habitat encroachment. Today I’d like to look at a more positive form of interaction–and weirdly enough, this one involves big business.

This cartoon aptly sums up the attitude of the vast majority of the business world–in the past, and unfortunately all too much still today. Small signs of change should not be mistaken for a reason to be complacent. Cartoon created by Mike Adams; art by Dan Berger. Used courtesy of NaturalNews.

I know. Big business is so often portrayed as “the enemy,” in all kinds of contextsunfortunately, with good reason. Let’s face it, unregulated capitalism has historically been unkind to humansanimals, and nature in general.

One has only to consider the Singer Tract, and the egregious role of Chicago Mill and Lumber in the story of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, or remember the sorry history of the Love Canal, to find all-too-common examples of uncaring capitalism in some of its uglier manifestations.

Non-corporate people can be forgiven for thinking of corporate decision-makers as faceless, greed-driven capitalists, because that’s all too often how they come across. But some decision-makers are beginning to wake up to the realities of sustainability. We need to find ways to encourage more of that! Big business is a part of the picture that isn’t going away!

Whether you believe that “corporations are people” or not–they are run by people. And those people are free to follow more or less ethical courses of action, depending on their mindsets, beliefs, and experiences.

There’s growing evidence that at least some large businesses have begun to genuinely consider environmentally-positive practicesThere are a variety of reasons for thisnot the least of which is public relationsThere also has been a recent trend toward investor divestment from companies perceived as environmentally unsustainableespecially in the case of “factory farms.” Another good reason is the extremely pragmatic reality that energy-efficiency saves moneylots of it (gosh, who’d have imagined that?).

A serious installation of solar panels–on a Walmart? Actually, yes.

Take that persistent favorite for the role of corporate villain, Walmart. This company is unfortunately renowned for paying their employees so little they have to go on public assistance to make ends meet and bankrupting small-town business competitors by undercutting their prices (an effect documented for years–and more recently in cities, too). But it’s also spent the past decade-plus seeking ways to run its business in more sustainable ways.

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking this means Wamart should be let off the hook. The company still has a long way to go before it comes close to full sustainability, but do not ignore the fact that a large, often-unconcerned business is even talking about these issues at allThat counts as progress, even while we wish it extended farther.

Corporate participation in organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council, the Rainforest Alliance, or Earthwatch Institute offer examples of ways that corporations can support sustainability efforts. Indeed, as the Environmental Defense Council notespartnerships with corporations, business groups, and governmental agencies present an indispensable part of building solutions for a better future.

There is no road to sustainability without involving all the parties with stakes in the game. Corporations are not going away; moreover, they have a great many resources to employ when they get onboard for sustainability.

The one thing we most urgently need to learn from the recent trends of growing divisiveness in politics, it is that when everybody hates everybody else, NOTHING gets done. It may be convenient or even comfortable for environmentally concerned people to think that large corporations bring only environmentally bad options into play–but that’s not necessarily true. And as more and more environmental action groups and individual businesses have discoveredleaving industry out of the conversation on sustainability is both unwise and ultimately . . . unsustainable.

IMAGES: Many thanks to NaturalNews, Mike Adams, and Dan Berger for their right-on sendup of all too many business attitudes; to istockphoto, via Rita Trehan, for the “corporate decision-makers” illustration; to Walmart, for the photo of solar panels on one of its stores (which one was not specified); and to Giving Compass, for the “sustainable development” illustration. I greatly appreciate all!