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'Don't be smug' and other advice.

Recognize that environmental issues won't go away. Ever. The world is only going to get smaller, more industrialized, and more garbage-filled.

Consider the environment an investor relations problem. Overhanging environmental liabilities can hammer down the price of your stock.

Recognize the opportunities. Consumer companies, in particular, now have public "permission" to redesign products and packages to lessen the costs of materials and shipping.

Don't be smug. Every company has vulnerabilities. Banks may seem "clean" but they risk foreclosing on polluted properties. Every corporate office can be charged with landfill abuse.

Take a leadership role. Unless your company has a "dark environmental secret," you should be out in front of this issue.

Develop a program before disaster hits. Too many companies wait for an environmental crisis to prod them into action.

Go for long-term solutions. If you get ahead of the issue, you can develop thoughtful, efficient responses, as opposed to having to throw money at a crisis.

Don't forget the cost of lawsuits. You may decide it's worthwhile to spend more on environmental prevention.

Get your CEO involved. Environmental issues touch almost every corporate department. Only the CEO, or his agent, can sort things out and get people working together.

Sensitize your marketing people. They focus on brand competition, not the corporate reputation. Exaggerated claims for biodegradable garbage bags got one company sued in six states.

Never underestimate how bad the problem can get. One California company is being sued for polluting the ocean floor.

Never underestimate the press. One Connecticut company was charged -- in banner headlines -- with being a major polluter. Reporters had found "evidence" by sifting through the company's garbage and analyzing the residue of an empty paint can that had been discarded by the maintenance staff.

Print your annual report, or at least the financial section, on recycled paper. While this is basically a token gesture, the inclusion of the recycled "bug" in your annual report is a sign of environmental sensitivity.

Find ways to lessen your company's impact on landfill. As the nation runs out of landfill sites, the disposal of waste is becoming an emotional -- and political -- issue.

Consider imaging as a way to reduce paperwork. The average memo is copied 19 times during its lifetime.

Get your employees involved in recycling. Companies are finding that most of their employees want to help. A well-run recycling program can build employee morale.

Discuss your environmental response in your annual report. And do it in some detail -- more than the "page and a picture" that most companies devote to social responsibility.

Build a track record of accomplishment. You can't protect against every problem that may crop up. But you can develop a broad, positive program. When the reporter shows up to nail you on the infraction, say you're sorry. Then point out the 97 things you've done right.

Don't brag. No matter how much you do right, there will always be environmental activists who say it's not enough.

Richard Lewis, President of The Conceptual Communications Group, a New York-based consultant to corporations on communications and graphic design issues, hosted a series of workshops in 1991 to address investor relations and corporate communications concerns related to the environment. From those workshops, he developed the following suggestions for companies wanting to take a leadership position on environmental issues in their communications programs.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Leadership in Environmental Initiatives; techniques in environmental policy planning
Author:Lewis, Richard
Publication:Directors & Boards
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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