To what extent are businesses aware of their social responsibilities? Can businesses be environmentally responsible and still make a profit?

Businesses have always been expected to adhere to general, though ill defined, standards of good conduct. But the idea that companies should follow principals who might benefit society while not directly improving their bottom line only began gaining ground in any significant way in the 1980s. Some ethical businesses make a point of caring for the environment, others of not using child labor from the developing world, or paying more attention to the welfare of their workers. Care for the environment has become a major policy of many ethical businesses. Corporations are at least openly acknowledging that they have a far wider level of responsibility to the society as a whole. Corporate rhetoric is of course not always matched with immediate action and some companies see going green as primarily a marketing and public relations exercise rather than acknowledging the Importance of integrating environmental decision making in all aspects of business planning and operations. This position goes on to further argue that businesses are aware of their social responsibility and can be environmentally responsible and still make profits.

In order to understand this question better, let us first look at what is sustainable development. Sustainable development can be defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their won needs” (cited in World Commission, 1987). In other words, sustainable development is that the basic needs of all are met and that all should have opportunity to full fill their aspirations for a better life (cited in journal of Business Ethics, pp157—168, 2001). According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, sustainable development is the integration of economic development with environmental protection and social equity.

There are four levels of sustainable development efforts for businesses, basic level of behaviour, current attainable level of behaviour, practical level of behaviour and theoretical level of behaviour. In addition, Business communities have largely adopted the Brutland Commission definition of sustainable development, such as Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. While the term Ecologically sustainable development preferred by many environment organisations is far more rigorous, the relatively rapid acceptance of the concept of sustainable development, by the corporate sector still heralds a major shift in corporate ethics. Less than a decade ago the prevailing corporate view was that the true and only social role of business organisations was to make profits and obey laws.

According to Bansal (2001), states that there are advantages of sustainable development. Firstly, it has a competitive advantage because it producing the same output with less input, more over, it not only reduces costs but also increases revenue. Secondly, it is reducing the risk by subscribing to sustainable development. “while a firm may not realize immediate financial benefits from investing in sustainable development, evidence shows that such investment will have a favourable long term impact on financial risk” it is also suggest actions business can take to implement sustainable development are policy measures and process improvement.

Greater risk comes the potential for great rewards. “Enterprising companies will find ways to capture this potential by finding innovative solution to society’s challenges” (Day, 1998) states that constrains can arise suddenly, in way not expected, there is great risk in market through innovation. Moreover, environmental justice is the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, such that certain populations are not disproportionately impacted from environmental pollution and unequal access to environmental benefits. Furthermore, sustainable development is not enough; businesses should concern more about innovation. Therefore, the advantages of businesses through innovation can make transition at their own pace, without a sudden financial burden, explore various technologies, management system and process before making the best choice. Moreover, businesses can gain a leadership position and can influence the form of future constrains that might affect their business. Therefore, marketing position in the current market can lead to new markets and new technologies.

Businesses can be environmentally responsible and still make profits can be summed up thus: There