APSU was recently awarded the Best Overall Organization Award for a large organization by the Clarksville-Montgomery County Green Certification Program.

According to the Montgomery County website, the certifications for this award involve attending workshops, evaluating current practices, making changes to conserve resources and reduce waste, and to track utility savings and waste reduction for six months. After these conditions are met, the organization is then certified with the program.

The website includes reasons why organizations (i.e. corporations) should participate in the Green Certification Program:

Conserve and preserve Clarksville-Montgomery County’s natural beauty and resources
Save money on utility bills
Get a marketing edge with customers
Add an additional pride point for employees
Extend the life of our local landfill keeping costs down and preserving land
Maintain air quality standards (Clarksville-Montgomery County air quality is at risk of not meeting EPA regulations)
Take a proactive approach to what could eventually become mandated practices
Earn recognition as an environmental leader in our community
Access to green network of businesses
It’s free

From the Montgomery County Website

Seven of the ten reasons are appealing to an organization’s finances and marketability. The Green Ribbon Cutting to celebrate certification really makes this seem like a way for businesses to be applauded as environmentally friendly for just six months of environmental change. If there was no recognition, would these organizations still take part in the initiative?

One of the remaining three points that aren’t about cash and glory is to “take a proactive approach to what could eventually become mandated practices.” This reads like an oxymoron. Is the perk here to do something before other organizations can, as a way to brag about being first? Is it to be ahead of the environmental game so you don’t have to worry about it later if it becomes regulated?

While this certification is treated as a praise-worthy effort, it appears to me like a way for corporations to first and foremost promote their businesses. The environmental part is secondary.

The issue is not that business owners respond to incentives. We are all humans, and humans make up even the largest corporations. It only makes sense that a reward for doing good deeds is a large draw.

The issue is that this is not enough.

On a global scale, massive corporations (think Amazon, Coca Cola, and ExxonMobil) are undoing the majority of progress that local communities enact. Anything less than intrinsic care for the environment’s wellbeing is not enough. A reward cannot be the only motivation for an organization to make a change.

As a community, we should be demanding change from the large corporations in our town, in our state, and in our country causing more widespread damage to the environment than we can feasibly reverse with small changes from individuals and local businesses.

If we don’t, there won’t be anything left to celebrate.