Given all the extravagant environment claims being made by major corporations these days, it is strangely refreshing when a business chieftain puts aside the greenwash and speaks his Neanderthal mind. That was the case recently, when General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told a closed-door session with journalists that he considered global warming “a total crock of shit.” He also reportedly stated that hybrid automobiles “make no economic sense.”
When word of his candor got out, Lutz did a bit of a mea culpa on GM’s FastLane company blog. Yet his argument was bizarre: “My beliefs are mine and I have a right to them, just as you have a right to yours…My thoughts on what has or hasn’t been the cause of climate change have nothing to do with the decisions I make to advance the cause of General Motors. My opinions on the subject—like anyone’s—are immaterial.”
I’m not sure whether we should be relieved that Lutz apparently doesn’t let his retrograde thoughts get in the way of his job—or dismayed that GM is paying more than $8 million a year to someone who leaves his brain at home.
Corporate ideological inconsistency is not limited to GM’s executive suite. A recent survey of top executives published by the Boston Center for Corporate Citizenship and the Hitachi Foundation demonstrates the opposite problem from Lutz: embracing noble ideals but doing nothing to implement them. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said that good “corporate citizenship” should be a priority for business, but only 39 percent said such considerations are part of their planning process.
An article distributed by Social Funds quoted the lead researcher for the survey as saying: “We think the gap between aspirations and actions is to be expected at this time because business is going through a significant transformation.” Or, to put it another way: Many corporate leaders apparently think that living up to their rhetoric is a crock.