The Corporate Environmental Problem and How to Handle it

Written by Business magazine. Posted in Corporate governance, Judge alan nevas, Melanie cyganowski

Federal securities law litigation

The issue of environmental responsibility is everywhere. Large manufacturers are constantly advertising their attention to environmental health. Lawmakers find it difficult to agree on necessary steps to improve the health of the planet. Anytime a natural disaster occurs, there is media speculation about the involvement of global warming. Although people cannot agree entirely about the extent of global warming or the necessary steps to take to prevent it, most people can agree that greater responsibility to environmental health is important.

The environmental problem

Despite laws and regulations pushing large companies to practice safe dumping practices, these laws are not always followed. Sometimes, it is a mistake. Other times, however, it is intentional dumping that will occur until there are stricter consequences. The numbers are quite shocking actually. We could save approximately 5,000 lives per year and prevent thousands of cases of respiratory and heart disease by reducing toxic air pollution from industrial plants. While some of these industrial plants are above regulated limits, others are within limits and still exposing nearby residents to harmful toxins.

Minimal individual consequence

Although larger corporations do impose fines and other types of consequences for illegal dumping, smaller businesses and especially individuals are often not held to the same standards. It is not until a personal injury litigation is brought up by an injured individual that consequences are given. More than 40% of Americans are worried about both indoor and outdoor air quality, carbon emissions, tropospheric ozone, particulate matter, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, radon, refrigerants, and methane emission. But, even those individuals worried about these problems either feel that they themselves cannot make a difference, or they do not know where to begin.

The likeliness of stricter consequences

Most businesses weigh the pros and cons of any business decision, including environmental friendliness practices. For example, a business that might suffer a 40,000 fine for illegal dumping might benefit 100,000 from that dumping practice. In many cases, the business will choose the more profitable action, especially if they can get away with a smaller fine. Additionally, many larger businesses have their own team of civil rights and criminal justice attorneys. They regularly handle both employment and commercial cases and this can make the illegal dumping decision even easier. Smaller businesses might consider the cost advantages of never getting caught.

So while it is believed that stricter consequences and increased personal injury litigation cases could be advantageous to increase environmental health, it is unlikely that we will ever find out. There is not going to be an increase in personal injury litigation cases anytime soon. Also, many of these cases are kept quiet and settlements are made out of court, making it impossible to create public attention from the media. In fact, in 1962, 11.5% of federal civil cases went to trial. Today, experts say the percentage of civil cases that actually reach trial in the Federal courts is estimated to be about 1%.

Is there any hope for improvement?

It does not seem promising for the health of the planet with loose consequences and frequent illegal corporate practices. It might take a greater amount of awareness to create the attention that it needs to change laws and consequences. Bankruptcy issues and bankruptcy cases might encourage large corporations to practice safer dumping if their business is at risk, instead of affordable personal injury litigation.

Everyone has heard about the importance of corporate responsibility and environmental health. Most people, however, do not understand how the laws and regulations work. They do not realize that corporations play one of the biggest roles in harming the environment. Greater awareness could hopefully lead to stricter consequences, thus ultimately leading to a healthier environment.

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