RE: [GRRN] SUV redux

Diamond, Craig (
Tue, 2 Mar 1999 11:30:28 -0500

I'm sensitive to Roger's argument, but not fully swayed. What is required is
a broad program aimed at the public, the buyers, company administration, and
perhaps most important, the stockholders. In this list, however, Ford itself
is probably the least effective place to argue for change. As Roger
indicates, the company is just a vehicle (pardon the pun) for market
response and investor profit - it really doesn't care and shouldn't be
presumed to. I agree that an overhaul of 'what constitutes a corporation' is
in need of overhaul. In lieu of that, assume you can't change the device and
therefore you need to change the signal that it responds to.
Craig Diamond, Chief - Environmental Planning
Tallahassee - Leon County Planning Department
300 South Adams
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Phone: 850/891-8621; FAX: 850/891-8734

From: Roger M. Guttentag []
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 1999 10:19 AM
To: multiple recipients of
Subject: Re: [GRRN] SUV redux

At 08:51 AM 3/1/99 -0600, you wrote:
Ford Defends Massive New SUV
> Ford Defends Massive New SUV
> AP Auto Writer=
> DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) _ Ford Motor Co., defending itself
> attacks by environmental groups, says its hulking, nine-passenger
> Excursion sport utility vehicle will be among the safest and
> cleanest-running SUVs on the market.

Dear Peter and Greenyes:

I probably will get in trouble with some of you for these remarks
but here goes. The attacks by environmentalist organizations on Ford Motor
for creating the Excursion SUV appears misdirected and, in some ways, may be
unfair. As a U.S. based company, Ford has a social and legal responsibility
to produce goods and services on an environmentally sound basis and to
insure that these goods or services, once delivered, function in a manner
that conforms to legally established environmental regulations. Let's
assume (for purposes of this discussion only) that Ford's production of the
Excursion meets both of these criteria. The problem, however, is that the
product's design premise is fundamentally unsound in that it promotes energy
consumption of a non-renewable energy resource. This problem would not go
away even if the energy source was renewable since renewable energy
production, such as large scale hydro, can have its own negative
environmental consequences. Obviously, the preferred path, with respect to
environmental sustainability, are products that function on the basis of a
small, benign environmental "footprint." However, these products will be
produced only in response to personal and commercial demand for them which,
in turn, is a function of personal and societal values that makes them
central to a shared vision of what consititutes the good and just life. As
we all know, we are not there yet.

To return to the main focus of my discussion, Ford's development of
the Excursion may not be legally wrong (assuming that it does not violate
regs. regarding average fleet fuel efficiency) and it reflects the fact that
it is responding to a segment of its market who does not believe that using
this type of product is morally wrong. So, we should really be directing
our protests at the buyers and not Ford. However, this course of action is
neither politically practical nor advisable while directing organized
protests at corporations, as a practice, is both well established and
politically useful for rallying your supporters. Unfortunately, business
corporations as they are currently conceived, are not designed to be moral
explorers, innovators or guardians. Their job is to provide goods and
services at a profit to their owners while both conforming to and properly
reflecting the moral expectations of the societies they function within.
Some may argue that, for this very reason, we need to overhaul the concept
of the modern corporation. That may be so but it does not help us right now
with the kind of situations we are confronting with products like the
Excursion. Even if the environmental protesters are successful in making
Ford withdraw the Excursion from the market, the problem fundamentally does
not go away because the potential buyers have not gone away. Another
company, sensing a commercial opportunity, may jump in and produce this kind
of product despite a similar firestorm of protests. If the product launch
is successful, Ford (and other vehicle manufacturers) may then be compelled
by the demands of its shareholders and the whip of the securities market to
follow suit. (As has occured with other products like mini-vans and earlier
SUV models).

If a product like the Excursion becomes commercially successful, it
is an outcome that is due primarily to the absence of any strong linkage of
personal values favoring environmental sustainability and stewardship to
product selection and usage. Protests against Ford (or any company) won't
change this. I agree that companies like Ford may help to amplify the
over-consumptive lifestyle but, as I mentioned above, they are capitalizing
on personal values that are already present in the culture they do business
in. Change the values and you change the products. It is that simple and
also that difficult.

For this reason, I believe that a principal focus of the GreenYes
list should be on substantive discussions of how to achieve this sea change
in social values. Corporate bashing or tips on how to avoid buying
Christmas cards don't really contribute to this goal. Frankly, I think
these kind of discussions have been absent on GreenYes because most of us
are either uncomfortable with or unequipped to handle critical discussion of
values beyond bland statements of "This is what I believe and I know I am
right." However, if we don't try we will be reduced to a list that
primarily bitches, moans and cries about products like the Excursion.


Roger M. Guttentag

***************************************************** To post to
the greenyes list, send a letter to: To
unsubscribe, send a message to: with the
subject unsubscribe. If you have any problems, please write to GreenYes is archived on the GrassRoots Recycling
Network web site: