Business and the Environment


Being humane today involves one subject which men of earlier centuries did not have to deal with.

This subject is the environment.

Why care about the environment

Key concepts regarding business and the environment

Case Studies regarding how we can be both financially prosperous and environmentally sensitive.

Pinchot and the science of forestry

Eliminating CFC’s in the semiconductor industry

General principles and Summary

Why care about the environment

There are many reasons why we should each be concerned for the environment. I will offer a few key reasons.

First, we have limited resources. As a country we were lucky, for we had plenty of resources when the rest of the world had greatly depleted their resources. However, our resources are still limited.

We must remember that many of the wars of throughout history were fought over resources. For example, Japan began its conquering of Asia in World War Two because of their lack of resources. We must also note that the Allied forces in that same war had a great advantage in the steel and oil resources of the United States. We must consider how our industries will survive when the resources are depleted.

Second, food is a necessity for survival and therefore we must maintain our fertile valleys. Again, the United States was lucky to have flat ground with fertile soil. Many Asian countries are mountainous, many Middle Eastern countries are dry, and much of the world has soil which is inadequate for farming. The United States, on the other hand, has a large area which is relatively flat, receives sufficient water, and is very fertile. We need to realize the good farming land we have, and we must take care of it.

The soil in the midwest United States is several feet deep - which is unusual in respect to the rest of the world. We must consider what happens as we pave the most precious soil on the earth. If we pave or tear up our best land, then where will we grow our food?

Third, clean air and water are other necessities. We must watch what we put into our air and water, for if we poison those, we poison ourselves.

Finally, there is the argument for keeping nature because of its intrinsic beauty. Green trees lining the roads, hills covered with bushes and filled with wild animals, golden sunsets, and the changing colors of the seasons - these are all beautiful things. To lose a bit of nature is always disheartening.

Thus there are many arguments for why we all should be interested and involved in preserving the environment.

Benefits of business and technology

However, realistically, business wish to thrive. Similarly, these businesses are good because they employ people, who in turn can support their families and thrive.

Furthermore, our technology has created many great comforts, such as air conditioning, refrigeration, cheaper food, and much more. Thus, although we have abused our environment, our abuse has brought many good things.

Thus, what we are left with is always having to compromise. We want businesses to thrive, but we want business to be gentle on the environment. We enjoy comforts of modern society, but we would like to see ways of arriving at the same comforts in ways that are less harmful to the environment.

Looking at it from the other direction, businesses wouldn’t mind being environmentally friendly, but they want to ensure that they are profitable. Thus, if an environmentalist proposes a technological solution to an environmental issue, the environmentalist must make certain that the new solution is economical.

Key concepts regarding business and the environment:

The environment is a concern for all men today.

1. We have limited resources on which all our industries depend.
2. Clean air and water are necessities for life.
3. We can not take for granted the relative ease with which our nation can grow food.
4. The environment has intrinsic beauty, which can not be replaced.

Any proposed environmental solutions must:

1. Be economical to businesses.
2. Make enough money quickly for a business to adopt.
3. Be logistically as easy as possible.

The best approach is a three pronged attack

1. Combine resources of academia and industry.
2. Include ‘environmentally sensitive’ in design parameters.
3. Change processes from the inside of industry.

Our challenge is to be financially prosperous while being environmentally sensitive.

The following case studies will show how this can be done.


Case Studies regarding how we can be both financially prosperous and environmentally sensitive.


Pinchot and the science of forestry

Pinchot is considered the father of forestry in the United States. Pinchot was deeply concerned about the rapid depletion of forests in this country, as was his father before him. He knew the forests in Europe had been depleted over the centuries, and he noted that North America still had a chance. A few “crazy” leaders had begun trying to save forests, but they were not often listened to, and the concept was still in its infancy.

Recall at this time, the majority of America was still covered with forests. Thus, why should America be concerned about saving any of it? Furthermore, Pinchot knew that any solution must help both lumber industry and the conservation movement. (Most foresters at this time were either simply lumbermen who saw forestry as the use of trees, or were conservationists who saw forestry as complete preservation.)

Thus, Pinchot reasoned, if there was some way to allow the lumber industries to succeed while conserving forests, and, if he could convince the people to adopt it, then there would continue to be forests 100 years from now.

The concept Pinchot developed was the science of forestry. This concept meant scientifically harvesting the trees in the lumber industry. The science of forestry was a brilliant idea, for it would save the trees while at the same time providing enough trees for the lumber industries.

A few people had talked about the concept of forestry as a crop, but Pinchot was the man who proved it. McGeary, in his biography of Pinchot, describes Pinchot’s work well. Although I learned of Pinchot long ago, I find this description to be superb. Thus, McGeary states:

“Pinchot had learned to his own satisfaction that trees are a crop. It was commonly understood in America that the cutting of trees destroyed a forest; Pinchot brought the gospel that forestry was the art of using a forest without destroying it. If cut in a scientific manner, some forests could be made to seed themselves and to keep producing endlessly. He was satisfied as a result of his European observations that forest lands could be made into paying commercial projects without destroying them.”

“The average American believed that the only way to preserve a forest was to keep out the axe. Pinchot preached that through the use of proper methods a forest could be both harvested and preserved. Pinchot was not the first person to refer to trees as a crop, but he was the first with a determination to prove that such scientific handling of a forest could be made profitable.”

Pinchot set out to learn everything about forests that he could. He studied in Europe under the few foresters that existed at the time. He learned to speak German fluently so he could learn from lumbermen and botanists there. He also traveled extensively throughout the forests in America, making scientific observations.

As Pinchot traveled and studied, he was becoming renown as an expert on trees and forestry. However, even Pinchot himself admitted that he had yet to do his final test.

Pinchot knew he had to prove that his idea would be economically successful. The only way the science of forestry would be adopted, and thus the only way to realistically conserve our forests, was to prove that forestry was profitable. Pinchot knew that to convince lumber industries to adopt the science of forestry, he had to appeal to the pocket book of the industries - and this was especially true when there were so many trees that almost no one saw a reason to conserve.

Pinchot’s opportunity came when the Vanderbilts agreed to accept Pinchot’s challenge. George Vanderbilt was creating his home, Biltmore, which Vanderbilt wanted to be a palace in America. His landscape architect, Fredrick Olmstead, knew of Pinchot and thus brought Vanderbilt and Pinchot together. Pinchot was granted a section of forest to manage as he saw best. Included in the deal was the opportunity for Pinchot to demonstrate his success at the upcoming Worlds Fair in Chicago.

By the end of 1893, Pinchot had demonstrated that forestry was indeed profitable. He had shown his success at the Chicago Worlds Fair, and he would shortly begin a successful career in environmental politics. And, he was only 28 years old.

Thus Pinchot developed a method for industry to thrive and yet be friendlier on the environment. He also proved that it worked.

Let us not stop here, for there is more to learn from this story. Notice all the elements of Pinchot and his work.

First, Pinchot was proactive, for he had an interest in the environment and he began to think seriously about solutions.

He was an explorer. America was still covered with forests and the businesses had no incentive to change their ways. Yet, also as an explorer, he knew that if he started now, people would appreciate it later. Also as an explorer, he was misunderstood during his time. (People would often ask, “What’s a forester?” To which Pinchot would reply, “That’s why I want to become one.”) Yet, he pressed on regardless.

He was also a pioneer, for he applied the knowledge of one area (Europe) to another area (America). He was also a pioneer because he was creating a solution which hadn’t been tried.

He was also a fiscally sound environmentalist. He knew that for any scheme to work, and for any company to adopt it, he must show how his method makes more money for the company than their current method.

Although the term wasn’t coined yet, Pinchot did in fact do a Beta site on his idea. Showing the Vanderbilts that hisforestry method worked, and doing it on their land, was a sensible way of verifying that the concept worked as well as selling it to the owners of the business.

Again, Pinchot and his work in forestry is a prime example of everything we have been discussing in this book.


Eliminating CFC’s in the semiconductor industry

I discovered Pinochet and his work years ago. To my delight, I had the opportunity to continue the tradition of being environmentally sensitive yet fiscally sound.

For my graduate research, I chose a project that was linked to the environment and industry. We were interested in finding a replacement for the CFC’s which were currently required to solder leads on microchips.

The packaging part of the semiconductor industry involves soldering the metal leads. These leads link the circuitry to the outside world, and therefore must be physically stable as well as electrically conductive. The issue we were concerned with involved the soldering of these leads.

The process of soldering required three steps: 1) The first step was a pre-soldering step. This involved adding a chemical which made the material solderable. 2) The second step was the actual soldering. 3) The final step was a post-soldering step, where the excess pre-soldering chemical was removed.

The problem was in the third step, the post-soldering chemical. The only chemical that is suitable to be a post-soldering chemical (the only chemical capable of removing the excess pre-soldering chemical) is a CFC. That worked fine until the scientific community learned how CFC’s harm the environment. Therefore, the task for the team was to find a suitable way to perform the total soldering operation that does not use CFC’s.

There were many approaches that were tried, but the team finally settled on one. If we change the chemical used in the presoldering step, then perhaps another chemical besides CFC’s could be used for the postsoldering step.

The team took a second leap. If we have a totally different method for presoldering, then we might not need the postsoldering step at all. In essence: no postsoldering step, no CFC’s, and thus no harm to the environment.

The final technical solution involved a fluorine plasma, created by CF6 and a microwave. This plasma would actually change the molecular structure of the solder. This presoldering step was just as effective in making the material solderable as the old presoldering step. Yet, because this new method was a plasma, there was no post soldering clean up step required. Thus the team found a way to perform the presoldering step without a need for the postsoldering step, and thus without a need for CFC’s.

The team then had to make certain that the new process was industry acceptable. The material was tested for chemical integrity and electrical conductivity, and was found to be equally capable as the old method.

More important was the saving in cost. Any time you eliminate a step in a process, you save money. There is the cost of the equipment, the cost of the chemical, and the cost of manpower. When you add up these costs on a daily basis, you can see how eliminating one step can save large sums of money. One study estimated that a company could be saving millions of dollars each year using this process.

Thus, not only was this process friendly to the environment, but it saved money. That is the type of results which appeals to the businesses, and appeals to the businesses enough for them to adopt the solution.

Thus notice that this team created a process which is environmentally friendly, which has the chemical and electrical integrity for a quality product, and which saves the company money. And, certain individuals were able to publish articles and get a name for themselves. Indeed, this is a win-win solution on many fronts.


General principles and Summary

Being a humane business today involves being environmentally friendly. From a humane point of view, we want to preserve the environment because of its intrinsic beauty. From a practical view, we want to preserve the environment to maintain the quality of our farmland, air, and water.

However, from a business view, any solution to an environmental issue must be profitable for the company. The quality of the product must be the same, and the company must profit when they implement the solution.

The best approach is a three prong attack: combine the resources of academia and industry, have engineers include‘environmentally sensitive’ among their design parameters, and have environmentalists actually go into industry to change things from the inside.

As an example of the first and third approach, consider the following example. Professors at a particular university know the details about an industry. Students learn enough about the technical aspects of industry to be hired as engineers, but also do research regarding the environment and that industry. Industry pays for the student’s research, and might even adopt the new environmentally friendly process.

Note that the engineer will probably not be employed to do anything environmental - only regular engineering for making the company profitable. However, the engineer - having an environmental mind and knowing the industry - can propose ideas and make changes from the inside. If the company can’t afford to test these ideas, then engineer can bring them back to academia, where a fresh graduate student appears on the scene.

I see this as the most effective method for scientists to make a real difference.

As for the second approach, that of including the environment in your process design, there are many possibilities. If you are an engineer designing a process, then you should consider being environmentally sensitive as part of your parameters of quality. If you use a material or equipment, think how that material or equipment may be recycled. If you are designing a new product, consider what the waste will be when the product has been consumed, and consequently consider recycling in your original design. There are many possibilities for win-win solutions regarding business and the environment, especially when you think about this during the design phase.

Remember that being humane in the 21st century involves being environmentally sensitive. Environmentalists must remember to ensure that their method allows the company to make money, and to ensure that the product has the same quality. The businessmen and engineers must look toward being environmentally sensitive while performing their daily operations.

There are indeed plenty of technical solutions available. We must merely be willing to look for them and be willing to work together to make them a reality.