Today is Earth Day, and I can’t help but remember the late Page Society Hall of Fame member, Marilyn Laurie, who was a key member of the small band of activists who founded the first Earth Day 45 years ago, when a million people crowded into Central Park to bring awareness to the need for environmental stewardship. Passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act soon followed. Today, Earth Day is observed in many ways, including tree plantingpicture sharing and urging government action. All good. But I would like to put the focus where I think Marilyn might put it, on concrete, responsible actions by businesses, sometimes working in partnership with NGOs and governments, to make an actual difference in the way resources are used and preserved right now.

Marilyn Laurie portrait

I can’t vouch for the validity of the list of the Best 50 Green Brands provided by blogger Robert Passikoff, but I do know that a number of companies are working hard to make environmental responsibility central to their corporate character. Cargill and ADM are working with NGOs on responsible agricultural sourcing practices that preserve rain forests and farmlands around the world. Coca-Cola has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund and others to preserve water resources. GE Ecomagination has made that company’s commitment to technology solutions that save money and reduce environmental impact a centerpiece of its business strategy. Starbucks is committed to Fair Trade coffee sourcing.

The list goes on, but the point is that real change comes from character and commitment, not solely from government regulation and mandates. For guidance on how a senior communicator thinks about working within a company to help it do the right thing, I highly recommend Marilyn Laurie’s Hall of Fame speech, delivered in the middle of the Enron/WorldCom business scandal era in 2002.