Read this section to gain an understanding of the environmental impacts of businesses and the importance of sustainability.

Air Pollution

It's amazing what we can do to something as large as the atmosphere. Over time, we've managed to pollute the air with emissions of toxic gases and particles from factories, power plants, office buildings, cars, trucks, and even farms. In addition, our preferred method of deforestation is burning, a major source of air pollution. In some places, polluted air causes respiratory problems, particularly for the young and elderly. Factory emissions, including sulfur and other gases, mix with air and rain to produce acid rain, which returns to the earth to pollute forests, lakes, and streams. Perhaps most importantly, many experts – scientists, government officials, and businesspeople – are convinced that the heavy emission of carbon dioxide is altering the earth's climate. Predictions of the effect of unchecked global warming include extreme weather conditions, flooding, oceanic disruptions, shifting storm patterns, droughts, reduced farm output, and even animal extinctions.

Curbing global warming will require international cooperation. More than 190 nations (though not the United States) have stated their support for this initiative by endorsing the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement to slow global warming by reducing worldwide carbon-dioxide emissions.

What can business do? They can reduce greenhouse emissions by making vehicles, factories, and other facilities more energy efficient. In response to a government ban on chlorofluorocarbons, which damage the ozone layer, DuPont has cut its own greenhouse emissions by 72 percent over the last twenty years through improvements in manufacturing processes and a commitment to increased energy efficiency.

Several U.S. and Japanese car manufacturers now market electric and hybrid gas-electric cars. General Electric is designing more energy-efficient appliances and investing heavily to research wind power.