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‘90S FIRMS HONORED FOR CARING WAYS

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Life in corporate America in the 1980s may have been epitomized by the "greed is good" statement in the movie "Wall Street," but major companies and industry observers agree the 1990s will be an era of caring and corporate giving.

"The signposts for the 1990s point clearly in the direction of increased commitment by corporate America to such social concerns as the environment," Colby Chandler, chief executive of Eastman Kodak Co., said at a dinner last week to honor companies for their social and environmental programs.American Telephone & Telegraph Co., Xerox Corp., U S West Inc., Pitney Bowes Inc. and Cummins Engine Co. received awards, while Patagonia and Fel-Pro got honorable mentions.

Perhaps corporate awareness of social concerns was most noticeable at the dinner when dishonorable mentions were given to Exxon Corp., Perdue Farms and USX Corp. The "losers," who were not invited to the event, were hissed at by attendees.

Exxon was blamed for its poor handling of the Valdez crude oil disaster, while Perdue was panned for poor employee work conditions. USX was knocked three times for poor responses to employees, the environment and equal opportunity.

The awards, presented by the New York-based public interest group Council on Economic Priorities, are for excellence in specific social programs, such as environmental issues, equal opportunity employment, charitable donations, responsiveness to employees and community action.

The council and several companies agreed the environment and society will be corporations' major concerns in the 1990s.

They said a new era has emerged to replace the 1980s corporate focus on the bottom line, which may have best been summed up by a corporate raider character in the movie "Wall Street" who told a group of shareholders that "greed is good."

"There is little doubt that this year ushers in a decade focused on environmental issues," said Leslie Gottlieb, a spokeswoman for the council.

Jerry Greenfield, the Jerry of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., said major practices at his company are aimed at "loving and caring. They're hard to measure (on the bottom line) but it is good business."

Greenfield said that by practicing environmental conservation, "it benefits the company and in the long term it benefits the world."

Ben & Jerry's makes charitable contributions and products geared toward saving the environment. For example, the company's new rain forest crunch ice cream flavor is made with Brazil nuts from the devastated Brazilian rain forest.

Some industry observers predicted that more companies will turn "green," or concerned about the environment.

"Companies have awareness of the pocketbook. . . . They will change their policies because people won't buy their products (if they ignore social problems)," said Henry Morgan, a director at the council.

Several corporate winners Wednesday pledged to continue their efforts in social programs.

AT&T, which won kudos for its plan to stop using all ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons by 1994, said, "The well-being of the environment is a top priority of the company." It added it will soon announce its environmental goals.

Cummins, who won for donating 5 percent of its U.S. pretax profits to charity, said, "We hold a public trust. We have the responsibility to ensure we conduct business in the best interest of society in which we live."

Small outdoor clothing maker Patagonia, which got an honorable mention for giving 10 percent of its pretax profits to environmental and civic groups, said, "We care about the planet. We fight to protect what we truly love."