My Seven Years as a Corporate Token

University of California professor Ernest Partridge, who served until recently on the "public advisory panel" of the American Chemistry Council (formerly the Chemical Manufacturers Association), has written a memoir of his experiences. The public advisory panel, which brought together distinguished academics to advise the industry on safety and environmental issues, was part of the chemical industry's "Responsible Care" program, which was established to allay public concerns in the wake of the chemical plant disaster at Bhopal, India. It was disbanded, however, earlier this year. "Recently, the Panel came to sense that the CMA's enthusiasm for its Public Advisory Panel was beginning to wear thin," Partridge notes. "Throughout, we continued to express our candid concern about CMA 'advocacy' practices -- i.e., lobbying and public relations. Probably the most important cause of the Panel's eclipse took place 'in the background,' beyond the influence of the Panel itself. The 'pioneer' corporate executives who established and sustained Responsible Care were retiring and leaving the scene, and were being replaced by a more politically active, profit-oriented, and institutionally defensive corps of officers. The 'public commitment' proclaimed by Responsible Care was slowly but inexorably being replaced by the Milton Friedman rule: 'The social responsibility of business to increase profits.' " In retrospect, Partridge says, the panel and Responsible Care may have been "'window dressing' designed to give the industry the public appearance of responsibility."