Yet Anderson remains cautiously optimistic that the world's business leaders are slowly waking up not only to the ecological threats of unfettered industrialism, but also to the many tools now available to help executives change their own companies. The movement, he says, extends far beyond the giant corporations and the governments of the rich nations of the world: "Every person, and every company, no matter how small, can make great advances."

Consumers may not notice, but fund managers will.

Few companies spend much time thinking about how their activities damage the environment or harm their employees. Too many other things get in the way, such as basic survival, maximizing profits, buying other companies, fending off unwanted suitors, introducing new products, figuring out how to apply the latest software - to name a few.

And while companies with high-profile brands do have to pay attention to their public images, the great mass of the world's businesses can do just about anything without running afoul of the public, as long as they stay within the often capacious confines of the law.

It is, however, one thing to fool the public, and another thing entirely to fool the manager of an investment fund. And thanks to the rise of what is often called "social investing," as much as $2.1 trillion is now parked in investment funds that actively promote certain types of business activities, estimates Steve Schueth, the former president of the Social Investment Forum. Between 1995 and 1999, adds Schueth, who serves as president of the First Affirmative Financial Network, such funds grew three times as fast as the broader universe of all professionally managed investment portfolios. "This has become a lot more mainstream than a lot of people think," agrees Robert Brady, managing director of a pioneering socially responsible investment fund for Salomon Smith Barney.