Former Continental Can CEO Bruce Smart {"Quit Bludgeoning Business," op-ed, July 10}, ignores the fact that he and other business leaders, not you and me, make many of the decisions that help seal our planet's fate.

Disturbed by environmental activists and "self-appointed private critics {who ask} management to abdicate its responsibilities to its many constituencies in favor of an outside group," Mr. Smart labels all environmentalists as business bashers. Much to management's chagrin, corporate America ignored its environmental responsibilities until these critics forced legislative and regulatory action. Realizing that they are losing the public relations battle, Mr. Smart and other managers suddenly call for "cooperation."

I agree with Smart that "environmental stewardship and good business practice are synonymous." I'll cooperate with those corporate leaders who recognize that immediate steps are necessary to prevent ecological disaster. Are they ready to allow citizens to exercise social controls of the capital, human and natural resources and land they manage?

One must ask what sort of cooperation Mr. Smart wants. Many environmental groups have corporate leaders on their boards. Americans have allowed mining and timber interests to use public lands. Let's see some more cooperation. Business can begin by sharing with environmental groups its votes, bonuses, advertising budget, personnel, corporate jets, offices and, oh, maybe even some of the profits. Cooperation is great, but on whose terms? PAUL M. FOER Washington

Bruce Smart's article on the necessity of joint efforts among often competing parties in the environment makes the excellent point that environmentalists and corporations should join forces to insist that government set market-oriented policies that include environmental resources in the cost calculations for industry and consumers. But he surrounds his argument with old notions of the relationship between environmentalists and industry.

First, a level of cooperation does exist among environmental groups, industry and government that should be recognized and nurtured. Older environmental groups, such as the National Audubon Society, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, communicate with industry and government and have for some time. These older groups constantly feel torn between the need to share information and concerns with industry and government and the need not to be "co-opted" or seen as being co-opted; often they must choose between using their scarce resources "communicating" with industry and government -- often, they think, to no avail -- and doing their own investigative and lobbying work.

Meanwhile, new groups such as Greenpeace and Earth First! have gained support, in part, because citizens feel a need for their type of activism, and because they think that the old groups have been co-opted. Moreover, an important change is occurring that further alters the old landscape. Increasingly, local citizen groups are acting independently of national environmental groups. Citizens are making their own decisions when it comes to scores of local environmental issues, including waste facility siting and cleanup decisions.

To tackle environmental problems requires the full resources of our society. I head an organization that is dedicated to building bridges between industry, government and environment. But to achieve success we must recognize the changing relationships of the players. The politics of symbolism and confrontation are designed to raise consciousness and propel action, and they are probably here to stay. But the terrain has changed and become more complicated, so let's focus on the new picture. THOMAS P. GRUMBLY Alexandria