greenwashing

Only One Out of 11 Popular Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Flavors Tested Negative for Cancer-Causing Herbicide Glyphosate

"The Vermont brand has been built on a bucolic image of cows grazing on endless pasture...Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream and other Vermont companies have used this idyllic imagery to sell their products. Gone are the days, however, when most of Vermont’s cows were grazing in spectacularly scenic landscapes. Now a majority of Vermont’s cows are locked up in...‘confined animal feeding operations’ or CAFOs...grazing on concrete with a diet rich in GMO corn and pesticides." — Vermont’s GMO Addiction: Pesticides, Polluted Water and Climate Destruction, Regeneration Vermont

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Olive Garden Chief Gets a Leadership Award, Even Though His Company Is Bad for Workers, Health, Animals and the Environment

The CEO of America’s largest restaurant chain, Darden, is being honored today by Nation’s Restaurant News for “outstanding leadership, solid company performance and dedication to giving back”—despite the company’s record of misleading the public and its shareholders about the quality, sourcing and sustainability of its ingredients.

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Regeneration Revolution: Why We Need to Stop Using 'Sustainable' When It Comes to Food

Last week, PoliticoPro reported that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture wants “farmers and agricultural interests to come up with a single definition of sustainability in order to avoid confusing the public with various meanings of the term in food and production methods.”

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It's the Second Dirtiest Thing in the World - And You’re Wearing It

The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world...second only to oil,” the recipient of an environmental award told a stunned Manhattan audience earlier this year. “It’s a really nasty business...it’s a mess.”

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Greenwash: Shell May Remove "Oil" From Name as It Moves to Tap Arctic, Gulf of Mexico

Shell Oil has announced it may take a page out of the BP “Beyond Petroleum” greenwashing book, rebranding itself as something other than an oil company for its United States-based unit.

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How the 1 Percent Always Gets Its Way

What is most striking about the present is not the virtues of moderation but of the potential power of conviction. One detects, behind all the anxiety about ‘extremists,’ ‘radicals,’ and ‘militant minorities,’ a degree of envy. On the Right there is a group with enough commitment to a shared project that is willing and able to disrupt the ordinary functioning of government. If only the Left had such wherewithal. We might, at the very least, get something more than than the economically stagnant, politically oppressive Mugwumpery of the Democratic Party.” — Jacobin’s Alex Gourevitch 

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The New Reefer Madness: Drug War Crusaders Blame Pot Growers for Dead Animals -- But the Drug War's to Blame

The photo looks like something out of a horror film. A long, thin animal lays dissected on a white table. Metal tools pull the animal's skin back to reveal its jellied, maroon-colored insides — all soupy, slick, and lumpy. It's the remains of a Pacific Fisher, an eight-pound member of the weasel family that's now hovering near extinction, thanks in part to illegal pot farming in the vast forests of California.

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The Most Absurd (and Expensive) Eco-Gadgets

As of 2007, the green economy accounted for an estimated $371 to $516 billion and 1.8 million to 2.4 million jobs in the U.S. With so much money at stake, businesses are eager to grab their piece of the pie. Some products, like reusable water bottles or travel mugs, are simple and affordable enough that most Americans can use them to reduce their waste from disposable cups and bottles if they choose. Other products, like solar panels, are unquestionably green but can be pricey to buy and out of the question if you’re a renter.

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McCain Is Full of Hot Air on the Environment


Yikes, it's really true. John McCain is running for president as a tree-hugging liberal.

No, not an all-the-time environmentalist -- rather, as a swing-state-savvy, targeted-message-peddling, hoping-to-pick-up-the-votes-of-lifestyle-liberals- who-want-to-address-climate-change-on-the-cheap murky-shade-of-green Republican.

So, today, in the battleground state of Oregon, where a reverence for the outdoors requires that Republican contenders greenwash their appeals, McCain's campaign will begin airing a new television commercial that essentially says: "Look, I'm not like George Bush and Dick Cheney. I don't live in la-la land when it comes to global warming. I actually believe in something I like to call 'science.'"

The senator -- who broke a little bit with Bush and Cheney on environmental issues, but who never really lined up with the serious Republican environmentalists who were isolated by the administration and burn-the-planet GOP leaders like Tom DeLay -- is reinforcing the message with a major campaign swing through the northwest, where he hopes to put the sometimes swinging states of Oregon and Washington in play by presenting himself as John McCain: Eco-Warrior.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee swept into Portlandon Monday to deliver a major address outlining his plan to "re-establish America's environmental leadership in the world." Here's a hint about how he'll do it: The McCain campaign says the candidates wants to "mobilize market forces."

That may sound good, but as Gene Karpinski, the president of the bipartisan League of Conservation Voters, says, "To his credit, Senator McCain wants to do something serious about global warming, but his proposal falls far short of what the science says we need to do today. He has not substantively improved his plan over the bill he introduced years ago -- legislation that the science now shows is out of date."

Of particular concern is McCain's determination to mobilize the wrong market forces. "[It] is troubling that he continues to support taxpayer subsidies for a mature industry like nuclear which has yet to resolve its waste disposal problem," says Karpinski. "It would be far more cost-effective to invest in renewable energy like the wind energy plant he is visiting today. Better still would be a call for a renewable electricity standard, something he has voted against time and time again."

On Tuesday, McCain will be in Seattle, where his campaign says the candidate will "solicit the views of environmentalists, conservationists and the business community on the most effective strategies for meeting this challenge."

Don't be fooled. The senator's not listening. He's campaigning, as McCain's greenwashing ad confirms.

The script opens with an announcer acknowledging that:

Our environment in peril,


Oil and food prices out of control,


Climate change wreaks havoc with deadly weather.

One extreme thinks high taxes and crippling regulation is the solution.

Another denies the problem even exists.

There's a better way.

Then, McCain does his best to deliver the I'm-no-Bush line that is central to his appeal to voters who think of the environment as something more than a place to search for oil:

I believe that climate change is real.

It's not just a greenhouse gas issue.


It's a national security issue.


We have an obligation to future generations to take action and fix it.

I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

Of course, as perhaps befits the oldest-ever serious contender for the presidency, McCain has embraced an outdated dichotomy: the suggestion that the climate-change choice is between "One extreme (that) thinks high taxes and crippling regulation is the solution" and "Another (that) denies the problem even exists."

In fact, there are smart green solutions that are good for responsible businesses, consumers and taxpayers. McCain could learn about them by studying what European conservatives and even a few American Republicans, like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been saying -- and doing -- for years.

But, as McCain's ad establishes, he's not really serious about climate change. What he's serious about is neutralizing the environment as an issue in a presidential campaign season that will see millions of American voters -- including a great many wavering Republicans -- treat climate-change as an exceptionally serious election issue.

Coke and Pepsi's New Marketing Strategy: Pull at Your Heart Strings

World Water Day 2008 (March 22) will see a flurry of announcements from bottled water companies who claim to be helping solve the globe's water crisis. The catch is that these altruistic claims are intimately tied to major advertising campaigns designed to convince the public to buy their products.

Numerous media and industry reports are saying that sales of bottled water are slowing as a result of campaigns targeting the product's environmental and social impact. In a recent article, Brandweek declared that Pepsi and Coke are facing "evaporating sales growth for bottled water and increased concerns about their products' impact on the environment."

Another report, from industry publication Beverage Digest, said that sales and growth of the bottled water industry in 2007 was about half of what it was in 2006. Recently reported annual results from the world's largest bottled water company Nestlé show a slowdown in growth in its bottled water sector from 2006. According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, global sales growth has consistently dropped since 2003.

The slowdown in growth of bottled water sales combined with industry reports and widespread media attention on the negative impacts of bottled water highlight how the global anti-bottled water campaign is having a major impact.

While campaigners may raise a crystal glass (of tap water) to this news, it is important to keep in mind that the industry is not rolling over and going away. People are still buying huge amounts of the stuff and the corporations will be trying their best to keep existing customers and attract new markets in new regions. The question is how will bottled water companies continue to convince people to buy its products.

How will the BW giants fight the backlash?

Marketing trade publication Brandweek predicts that Coke and Pepsi will fight the growing backlash against bottled water with intense 'ethical' or 'responsible' marketing, understood as tying the purchase of a product to charitable activities. A number of ad campaigns for bottled water already include charitable ties. According to Brandweek, the use of A-list celebrity endorsements of these types of campaigns is likely to increase.

PepsiCo has already started down this path through its relationship with Matt Damon. Earlier this year PepsiCo donated $2.5 million to Damon's H20 Africa clean water initiative. To compliment Pepsi's donation, the movie star is endorsing Ethos bottled water (Starbucks' bottled water brand), which will be launched nationally this spring through PepsiCo and Starbucks' North American Coffee Partnership joint venture.

The Ethos brand is promoted by claiming to donate 5 cents from every bottle sold to help children around the world gain access to clean water. Part of a slogan from the brand's upcoming North American ad campaign states "if you choose to drink bottled water, please choose to make a difference." Until now Ethos water has only been available at Starbucks' 7,000 North American outlets. This will soon change when PepsiCo's huge national distribution system moves the brand out to 40,000 merchandisers in North America.

Not to be outdone, according to Brandweek, Coca-Cola North America is getting ready to launch its own 'socially responsible' water brand. There is speculation that the company will enlist a movie star to co-brand the new beverage. Coke already uses celebrities to shill its various brands, and it is only matter of time until a public figure endorser steps up to push Coke's green message.

Coke is no stranger to this type of marketing and has recently been in hot water for pushing one of its water brands by convincing people that its product will help reforest Australia. In a recent ad campaign for its Mt. Franklin water brand, customers are encouraged to 'plant a tree' by registering the bottle's barcode on the company's website. Once registered, the company along with its partner Landcare Australia will plant a tree in the registrant's name.

Under the arrangement Coca Cola Amatil (30 percent owned by The Coca-Cola Company) will pay one of Australia's biggest environmental groups, Landcare, $150,000 to plant 250,000 trees. In return, Coca Cola Amatil places the well known Landcare logo on every bottle of Mt. Franklin Water. One Landcare employee who spoke out against the partnership said that the logo is being used "by a corporate giant who is only interested in greenwashing public opinion and tricking people living in the city into thinking they are doing the correct thing by the environment by purchasing their product."

Selling green to make green

Which ever way you look at it, this technique known in the marketing world as 'responsible' or 'ethical' marketing, is just that, marketing. In other words, it is a means to convince people to buy a product, thus, ensuring higher profits with a bonus to the company of greenwashing social and environmental impacts. This tactic is a clever trick because it lends brands a social image and injects a charitable dimension into consumer spending.

The technique is not new and the bottled water industry has used this type of marketing in the past to sell its products. In one example, a Danone ad campaign in Germany for the Volvic brand used the ad slogan '1 litre for 10 litres' accompanied by the UNICEF logo. The goal was to tell consumers that for every litre of Volvic water purchased 10 litres of clean drinking water would be provided for communities in Ethiopia. The campaign was structured around a donation of $250,000 euros from Danone to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). German magazine Der Spiegel called the campaign unclear and revealed that when calculated with monthly sales figures the donation amounted to 0.28 cents per liter sold during the three month campaign.

Danone revived this ad campaign in North America in 2008. This time it has pledged $500,000 to UNICEF and will use the tagline "every litre of Volvic you drink will provide ten litres of clean drinking water to children in Ethiopia." Danone started this marketing campaign in Germany and has extended it to France, Japan and now the US.

'Charitable Solution'

Brandweek calls this the industry's 'charitable solution' to a drop in sales. This type of marketing preys on the heart of the consumer by capitalizing on guilt and conscience. Companies employing these types of ad campaigns try to convince the public that they are doing the right thing.

Marketing experts point out that marketing strategies, in general, work best when they enjoy the support of society at large. When companies use agencies like UNICEF to promote their products they hope to earn long-run support by making people feel (including noncustomers) served by the ad campaign.

It is stressed by ad experts that major trends point to consumers wanting and expecting brands to make a commitment to social and environmental change. Marketers know that consumers are beginning to choose brands that claim to be giving something back to society.

To verify this tendency one needs only to quickly browse the websites of the big four global bottled water companies (Coke, Pepsi, Nestlé and Danone) where environmental and sustainability initiatives are boldly highlighted. All four of the big bottled water companies are also clamoring to show the world that they are taking the lead on issues such as water sustainability and climate change. One such example is the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate (all four companies have signed on), a voluntary initiative designed to enlist corporations to address the water challenge faced by the world today. Under the guise of environmental stewardship, it actually provides a roadmap for increasing corporate control over water governance and management.

Paradox and mis-perceptions

These advertising strategies are slick corporate maneuvering and posturing that expose a glaring paradox. Bottled water, along with the overall operations of the corporations involved, remain central players to the very problems the marketing campaigns claim to be trying to solve. Contributions to green house gas emissions, use of fossil fuels and increasing corporate control of water resources are just a few of the numerous ways the industry contributes to the very things they claim to be helping through what can be called mis-perception marketing.

The corporations hope this strategy will construct a positive image of a corporate brand as a solution to the problem of water scarcity or climate change instead of one of the causes. Their goal is to associate the purchase of a bottled of water with a good deed in order to convince people that their products are beneficial to society while ensuring continued sales growth.

Make no mistake the industry is ultimately concerned about the drop in growth of bottle water and is looking for solutions to bolster sales and respond to the growing, well organized and visible global anti-bottled water campaign.

So remember, look closely this World Water Day at who is behind the glossy well produced advertisements claiming to help protect our global common good. Chances are that the stirring and emotional call to arms for the defense of water is tied to a company looking for a way to brighten its sagging water brands, greenwash its destructive operations and gain more control of its main raw material. All of this comes under the guise of helping the 1 billion people around the world without access to clean water, when it is profit for a much smaller number of shareholders that is the real objective.

How to Tell Greenwashing from Real Corporate Responsibility

It's a little late for Mardi Gras, but let me tell you about another masquerade.

We all know that the environment has become fashionable. The environmental movement -- despite what its detractors might say -- is going through one of its most vibrant periods. Seventy percent of Americans declare themselves environmentalists. Seventy-one percent of Latinos living in the Southwest believe preserving the wilderness is not only a family value but a religious one as well. In California, 91 percent of Latinos believe it's possible to protect the environment at the same time that we build a robust economy.

This national consensus has become a powerful magnet for Corporate America, which in recent years has tried to establish an environmental harmony with consumers by offering products and services that allegedly respect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we cultivate.

But all too often, this harmony becomes corrupted by a green veil with which apparent altruistic intentions hide the fact that, after all, both environmentalism and money share the same color. This marketing trick is known as "greenwashing."

ExxonMobil -- the world's richest corporation and the one that interferes the most in the fight against global warming by investing tens of millions of dollars in denying it -- counters its critics by alleging that it funds the Global Warming and Energy Project. This initiative focuses on how to confront global warming emissions once they have been released into the atmosphere. But what ExxonMobil won't tell us is that the applications of that research could take up to a decade to become available. Nor will it tell us whether it has made any commitments to adopt any of those applications.

Chevron, the oil giant, in October launched its flashy "Human Energy" campaign to promote its green credentials. But at the same time it promised bluer skies, Chevron also attacked the viability of solar and wind energies -- the cleanest ones in existence -- by calling them "too futuristic." No wonder a corporation so firmly anchored in a past of fossil fuels is so afraid of the future.

In 2005, General Electric (GE) -- the ninth largest corporation in the world -- launched its "Ecomagination" campaign to announce its environmental commitment to confront challenges such as the need for clean, efficient sources of energy and reducing emissions. Two years later, GE's environmental credentials still need greening, as the corporation continues selling parts to coal-fired power plants -- the largest source of global warming gases -- and investing in oil-and-gas exploration.

Southern Co., the power utility that operates six of the country's dirtiest plants, insists that it invests "billions of dollars" in cleaning its toxic and global warming emissions. Yet according to the Environmental Integrity Project, Southern Co. owns the three plants that emit the most carbon dioxide in the entire U.S. Two of them rate as the second and third that release the most mercury in the country. And five more rate among the ones releasing the most nitrogen-oxide. More than a green veil, what Southern holds is a suffocating rag.

On the other hand, there are countless examples of corporate responsibility that demonstrate a real commitment to protecting the environment and fighting global warming. In fact, according to the latest GreenBiz.com annual report, 2007 was a record year for the increase of green initiatives by the country's corporations.

For instance, Google is building the largest solar-power facility ever built on any corporate campus in the U.S. This huge solar-panel project will generate 1.6 megawatts, enough to power 1,000 homes, and will allow Google to save 30 percent of its current power use.

Nike has committed itself to becoming a climate-neutral company by 2012. Green Mountain Power Co. has reached the point where only 2 percent of its generated power comes from carbon-dioxide producing sources. Target is phasing out products containing polyvinyl chloride, a potentially harmful compound. Frito-Lay announced that by 2010 its chip production would rely on recycled water and renewable energy.

But all these examples of corporate responsibility, as timid as they may seem, run the risk of being overlooked by consumers if other companies continue to hide their greed behind a green veil.

Let's all put an end to this masquerade.

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