Greenwashing (source: Wikipedia)- (a portmanteau of “green” and “whitewash“) is the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly. The term green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment.
There’s thousands of examples of it – take British Petroleum, a couple of years ago they changed their image, and their name to BP – now short for “Beyond Petroleum” never mind less than 10% of the companies focus went to anything other than digging up fossil fuels. They also that same time were to blame for, oil leaks on the Alaska pipeline, blowouts in Azerbaijan and dozens of worker deaths across the world due to their gross negligence.
But, damn, they changed the looks of their stations, literally washing them in green. In my final political science class I took in college many years ago we were all assigned companies to look into and write about their environmental policies. For some reason I was the only one to actually write a critical response of the assigned company. I got BP. They had just gone through their soylent green wash and were trying to change their image – I cited about 6 examples all with videos to show that their ‘change’ was nothing more than a transvestites. There is still a man under there, their just wearing an evening gown. (No offense to the transvestite community)
My examples were from 2-3 years before, which my class jumped on me for. They claimed that since I couldn’t find any recent examples it meant that they had cleaned up their image. Well, I told them, just wait. 2-3 years from now you’ll see what was happening now.
It wasn’t 2-3 years that I had to wait to be proven right – just about 6 months. I was then working as an intern for Greg Palast – and he wrote this piece here – on BP’s “Smart Pig”
I sent it to my professor, asking for a grade change… she said, sorry – it was too late. She actually never disagreed with me, she just knocked my grade back because I was late handing in the project. Ah well. I would have rather been wrong.
So anyway. I guess I should get to my point. I didn’t start this post meaning to write about something that happened half a decade ago – but something happening now. Its not as crucial as BP’s greenwashing but something that should be pointed out all the same. It’s what I call greenvertising (I’ll work on a better term later). It’s where companies get together (usually nightmarishy horrible ones with environmental records that would shame BP) and build what looks like a news website. It used to be that they do this through trade groups or lobbyist groups (in 2004 the Heritage Foundation tried to buy a website I owned just for this purpose) – if you look around the net for info on High Frutose corn syrup and find a page that is well designed and talks about how awesomely healthy it is, you found an example (http://www.sweetsurprise.com/). Notice in the bottom right hand corner the little logo – from the Corn Refiners Association. Hmm, possibly the website might have some biased info – but how many people really notice this? Or know that the Corn Refiners Association is anything but a front group for multi-national corporations such as
- Archer Daniels Midland Company
- Cargill, Incorporated
- Corn Products International, Inc./
- National Starch LLC
- Penford Products Co.
- Roquette America, Inc.
- Tate & Lyle Americas
I know that’s where I like to get my info from. Nothing like a press release disguised as an investigative piece. This sort of thing isn’t new – been happening for years. But what’s perplexing me is a new movement. The direct sponsorship. Greensorship? (I’ll work on that later too…) Websites like Mother Nature Network. At first this site looks like any other new environmental friendly blog like TreeHugger or MotherEarthNews but it ain’t. It may have the SEO and webdesign of a hippy website but it’s not.
You have to look carefully but even though it’s stories seem to have a ‘liberal’ environmental slant none of them are direct attacks on it’s sponsors. Which include some of the largest multinational corporations in the world – also some of the worst environmental polluters/killers of the the past 50 years.
Georgia-Pacific – Well, it’s a logging and paper company. Do I really have to cite anything? Well, ok – they’re owned by the Koch Brothers
General Electric – Come and take a dip in the Hudson, just don’t drink any of the water, or eat the fish, or well get in the water at all. They also have a fun record within their defense division when it comes to labor, gov’t fraud, and again the environment.
I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. I understand that the corporations listed above by their nature pollute and destroy nature, it’s a necessary evil. I’m not using leaves as toilet paper anytime soon, so I will continue buying it at the store and continue giving Georgia Pacific money. I’m typing this on a computer, so I will continue using energy from burning coal from companies like Southern. But I believe that as a consumer I should be able to ask the corporations that I buy from to stop taking environmental safety out of the bottom line. To clean up their spills or limit Co2 being pumped into the air – even if it means that instead of a company like Southern having a “second quarter earnings of $603.3 million” maybe making it an even $600 million.
Or at the very least to stop this PR BS. Stop greenwashing and wasting the money on making yourself look better.
You’re an evil corporation, live with it. Stop trying to botox your way out of your crows feet. Even if those crows feet come in the form of clearcutting.
Zach Roberts is the New York Bureau Chief of TheMudflats.net, he also is a Producer working with BBC Journo Greg Palast. Currently he is editing his first feature film “The Rogue Candidate” – a doc about the Alaskan Political scene.