The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for January, 2008

British Gas Greenwash Banned

Posted by keith on 31st January 2008

Blimey! Some good news – it’s not a company that have decided to stop greenwashing (that would surely be something significant) but it does seem that people are waking up to the sins of Greenwashing. British Gas (or BG, as they like to be known around the world) tried to convince the British people that they were selling gas that was “carbon neutral”, as well as claiming that their electricity (yes, they sell electricity too, produced mainly with gas) was the greenest around.

Wrong on both counts, really wrong…

“A TV and press ad campaign for British Gas has been banned by the advertising watchdog for making false green claims about an energy tariff. The ad regulator ruled that the TV commercial was misleading and should not be shown again in the same form.”

“A second ad – a national newspaper advertorial, for the same ‘green’ tariff – was criticised by the ASA for making the claim it was the ‘greenest domestic energy tariff’. The company admitted that the [Energywatch] website did not rank tariffs in order of “greenness” and that there was no industry-wide methodology.”

(from The Guardian)

With a history of energy exploration in the Amazon, and interests in drilling for gas in the pristine Arctic wilderness, BG (or Bad Greenwashers) have felt the first slap from the increasing number of people who won’t tolerate hypocrisy. Keep it up readers – don’t let them get away with it.

Posted in Adverts, Corporate Hypocrisy, Good News! | 1 Comment »

Land Rover Save Planet, Stop Making Cars

Posted by keith on 29th January 2008

Land rover screwed

Sorry about the big image, I did my best reducing it from the broadsheet newspaper advert I stumbled upon last week, but it’s got to be big, hasn’t it? Land Rover are taking out adverts in all the newspapers, they are so concerned about the planet that they’ve decided to jack it all in: yes, it’s true, Land Rover are no longer making or selling cars. No more Freelanders, no more Range Rover Sports, no more Defenders, nothing. It’s all going on the scrap heap because they have finally realised, after years of marketing vehicles that do 18 miles per gallon (that’s just over 14 MPG in North America) or even worse, that the planet is frying and they are partly to blame. So, in deference to our only reason for existing, they are giving up the motor trade.

Great!

If only it were true.

Sadly, that’s just in my dreams. In reality, Land Rover – owned by our old friends, Ford – are just splattering the pages of newspapers and magazines around the world with the same old rubbish about carbon offsetting, sustainable vehicles, new technology and, that old favourite, supporting green projects. Good old Land Rover – masters at pretending they actually care. Good old Land Rover – masters at the greatest mass-mobilisation PR campaign we are ever likely to see in our lifetimes: the motor industry going “green”.

What a load of greenwash.

Posted in Adverts, Corporate Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Help The Aged : A Hypocritical Prize Draw

Posted by keith on 28th January 2008

Help The Aged Planet

Helping the financial, social and physical wellbeing of older people in the UK is something that Help The Aged do pretty well. Some could accuse them of being a little blinkered in the way they work, but most charities are like that – they choose a campaign and that’s what they focus on.

Strange then that I should receive an e-mail announcing a prize draw:

Win a brand new Nokia mobile phone
 
Do you have an unwanted mobile phone sitting at home? Recycle your old phone with us during January and February and you can enter a free draw to win a brand new Nokia fashion phone.

Recycle your old phone now

I didn’t know Help The Aged had a recycling campaign on, but it appears they do. Actually the recycling seems to be an afterthought: the reason they are encouraging it is to raise funds, not reduce the amount of toxins going into the waste stream. It would have been nice to mention that, but they then go on to tell you how much more you could help if your donation was bigger.

The real winner for me, though, was the promise of a New Nokia Fashion Phone for the winner of the “recycling” prize. Recycle and then win something new. Is that how it works then? Recycling as a way of clearing things out so you can buy something else. It does seem to be.

Posted in NGO Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

Friends Of The Earth : Asking Nicely Again

Posted by keith on 25th January 2008

Friend Of The Earth Nicely

Yet again Friends Of The Earth are asking their members (I don’t know why they keep sending me these, I’m not a member) to carry out world-changing actions on their behalf. I say this with a hint of sarcasm, because both you and I know that Friends Of The Earth have not achieved anything significant in their history and, in fact, may well have slowed down the pace of environmental action. It is well known that wherever there are established “environmental” organisations, individuals tend to delegate responsibility for action to these organisations. They give money, they write letters, they sign petitions – and they assume that the organisation will get the job done. This places a lot of pressure on the organisation to make the changes happen, but then again, why purport to be a membership organisation if you aren’t prepared to act for your members.

Unions call for strikes because they know that withdrawing labour is an effective means of forcing change. When was the last time Friends Of The Earth orchestrated a mass withdrawal of cooperation from their members: refusing to pay electricity bills unless the electric companies switched to all renewables (one of their big campaigns) would be a start, yet you will never see this happen because it may upset the status quo.

To show you what FoE mean by “action”, here is part of the e-mail I received this morning:

“What is your MPs new year’s resolution?…Let’s make sure it’s taking action on climate change.”

“After massive progress, 2008 is the year the Climate Change Bill becomes law. We’ve come a long way but we still need to ensure MPs will vote for the changes we need to make it tough enough.”

“Whether or not you’ve already contacted your MP, there’s a new and urgent action we’d like you to take. Please email your MP – to ask them to sign a new parliamentary petition demonstrating their commitment to a strong Bill.”

Let’s break this down.

1) “Taking action on climate change”. What is this action exactly? I have a quote from Tony Juniper saying that a 30% reductions in carbon emissions is sufficient to halt climate change. Whether this is by 2050, 2030 or even 2020, it is totally inadequate, so even if FoE achieve their aims, climate change will continue.

2) “After massive progress”. What progress? Greenhouse gas emissions are up, and still climbing, even in the UK where this campaign is based. Claiming progress requires tangible evidence – unless you can demonstrate that your actions have altered the level of emissions, or whatever you want to achieve, then you cannot claim you have made progress.

3) “Sign a new parliamentary petition”. Oh great! Another petition. Another hopeful document that will go the same way as all the rest. Don’t they get it? Symbolic actions change nothing – they make things worse by keeping up the pretence that something is happening when nothing really is.

Please, don’t trust your future to Friends Of The Earth, or any other symbolic organisation. Make the changes yourself : try these for a start.

Posted in NGO Hypocrisy, Should Know Better | No Comments »

Treehugger Loses The Plot

Posted by keith on 23rd January 2008

Treehugger Trendy

Those guys at Treehugger.com, what a bunch of great guys! They love a joke, don’t they?

“In spite of all the bad news about first-generation biofuels, it’s still a thrill to hear that Virgin Atlantic announced yesterday a 747 flown on a mixture of about 20 percent biofuel and the rest kerosene will lift off for a test flight in February, many months earlier than planned.

“The passengerless Virgin flight from London to Amsterdam will be a Boeing 747-400 and will fly the approximately 1.5-hour flight on the alternative fuel, which Virgin spokesman Paul Charles wouldn’t identify but said is from a “sustainable” source that doesn’t compete with food or freshwater supplies.”

Anyone would think they are really supporting flying – good thing it’s just some crazy April Fools joke. What? It’s not a joke?! My source tells me that they really did write an article that said it was “a thrill” to hear about a 20% biofuel plane.

A Thrill?!

Do they really think that making any form of flying more respectable will do anything to make this planet a greener place? 20% biofuels, so that means 80% kerosene, so let’s just suppose that it’s a 20% cut in fossil fuel emissions. Now let’s look at the source of the biofuel.

A “sustainable” source would mean no net transport emissions, no use of fertilisers, no loss of habitat, no reduction in photosythesis…are you getting this?

And let’s just suppose (we’re really stretching the imagination now) that this “sustainable” source is better than kerosene in terms of overall emissions. How many people will stop flying now if they think that it is ok to carry on doing it because their flights are now a little bit greener? How many people who previously refused to fly because of the horrific greenhouse gas growth will now think again, and maybe take the odd Virgin flight?

If flying was truly sustainable then I would be on the first plane to New Zealand to see the glaciers before they all melted away; but it never will be sustainable, and I’m not going. Treehugger, you really have sold out on this one.

Posted in Media Hypocrisy, Should Know Better | 4 Comments »

Tesco : Green Bags And Glowing Checkouts

Posted by keith on 22nd January 2008

Tesco Tills

News from the front lines, literally the front lines. Supermarkets around the UK, and undoubtedly around the world seem to have forgotten how to use the off switch. Our reporter sent me the following:

“Just got back from Tesco Beaumont Leys [Leicester].  They have 51(!) checkouts, six of which were in use.  All of the other unused ones were powered, EPOS terminal, scales, laser scanner, PIN machine etc.  It’s open 24 hours a day so I can only assume that they’re all powered all the time regardless of whether they’re in use or not. Every single checkout also has a pile of their £1 ‘green bags’…”

Thanks, Ewen.

As one of the largest retailers in the world, Tesco seem to have an obligation to control their carbon emissions, but then again, as one of the largest retailers in the world, they clearly don’t have to give a stuff for carbon emissions, despoiled countryside, local shops, empty seas, destitute farmers…

The hypocrisy is in those magical green bags. Make out that you’re green and you can get away with anything. Unless of course your customers decide that using local shops, small food delivery companies and growing their own food is actually a far better way to do things.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Asda WalMart: Loving Organic – Still Exploiting Workers

Posted by keith on 21st January 2008

Asda TShirt

Someone close to me was bought a t-shirt the other day. The person who bought it for her thought she was doing the right thing by buying one made from organic cotton, with a big fat “I Love Organic” printed on the front. The only problem was, that the t-shirt came from Asda, owned by WalMart, and purveyors of the cheapest supermarket clothes in the UK.

This is the company that advertise the 99p school shirt, the £2 skirt and the £15 suit. They say it’s ok because they buy cloth by the mile and pay “fair wages”. This is part of their Ethical Code:

We carry out 13,000 audits across the globe every year to make sure that the people who make clothes for us aren’t exploited in any way. With every single audit we carry out, amongst other things we check:

- That workers are paid the going rate for the country that they work in.
- That workers aren’t working too many hours.
- That working conditions are up to scratch.

Well, that’s sorted then. Bear in mind that “going rate” can mean as low as a few cents per day if that’s what the country of origin allows; that “too many hours” can mean up to 100 hours a week, if it is legal in that country; that “up to scratch” can mean something far worse than you would hope to work in, if it is legal in that country. In short, the statements aren’t worth the bytes they are written in.

I know this too, because as recently as 6 months ago, a report in The Guardian found Asda guilty of paying “wages were so low that, despite working up to 84-hour weeks, they struggled to provide for their families.” In addition, ”there were also reports of physical and verbal abuse by supervisors and of workers being sacked for taking sick leave.”

So, it appears that Asda may love people wearing their heart on their sleeves, but when it comes to maintaining basic human rights – which are also a byword for environmental standards too – they most certainly keep things close to their chests.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Volvo : Earth Is Better Polluted Together

Posted by keith on 18th January 2008

Volvo Endanger Me

So where shall I start with Volvo? They are advertising a range of “eco friendly” cars. The last time I had heard of an “eco friendly” car it had no engine, no wheels, no chassis – in fact it wasn’t a car at all because THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ECO FRIENDLY CAR. Do you get it, Volvo? Do you get it, Ford, owners of Volvo? A car is a polluting machine, it needs fuel, and no vehicle fuel – as far as I have been able to make out – comes with no net impact on the environment.

But they persist because, of course, they want you to feel better about driving, they want you to buy cars, and they want you to drive them so they wear out, need parts, need servicing and need replacing, and so the whole cycle comes round again without anyone having learned a single lesson except that the auto makers are compulsive liars, and the car buying public seem to have bags over their heads if they are really taken in by any of this stuff.

So what of Volvo’s “Life is better lived together” campaign? The one where suitably fit, attractive looking people slide into their vehicle together to go off on some adventure. Are they saying that all these people live together and they never, ever, drive alone? Of course not. They are saying that you can have more fun in a car rather than on a coach or a train or even, God help us, using the power of our own bodies. It’s all part of the marketing machine and the car sellers love making fools out of you.

Here’s their Australian Marketing Manager, telling it like it is:

“Marketing manager Matt Braid explained the global repositioning: ‘The traditional family structure – as we all know – is changing day by day,’ he said this week. ‘We thought targeting modern families could potentially be limiting our segment. So we’ve revised our target group to ‘modern lifers’, which focuses on a consumer’s attitude to life rather than a particular life stage they’ve gone through.’ “

Go and tell Volvo, and all the other car manufacturers where to stick their lies.

Posted in Adverts, Corporate Hypocrisy, Promotions | 2 Comments »

WWF : Buy Yourself A New Corporate Image (Part 2)

Posted by keith on 16th January 2008

More WWF Corporate

So much for the Brits, WWF-USA takes the idea of corporate love-ins to a whole new level. Go to the link yourself.

GASP at the polluters who want to look green.

SWOON at the food companies who sweep things under the carpet.

Be in SHOCK AND AWE at the financiers who run the world, and pretend to save it. On the WWF corporate partners web page lies a catalogue of the biggest names in greenwash.

Let’s look…

CARGILL : The largest grain producer and exporter on Earth. Genetically modified crops…check! Deforestation…check! Large scale agribusiness…check!

COCA-COLA : Enemy of poor rural Indians and extractor of millions of gallons of much needed water every day.

ALCOA : Aluminium giant. Producer of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, and polluter of lakes and rivers throughout the world.

TOYOTA and NISSAN NORTH AMERICA : Purveyor of SUVs and 4x4s to the masses. Get ‘em while they’re belching!

TATE AND LYLE : Destroyer of native habitats worldwide. They “own” around a quarter of Mauritius.

WALT DISNEY COMPANY : Brainwashing masters. Lose your childhood to a corporate myth.

And they were just the easy ones that I didn’t have to research. If WWF are really so outrageously dumb to think that any of these companies deserves to look good and, in effect, wipe out all memory of their terrible activities, then they can go ahead, but DON’T DARE THEY SAY THEY ARE AN ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION!

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Should Know Better, Sponsorship | 3 Comments »

WWF : Buy Yourself A New Corporate Image (Part 1)

Posted by keith on 15th January 2008

WWF Corporate

Walking home from my local town centre the other day, I spotted a large advertisement by the global bank HSBC: they were proudly announcing that for every new account opened or mortgage taken out they will donate a magnificent £2 to the WWF’s rainforest protection project in Brazil. That’ll break the bank then (every pun intended)! I did a bit of hunting around and found that HSBC were committed to decent standards in their investments as regards forestry, but here’s the catch: when I wrote to WWF-UK it turned out they had absolutely no veto over HSBC’s activities.


Dear xxxx 

As discussed, and with regards to http://www.wwf.org.uk/business/whoweworkwith/c_0000000018.asp, please could you let me know whether WWF would be prepared to relinquish their partnership with HSBC (which I personally find extremely uncomfortable as it is) should it turn out that as a result of HSBC’s investment activities they were causing a net (direct or indirect) damage to rainforest ecosystems and/or the tribal peoples within.

Keith Farnish


In response I received a statement on their principles, which included “WWF  believes  that  the  most effective and long term environmental change comes  about  through  constructive and challenging dialogue and engagement with  business,  industry  and governments…” So, no answer there. I asked again.

Dear xxxx

I’m afraid this does not answer my question:

Am I correct to assume that WWF would continue to remain a partner regardless of HSBC’s activities?

Kind regards

Keith

– ——–

Hi Keith

xxxx has passed your email to me. You are asking a hypothetical question. If there was an issue we would obviously deal with it on a case by case basis. We cannot give you a blanket answer based on a hypothetical question.

I hope you can understand our position.

Best wishes

xxxx

———-

Dear xxxx

All questions regarding the future are hypothetical. WWF are combating rainforest destruction partly because you believe that it will cause a increase in atmospheric carbon levels – and quite right, too – but it is only as definite as the science says it is (around 90%). There is a strong chance, based on past behaviour that HSBC will invest in activities that cause a net loss in forest quality or area, so I am very surprised that you do not have this scenario covered. It would make the terms of your agreement far more solid, and also ensure that HSBC are far less likely to make damaging investments or loans.

Given your position I have no option but to assume that you are not protecting against this potential situation, and will have to report this as so.

Kind regards

Keith

———-

Dear Keith

You have asked us to comment on a vague hypothetical situation, which is very unusual. To make assumptions on the basis of our inability to comment on this is irresponsible journalism. As I have already said we would make decisions on a case by case basis, depending upon the scenario or issue. I also think that making assumptions on past behaviour is short sighted to say the least.

If you are making assumptions please make this clear rather than report this as fact.

Kind regards

xxxx


Very interesting. So, in short, WWF have made no agreement with HSBC that they would pull out of the partnership should HSBC behave irresponsibly. PLUS, they do not judge a company based on its past behaviour; any investments in destructive activities are swept under the carpet, provided you have the money to invest. For a stipend of around £100,000 and a little bit of box ticking, you can use the WWF logo on your headed notepaper. For an investment of around £1 million, you can plaster the WWF logo all over your adverts and look greener than green.

And if you think the UK is bad, tomorrow I will be going over to the USA…
 

Posted in NGO Hypocrisy, Promotions, Should Know Better, Sponsorship | 2 Comments »