The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for May, 2008

The Guardian: 5 Eco Holidays For Idiots

Posted by keith on 29th May 2008

vapour_trail_pa449.jpg

We’re all going on a summer holiday,
No more working for a week or two,
Fun and laughter on a summer holiday,
It’s free of carbon, so don’t be blue,
Can it really be true?

Oh, gosh! Leafing through the Travel supplement in this week’s Saturday Guardian, my wife saw something so bizarrely stupid it hardly qualifies as greenwash. “Unsuitablog!” she shouted out, as the supplement landed in my lap. And so it was – beginning with the words, “Make your sand footprint the only one that matters with these trips”.

Well, I really must check what kind of holiday (we’re talking about vacations here, not seasonal breaks) has no carbon footprint…

Ponta D’Ouro, Mozambique

Ponta D’Ouro has been earmarked by the government “to receive utmost priority for new developments”. Luckily, some want to protect rather than profit from this precious ecosystem, already under serious threat from tourism. Stay in beach huts and join marine zoologist Dr Almeida Guissamulo on a volunteering holiday, monitoring dolphins, turtles and coral reef degradation. This is hands-on conservation, not just an excuse for a diving holiday.

· People and Places (08700 460 479, travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk), £1,695 for four weeks, including accommodation and food. Kenya Airways flies from Heathrow to Maputo (kenya-airways.com). From £630 rtn.

So you can spend over $3000 on a month’s conservation work (someone has lots of time and money on their hands), and don’t mention the odd 5 or 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent getting their and back. It’s ok, because you’re doing conservation work.

Here’s another one…

La Cienaga Coral Lagoon, Venezuela

The last leg of the journey to this turquoise lagoon is 15 minutes by boat to a wooden eco-lodge right on its shores. Tucked between the mountains of Henri Pittier’s National Park, the lodge and the community’s eco policy is to combat coral degradation, reduction of fish stocks and waste. They have installed noticeboards providing environmental information, arranged with local boatmen to retrieve rubbish and are monitoring illegal fishing. All you have to do to support these efforts is walk from your beach cabin to the reef, dive in and see the beauties they are trying to protect.

· Responsibletravel.com (00 44 1273 600030). From $135 pp for two days in the eco-lodge. Air France flies from London to Caracas (0870 142 4343, airfrance.co.uk) from £390 return.

Just two days in the eco-lodge, so that means you’re going to be doing lots of other hard-core conservation work for the rest of the time to make your long-haul flight worthwhile, aren’t you…but read it again: “All you have to do to support these efforts is walk from your beach cabin to the reef, dive in and see the beauties they are trying to protect.”

Exactly how is living in the lap of bounteous luxury on a tropical reef an “eco holiday”? The other three are just as bad — long-haul flights, superficial conservation work or none at all.

I am willing to bet that the holiday / flight companies mentioned all paid for a nice slot in a popular weekend supplement — how else could they get such good advertising. Why else would The Guardian be promoting such carbon soaked vacations?

Here’s an idea for an “eco” holiday: go for a walk, take the bike out, do some gardening, enjoy the area around you. Don’t fly.

Posted in Media Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | No Comments »

The Tools Of Greenwashing: 2. Astroturfs

Posted by keith on 26th May 2008

Astroturf Car (Jacques Chiron / Daily Barometer)

Questioning and exposing the greenwashing activities of corporations, in particular, is something that the seasoned cynic makes light of; but sometimes our job is made more difficult, not so much by the quality of the greenwashing being used, but by the sheer weight of apparent “public” opinion supporting the views of the corporations.

For many years, corporations employed IT-savvy PR companies specifically to post items on newsgroups, chatrooms and bulletin boards, putting a positive spin on whatever company line was being trotted out. Much of this was simple global warming sceptic fare, the kind you still see repeated (usually using stock phrases, uncannily similar IP address ranges and men full of straw) in the comment lists of blogs and newspaper web sites.

But corporations don’t stop at that — they have plenty of money, markets to crack and worlds (well, one world) to change. This is why the Astroturf was born. Astroturf is the green plastic stuff that is made of nylon but looks a bit like grass; but it’s still synthetic, still articificial, and no sane person would think of laying it in their front garden if they wanted a lush, natural lawn. From a distance, though, astroturf can look pretty convincing, and an Astroturf can look just like a genuine grassroots organization if you don’t look that carefully.

Jim Hoggan, founder of DeSmogBlog wrote a good case study of the Astroturf, Friends of Science, in which he explains how they function:

We have an organization that presents itself as grassroots while concealing its corporate connections. We have an overlapping group of experts who have proved themselves willing to take money from one of the most compromised industries in the world (tobacco), as well as from big oil. We have “scientists” who publish almost nothing in the peer-reviewed press, but who contribute frequently to the nation’s opinion pages and who conduct barnstorming tours of the country, urging everyone from newspaper editors to groups of retirees to fight against good climate change policy.

In a previous Unsuitablog article, I introduced a game called “Follow the Links”, explaining how, with just one link to follow, it is possible to open up a whole web of misrepresentation, self-interest and outright denial from just a single individual or group. PRWatch have an ongoing roll of such groups and webs — I recommend you keep an eye on their pages.

How To Spot An Astroturf

You can easily spot Astroturfs by just checking for two or more of the following:

1. Are they making claims that fly in the face of orthodoxy, and would corporations benefit financially from these claims being true?

2. Does the web site look extremely professional, slick and “corporate”, yet does not display name any specific corporations as sponsors or backers?

3. Does the web site / information pack use “false authority”, with corporate-type logos, formal high-level job titles (President, Vice-President), quotes from well-known authority figures and other ways of pumping up its immediate credibility?

4. Is the name composed of a feel-good and/or geographical part, and an “institutional” part like “Foundation”, “Institute”, “Trust” or “Centre / Center”, e.g. Coalition for Clean Coal, American Choice Foundation, Clear Air Trust?

5. Do the people in the Advisory or VP roles work for other Astroturfs or groups with similar roles, or have they been exposed recently as being funded by corporations?

6. When you contact the group, do you have difficulty speaking directly to the authors of articles / opinion pieces in a technical manner; do they have to get someone to make a statement, or arrange a specific interview slot?

7. Has the group’s entry on Wikipedia been edited by a corporation — you can find out by using the Wiki Scanner?

Other information that you may be able to find out, but not without some effort:

8. Is the group run by a skeleton staff, despite appearing to be a large organization?

9. Does the web site / mail server use the same IP address range, or the telephone system use the same number range as that of a known corporation?

10. Is the group completely absent of genuine volunteers (as opposed to work experience positions)?

Once you have found an Astroturf, or a group you strongly suspect to be an Astroturf then make your findings public: make or edit an entry on Wikipedia and SourceWatch; e-mail news blogs and newspapers; add relevant comments to any blogs or articles that mention the Astroturf…make a nuisance of yourself you may be able to get them shut down!

Posted in Advice, Astroturfs | 3 Comments »

Civil Society Coalition On Climate Change: Astroturfing the IPCC

Posted by keith on 20th May 2008

CSCCC Obey

It’s no surprise that India is becoming a hotbed of greenwashing, with the market-friendly government and some of the richest people on Earth starting to understand the power and wealth that can be gained by brainwashing a population of a billion people into the way of industrial civilization.

For alerting me to the blatant Astroturf that is the CSCCC I have Manu Sharma to thank:

Two days ago (Apr 1, 2008) Hindustan Times carried an article titled Climate change not as big a problem: report. Lest anyone should think it as an April Fool’s joke, it was a completely serious piece based on real events. Today (Apr 3, 2008), the same correspondent published a report titled: ‘Sun too causes global warming.’

Both articles are highly misleading, contain factual inaccuracies and at the very least deliberately hide widely known facts that counter its argument to paint a biased picture. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to highlight the key issues raised by each of the stories.

Climate change not as big a problem: report [1]
by Chetan Chauhan | Page 14, HT New Delhi, Apr 1, 2008 | 353 words


Opening excerpt:

“An international civil society report has debunked the claims of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, saying there is no evidence available to show loss of human life directly due to climate change.
The report of the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change [CSCCC], to be released in India on Tuesday, says there is no evidence to suggest climate change has caused an increase in diseases.”


Highly Misleading

By pitting CSCCC directly against IPCC, the article creates the impression that both organisations are of similar stature. Nothing could be further from the truth. IPCC is a Noble prize winning United Nations body made up of hundreds of scientists and governmental representatives while CSCCC is merely a coalition of so-called global “think tanks” – corporate lobbyists funded by big oil corporations, the likes of ExxonMobil, to further their interests.

The HT article makes no mention of the background of CSCCC – who comprises the coalition and how are they funded. Unlike IPCC, which was formed two decades ago, CSCCC was only organised a little more than an year back [4] by International Policy Network (IPN) which is a well known recipient of Exxon funding. IPN has received $390,000 from Exxon. Several other members of the coalition have also been a beneficiary.

Paul Reiter, the expert cited in the article, for example, sits on the “Scientific and Economic Advisory Council” of an organization called the “Annapolis Centre.” What is Annapolis Centre? It’s a US based “think tank” that has pocketed $793,575 from ExxonMobil and has been very active in playing down the human contribution to global warming.

Reiter doesn’t have anything too substantiative in his research papers published in scientific peer reviewed journals to back his claims of lack of relationship between disease and climate change. It’s unclear how many other claims of CSCCC report are backed by research in peer reviewed journals.

Yet, here’s a newspaper that reaches out to a country of one billion, publishing unsubstantiated “research” of corporate lobbyists that have a direct financial interest in sensationalising their so-called findings; and pits them against a neutral, highly conservative group of scientists and government representatives whose work is completely based on pure scientific research published in peer-reviewed journals…

I strongly recommend you read the rest of this well-researched article here.

Astroturfs are not new, of course, and they are such powerful tools of business that I have a separate category for them on The Unsuitablog. The CSCC is notable, though, for purporting to be a truly international body, representative of “46 member organisations from 35 countries”. When you did down a little you find that these “46 member organisations” are also astroturfs or even more obvious corporate lobby bodies, making the CSCCC a Super Astroturf.

Time For A Game

There’s a fun game you can play, trying to find out why they are members of CSCCC — it’s called “follow the links“.

I picked the very first body on the list, the Alabama Policy Institute.

Go to http://www.alabamapolicy.org/ for the main site, then click on “About Us“. Nothing particularly exciting, except some stuff about wanting to bring religion into politics. Click on “Press and Media” instead, to find out that their President is Gary Palmer. Click on his biography and you find:

“Gary co-founded the Alabama Policy Institute, formerly known as the Alabama Family Alliance, in 1989. Gary was previously employed by Rust International in cost analysis, and prior to that with Combustion Engineering in the environmental systems division.”

A man of business clearly, and also someone who is very fond of religious censorship. But Gary isn’t our main man, it is Vice President Michael Ciamarra :

“a widely published columnist and a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s National Task Force on Tax Policy and The Heritage Foundation Resource Bank. He is an advisor to the National Center for Health Transformation.”

Let’s go to the American Legislative Exchange Council at http://www.alec.org. Here you will find, under ALEC Initiative > Internation Relations :

“Free trade is central to ALEC’s vision of the way nation states should relate to each other. In order to fully realize a broad and deep free market that reaches across the Atlantic, we need to mobilize strong leadership from legislators on both sides, as well as our business communities. Now, more than ever, conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic need to continue their challenge to over-taxing, over-borrowing and over-governing.”

Hmmm, wonder why preventing climate change would be a worry to ALEC then? What about the Heritage Foundation Resource Bank?

With a little digging around…bingo! Here’s a brilliant (well, crap) piece of straw man thinking:

http://theheritagefoundry.org/2008/05/19/the-polar-bears-are-coming/

And there are many more: have a look at this lot.

And finally, the National Center for Health Transformation. Take a look at their members! Clearly it’s the public whose concern is foremost in CHT’s mind — surely nothing to do with ensuring the market economy is vibrant and all powerful.

It’s a great game that all the family can play, and I think I’ll be playing it a lot more in the future.

Posted in Astroturfs, Corporate Hypocrisy, Media Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy | 2 Comments »

National Geographic: Changing The Climate One Advert At A Time

Posted by keith on 15th May 2008

F*** The Polar Bears!

This month at your local news stand, and in supermarkets up and down the Western world, you will find National Geographic Magazine devoting an entire issue to the realities of climate change. It’s their “Changing Climate” edition. It’s not the first time National Geographic has featured on The Unsuitablog: last time they were filling their regular editions with car adverts, showing that their primary motivation is to make money.

But, a whole edition on climate change, surely they wouldn’t stoop so low as to place unsuitable adverts, would they? I didn’t need to read the text to know that it would contain the usual superficial sycophantic articles about issues that need to be given the acid rather than the warm flannel treatment — we are talking about global catastrophe here, guys! I also didn’t need to read the Solutions section to know that the only solutions presented would be straight out of Ikea and Walmart, and nothing to do with actually changing the way humans live.

I didn’t have to read the text, but I did — and I was right on both counts. But one thing that struck me was the apparent absence of adverts throughout the magazine; a pleasant surprise, I may add, considering the normal consumer rush that readers are subjected to each month.

And then I looked inside the front cover:

ConocoPhillips. A full page advert telling us that they are funding university courses, brainwashing the minds of tomorrow into the ways of the oilman. Yes, ConocoPhillips, major stakeholder in the Syncrude partnership, extracting millions of barrels of thick, carbon-intensive oil from the tar sands of Canada. ConocoPhillips, major supporter of the hopelessly polluting coal to ethanol technology, and all round destroyer of ecosystems across the globe.

As I put the magazine back on the shelf, I glanced at the back cover. There, staring at me, bathed in the verdant, lush glow of a forest canopy, proudly sitting on a rough dirt track, was a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. “Green Vehicle Of The Year” despite notching up a piss-poor 21 MPG fuel economy. Chevy, makers of a sizable chunk of the most polluting cars in the USA and recent stars of The Unsuitablog.

Thank you for this eye-opener, National Geographic Magazine: three great greenwashers all coming together in a symphony of shit. I bet you are so proud of yourselves!

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

The Tools Of Greenwashing: 1. Adverts

Posted by keith on 14th May 2008

Time Square Adverts 

Not everything on The Unsuitablog is greenwashing, sometimes it is about organisations that are just being foolish or aren’t informed enough to realise they are being hypocritical; sometimes it is about stuff that is just plain bad, and is featured because it is bad enough that everyone should know about. But the vast majority of stuff here is Greenwash. If you are a regular reader (for which I am very grateful) then you will already know how to spot greenwash. But just spotting it won’t stop it happening; we need to know more about the various tools companies, authorities, NGOs and other areas of life use to pull the leaves over our eyes.

The first one in this small series is Advertising.

The first time most people, including me, come across greenwashing is in the form of an advertisement. Adverts are, by their nature, commercial tools: they exist to encourage people to spend money. Straight away we can see a problem here, because the act of spending money — in the vast majority of cases — is unsustainable, regardless of the product being purchased. If you buy something new (when was the last time you saw an advert for something pre-owned?) then you are almost certain to be using non-renewable materials; and also non-renewable energy that was used to produce, transport, market and retail the item.

There are many different types of advertisement, ranging from press adverts in your local, small-circulation freesheet, national newspaper and magazine adverts, radio and television adverts (again these could be local or national), cinema adverts, billboards and the various forms of moving and placed adverts in a huge number of different items — bus tickets, schoolbooks, taxicabs etc.

In general, the glossier, bigger and larger circulation the advertisement, the more money that has been spent on it — and, therefore, the more money the advertiser is hoping to recoup from the sale of the item. For instance, a full-page adverts in National Geographic, Time or the Washington Post will cost tens of thousands of Dollars / Euros / Pounds etc. A 30 second spot in the middle of a major sporting event can cost millions.

If you see “green” claims in these, high-cost adverts, then you can be sure that you are looking at a piece of clever, slick greenwash. These people pay advertising agencies a hell of a lot of money to ensure their messages get across — the messages that the advertiser wants the public to see, and nothing else. Compare this to a local radio or newspaper advert, that might make environmental claims: if greenwashing, they are far more likely to be clumsy and opaque; but greenwashing is rare in such adverts. The high-cost advertisement is the home of much of the very worst greenwashing.

The public, sadly, have very short memories: this is not the fault of the public; it is the fault of the advertisers who continually pump a stream of digital sewage into our brains — who can blame people for forgetting the slip-ups of the past. And here is another key point: the greenwasher with money can afford to take a chance that they will be exposed, because if they do manage to pull off the perfect greenwash, they will have pulled it off in front of millions of potential consumers, many of whom are looking for products that are that bit greener. If they do get found out; well, there will be another advert, another slogan, another logo along in a short while ready to wipe out the memory of the greenwash.

The key message here, then, is be vigilant, be smart, and never forget.

Oh, and forget the “greensumption”: it’s just a con.

Posted in Adverts, Advice | 2 Comments »

Chevy Tahoe Hybrid: Read The Figures And Weep

Posted by keith on 12th May 2008

Frankly it’s a pile of crap

It’s 2008. Chevy have broken the mould and built a big SUV that is also a hybrid! Aren’t they fantastic?

The Hybrid Taken To Its Logical Extreme

The 2008 Chevy Tahoe already has best-in-class fuel economy. So why mess with a good thing? To make it better, of course. Seems the Green Car Journal agrees — they’ve named the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid the Green Car of the Year.

This is from the Chevy web site. There are a few notes attached to the statement, which you might find interesting. Shall we read it again?

The Hybrid Taken To Its Logical Extreme

The 2008 Chevy Tahoe already has best-in-class fuel economy. (1) So why mess with a good thing? To make it better, of course. Seems the Green Car Journal agrees — they’ve named the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid (2) the Green Car of the Year.(3)

(1) Based on 2007 GM Large Utility segment and 2008 EPA estimates. Tahoe 2WD with available 5.3L V8 has EPA est. MPG 14 city/20 hwy.

(2) Limited availability starting January 2008.

(3) For more information, visit GreenCar.com.

So, let’s get this right: (1) It is Best In Class compared to GM’s other f*** off SUV monsters — not other manfacturers’ SUVs, just those made by GM. (2) There will be hardly any of them (actually, that’s got to be a good thing). (3) Green Car magazine is run by a guy who loves cars — the “environment” (as they define it) is a selling point.

Just in case you missed it, the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid does 20MPG on the highway (that’s 25MPG if you are not in North America). Quite frankly, that is s***. It’s a huge lump of metal, tweaked by some engineers to make GM look green, which, even compared to other SUVs is just another gas-guzzler.

Time to learn a lesson: the auto industry want to sell cars. They will say anything to sell cars. They will destroy the planet if it means they can sell more cars. Don’t believe a word they say.

End of lesson.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Promotions | 6 Comments »

Honda Goes Blue, Green, Whatever

Posted by keith on 9th May 2008

Honda Tote Bags Not Advertising At All

A golden rule I have on The Unsuitablog is, regardless of the target of an item, I will not shy away from saying what I think — and I will also ensure this is backed up by facts on the ground, in the air, water, wherever.

When a company, authority, charity etc. tries to pull the wool over my eyes, I will make sure I find out the truth, and not pull any punches with my opinions. If a company etc. is honest with me (after 25 years of buying and selling stuff, It’s easy to tell) I will just lay down the facts, and go easy on the opinion.

So, in this case, my only comment is: “Who are they trying to kid?”


On Saturday I received an e-mail from Kristin, representing a group of Honda dealers in California:

Hi Keith,

I am interested in speaking with you about the editorial content of your blog. We are the PR/Marketing agency representing the So Cal Honda Dealers Association, who has launched a new initiative for the Honda Helpful campaign, Honda Blue Goes Green. This new initiative goes hand in hand with this month’s environmental theme and would be a great fit with your website!

Please find attached the press release on the initiative. This new eco-friendly initiative is one of the many ways the So Cal Honda Dealers are unexpectedly helping the local residents, whether they’re handing out waters, hand wipes, helping people with their purchases or walking people to their cars with umbrellas on a rainy day. The community has responded really well to the Helpful teams and is always pleasantly surprised by their unexpected helpfulness. Again, we think this initiative is a perfect fit with your website!

I’d love to speak with you further about this great new initiative helping local residents become more eco-friendly! Please let me know if you have any questions or need any additional information. Feel free to email me or call!

Best,
Kristin Baker

I responded:

Dear Kristen

This is greenwash of the highest order. All of the examples you mention are encouraging people to drive more: exactly how is this “eco-friendly”?!

I’m sure your Tote Bag hasn’t got a Honda advert on it, has it?

And what about those wonderfully environmentally friendly vehicles you are selling. I picked out the first one on the web site’s list: the Odyssey (http://automobiles.honda.com/odyssey/specifications.aspx?group=epa). 20 miles per gallon: that is a complete pile of excrement. But it’s ok, because you are helping people plant trees — and, of course, telling people not to drive…no?

You’ve never read my web site, have you? Try this, and see if it fits with your plan: http://earth-blog.bravejournal.com/entry/24053. So, of course I will featuring your campaign with pleasure — on The Unsuitablog:
www.unsuitablog.com

Best wishes
Keith

Maybe I’m getting grumpy and cynical in my old age (well, there’s no “maybe” about it) but she did say it would be, “a perfect fit with your website”. Just not the one she was thinking of. To give her credit, she was polite in return:

Dear Keith,

I’m sorry if you misunderstood the message behind the Hobda [sic.] Helpful campaign. The Helpful teams are out in the field helping the local community in unexpected ways, not asking people to buy Honda vehicles.

The same goes for the Honda Blue Goes Green campaign. The Guys and Girls in Blue hand out reusable grocery totes at recycling centers, grocery stores and farmer’s markets to all customers, not just people with Hondas! And, with each reusable tote So Cal Honda Dealers Association will plant a tree in the recipients name for free, without asking them to buy a car but help replenish acres of forest land destroyed by fires.

I understand if you don’t feel the campaign is  right for your blog, but I’d appreciate the chance to explain the message behind the Helpful campaign a bit further, before you post it as unsuitable.

Thank you for your time.

Best,
Kristin Baker

I didn’t misunderstand the message, but I thought I’d give her a chance:

Ok, just three questions:

1) Do the Tote Bags have “Honda” or a Honda logo on them?

2) Do the people being helped out know that the helpers are employed by Honda dealers?

3) Why did you want me to mention your current campaign on my blog?

Regards
Keith

I even chased her up last night for a response, so I could get the full picture. Here it is:

Hello Keith,

In answer to your question, when the Guys and Girls in Blue approach customers, they initially ask if they would like to receive a reusable grocery bag, and when the recipient says “Yes. Thank you” the teams respond with “You’re welcome; It’s our job to be helpful at Honda!”

I have attached an image of the tote bags for your reference.

And finally, we contacted you to see if you were interested in posting items that let readers know about the different ways businesses are encouraging local communities to become environmentally friendly.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or need anything else!

Best,
Kristin Baker

Thank you Kristin; no more questions.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Promotions | 1 Comment »

Eden Project Sexy Green Car Show: Almost Beyond Comment

Posted by keith on 7th May 2008

Hypocritical Green Car Show

A few years ago, possibly in 2004, I visited the Eden Project; a mixture of perfectly tended meadows, terraces and exotic planting, topped off by a pair of impressive plastic “biomes” (they were building the third at the time), all in the setting of an abandoned clay pit in Cornwall, England. My family took home some wonderful memories from that day — it was steaming hot, so much so that the Tropical Biome had to be fully vented; my younger daughter had endless fun running around the mazes and gawping at the giant bee; my older daughter discovered what it was like to be soaked in a tropical mist.

Spin forwards four years, and something has gone bad in Eden — they are allowing themselves to be used as a platform for every major car company to do a spot of greenwashing. What better place to pretend you have the interests of the planet at heart than at the Eden Project, that bastion of sustainable tourism and ecological education for all generations? What better place to show that cars are not bad things — they are just misunderstood.

The official blurb makes for deeply uncomfortable reading:

Why a car show at the Eden Project? 
 
Love them or hate them, cars are not going away. But road transport accounts for a fifth of our carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, so it’s time to transform the way we buy and use them.

 
The good news is that we can reduce road transport carbon dioxide emissions by a massive 80% by 2050 if we start buying the right vehicles now and take our old bangers off the roads. The technology is out there and our Sexy Green Car Show brings it to you.

You can read this in one of two ways: first, that there is a general acceptance that car transport is not going away for a long time, so we need to make the best of the situation we have; second, that car transport is a good thing, and it can be made even better if it is made greener. The difference is subtle, but is important.

The first explanation is realistic — it accepts that there will be a need for some car transport, in some places for quite a while until alternatives are found or, more importantly, people stop having the need to travel so much. The second explanation is straight out of the greenwashing guide, written by the automotive giants. Yes, maybe individual vehicle emissions can reduce by 80% in 42 years (not that that is anything like sufficient), but the car companies are exploiting huge markets in Asia and South America, plus pushing to ensure car transport is the only option for travel in the industrial West: net transport emissions are unlikely to go down at all, regardless of how “green” individual vehicles are.

The second explanation is the true meaning of the Sexy Green Car Show. Take a look at the roster of companies showing at the event:

All the major manufacturers will be flaunting their newest, greenest models including Ford, Peugeot, Citroën, Fiat, Volkswagen, SEAT, Honda, Axon, Lotus, Saab and Morgan. Vectrix’s electric motorcycle will also be on show, and the hydrogen-powered Morgan LIFE car will make its first public appearance in this country.

This is a trade event, designed to make car manufacturers look good, while still continuing their effortless plundering of the planet’s diminishing natural assets. Eden Project, you have well and truly been taken for a ride.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Promotions, Should Know Better, Sponsorship | No Comments »

AT&T: Greening Government And Military Oppression

Posted by keith on 5th May 2008

Soldier Cellphone

How green is your telecommunications company? Can it match us? AT&T lead the world in compassion and environmental nurturing through four main areas of its business. 

1. Supplying military equipment:

AT&T is an official provider of personal telecommunications services for all five branches of U. S. military at 529 military bases worldwide and on 200 U. S. Navy ships afloat through contracts with AAFES, NEXCOM, MCCS and the Coast Guard Exchange.  (from here)

2. Spying on the public:

Mark Klein, a former technician who worked for AT&T for 22 years, provided three technical documents, totaling 140 pages, to the EFF and to The New York Times, which first reported last December that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on citizens’ phone calls without obtaining warrants.

AT&T built a secret room in its San Francisco switching station that funnels internet traffic data from AT&T Worldnet dialup customers and traffic from AT&T’s massive internet backbone to the NSA, according to a statement from Klein. 

3. Polluting waterways:

AT&T Corp. agreed to a $25 million settlement of a lawsuitalleging that the company risked polluting ground water with toxicchemicals by failing to properly test and repair hundreds of underground storage tanks for gasoline and diesel fuel, California officials said Tuesday. (from here)

4. Recycling cellphones:

When you donate your used cell phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers, your phones are either reconditioned and reused — or they’re disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. Best of all, the proceeds provide free phone cards for U.S. military families.

You can celebrate Earth Day every day. Run a cell phone donation drive in your community — at your office, school, apartment building or place of worship.

Well, that does it for me! Recycling cellphones is such a great thing that I’m just going to forgive AT&T for being a key part of the military-industrial complex, and using their corporate leverage to ensure that their worst secrets go untold (Don Rumsfeld was right when he talked about “unknown unknowns”).

I’m not going to comment on the rights or wrongs of Cell Phones for Soldiers — soldiers are human too (even though their leaders clearly aren’t) so want to talk to their families — but why are AT&T making such a big deal about their recycling drive, touting it as their Earth Day effort? It’s a classic piece of greenwashing designed to make this corporate behemoth look good as they do so much bad stuff.

The Unsuitablog received this from an AT&T employee recently:

AT&T touts its goal to double the number of cellphones recycled  through its stores in 2008, while refusing to provide bins in its offices for employees to recycle non-business paper (i.e. newspapers),  aluminum and plastic. The reason they don’t? They say it is too  expensive. The cellphone recycling press release touts how easy it is  to “go green for earth day”, but the company doesn’t follow through in  other areas. They do provide bins for office paper, but that is only  to protect customer and corporate data; I’ve been yelled at for  putting newspaper in there. My office used to have bins for  recyclables, but they were removed in the interest of “cost cutting”.

When I asked if there were any other examples of environmental hypocrisy, this nugget of information followed:

We are expected to leave our computers on overnight so that “updates can download”. They want us to logout and leave Windows at the login screen, and turn our monitors off (not let them go to sleep; turn them off). As a corporate laptop user, I’m not supposed to leave the laptop on overnight, since I have to lock it up. To me, that pretty much indicates that the necessary updates can download just fine in the background as I’m working on other things.

As for corporate excess, their environmental controls policy really needs work. In the summer, the internal temperature is set to 68. In the winter, it’s 78. It is not uncommon for people to wear coats at their desks during the summer and having to use fans (to no avail) in the winter.

So there’s a company acting both globally (bad) and locally (bad). AT&T, welcome to the Greenwashing Elite!


N.B. If you have any examples of corporate greenwashing then The Unsuitablog welcomes them. All sources will be kept anonymous upon request. Just e-mail news@unsuitablog.com.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Promotions | 1 Comment »

Green Taxes: A Hard Lesson For Environmental Lightweights

Posted by keith on 2nd May 2008

Money Not Earth

So, as I suspected all along; according to an article in todays Independent, the public don’t support “green” taxes.

More than seven in 10 voters insist that they would not be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund projects to combat climate change, according to a new poll.  

Wow! What a revelation: people don’t want to pay money to save the planet. For some bizarre reason the mainstream environmental movement still think that money and the planet mix, and that if they can only persuade governemnts to impose taxes to change behaviour then everything will get better. For instance:

It’s tax time – time to fight global warming and save yourself some green at the same time.

Federal, state, and local governments offer a range of tax incentives, grants, and loans that will help you save energy, fight global warming, reduce your energy bills, and let you keep more green in your wallet after Tax Day comes around.

That’s our old friends The Sierra Club, talking up the “green dollar”.

Increasing taxes on fossil fuels is an essential weapon in the Government’s armoury for tackling climate change. And if Alistair Darling used these extra taxes to cut those on people and jobs, it would be extremely popular too. It’s time the Treasury played its full part in delivering a low-carbon economy.

Friends of the Earth this time.

It’s a funny subject, because governments are loathe to impose punative taxation on environmentally damaging activities — well, that would mean taxing everything, really — which would seem to suggest that “green” taxes are actually a good thing for the environment. Sure, a 100% increase in fuel duty might make people think twice about buying fuel, but it would also be a guaranteed vote loser. In an age of apparent environmental awareness, why should that be?

The simple fact is that the whole of civilization is geared towards making money.

Who wouldn’t complain if someone tried to take it away from you — for environmental reasons or not. The environmental mainstream are terminally stuck in a mindset that says it is possible to make things better by working within the system — imposing “green” taxes, making business “greener”, buying “green” products — the very system that is nothing without economic growth.

Fools!

Back to the Independent article:

The results of the poll by Opinium, a leading research company, indicate that maintaining popular support for green policies may be a difficult act to pull off, and attempts in the future to curb car use and publicly fund investment in renewable resources will prove deeply unpopular.

That’s not news — that’s just the way things are in this consumption culture.

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