The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for September, 2008

EV-EON: Nice Bit Of Subvertising (Shame About The Solutions)

Posted by keith on 30th September 2008


Here’s something nice from a group that brainstormed an idea at the 2008 UK Climate Camp; EV-EON. EON want to build the first of a whole raft of coal-fired power stations in the UK, so these guys decided – and I’m guessing there are a few graphic designers and web bods involved – to make a spoof, which works well.

But, as with so many ideas like this, it falls down on the back story and the “solutions”. The introduction starts like this:

We are people just like you. We have no logo, no board of directors, no political agenda. We aren’t long-haired neo-luddites dreaming of a return to some grubby medieval society. We have jobs, in London, that we like.

Now, excuse me for interrupting, but my friends at various road protest and other camps are already fed up with the calls of “Get a bath!” and “Get a haircut!” and, especially, “Get a job!” so would rather the idea that it’s ok to have these feelings is not promulgated. Anyway, so what if they shower a bit less than the hygiene-frenzied middle classes (they are still healthy) and, so what if some of them have long hair and, so what if many of them would rather not be work slaves and instead spend their time trying to take us to a world where wages and product aren’t the be-all and end-all.

I don’t like that statement, s’all I’m saying.

The “solutions” could also be a lot better:

Help expose the carbon capture and storage myth by forwarding this site to a friend and talking about it to everyone you know.
[Fair enough, that’s what I’m doing]

Come along to the August 2008 Camp for Climate Action that is being held at Kingsnorth, the site of E.on’s proposed new coal fired power station and make yourself count.
[Sorry, that’s finished]

Demand a public enquiry. Say no to new coal. It only takes a minute. Its worth it in the long term!
[Solutions bound to the system and the law: what is it the system wants more than anything?]

Switch to an energy provider that doesn’t use fossil fuels, such as Good Energy, or urge your energy provider to support renewable energy (check out your provider’s fuel mix).
[Already do the former – sod the other providers, they don’t deserve your money]

Discover the alternatives to coal and the pathway to a Zero Carbon Britain by 2027.
[Ok, at last we’re talking about reducing consumption – which is the only option. Why isn’t this at the top? In fact Zero Carbon Britain is still entrenched in civilization, so is doomed to failure]

I understand that the people who set this site up want to remain civilized and would love to see a world where they can carry on living in the same way but with no impact. Anyone who knows about economics, commerce and politics knows that this is impossible; I recommend a certain online book – maybe starting with Chapter 11 to save time – they are busy people with jobs in London that they love, after all.

Still, nice bit of subvertising.

Posted in Should Know Better, Spoofs | No Comments »

The Carbon Trust: State Sponsored Greenwashing (With A Little Help From Greenpeace)

Posted by keith on 29th September 2008

Carbon Trust Business

I have a confession to make: about 18 months ago, when I was still part of the economic machine, I spent some time calculating the carbon footprint of the company I worked for. To help me, I used the guides provided by the Carbon Trust a, what I thought then, fairly reliable and objective agency of the UK Government working for, I thought at the time, reducing the overall carbon emissions of the UK.

How stupid was I?

In these times of economic downturn and the promise that the runaway consumer culture may be on a crash course in all sorts of ways (hooray!) this apparently earnest organisation turns out to be nothing more than a cheerleader for business growth. Take a look at the advert above or, if you dare, some of the other promotions. Superficially you might think that what they are saying is that, by reducing your energy consumption, you will improve the profitability of your existing business. In actual fact they are pushing something very bad indeed: business growth as an incentive for reducing emissions. A display advert of theirs says:

“Last year consumers bought £4.3bn worth of low carbon goods in the UK alone. Good news if you’re in the market for new customers”

Do you see what they’ve done? In effect they are not cutting emissions at all because all that is being done is allowing more wriggle-room for business to boom, while increasing the carbon intensity of the business – less carbon per monetary unit, but no less carbon overall.

You might think that this is a good thing: after all if business keeps growing then it’s better to reduce their impact. But that’s not the point at all – why should businesses grow at all? Profit is simply the result of excess consumption, which feeds further growth which leads to further consumption – profit drives the capital economy which actively discourages (nay, suppresses) any attempt to merely sustain or reduce consumption.

In March 2008, The Carbon Trust joined hands with HSBC, one of the largest banks in the world, to provide funds for renewable energy projects in the public sector; in other words a bank was allowed, through a government agency, to start driving funding for public sector projects while at the same time making themselves look like they were doing good. HSBC were given a great deal of power over public policy for a pittance (£18m).

It was so obvious that HSBC were greenwashing but stupid is as stupid does – I remember one great thinker saying (ha!) – which would explain why Greenpeace grabbed the bait with both hands and immediately clarified their position on private interference in public life:

“This is an excellent example of private finance delivering real emissions reductions through innovative partnerships. It also demonstrates that significant cost effective renewable energy potential exists at all levels rather than simply in industrial scale wind power, and that a viable business case can be made for this investment. Within the context of the UK’s demanding emissions reductions targets, we sincerely hope this is a sign of things to come.”

“Industrial”, “Hope”, “Innovative partnerships”, “Demanding emissions reduction targets”? Welcome to the corporate world of Greenpeace: and perhaps goodbye to a few Greenpeace subscription renewals…

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Government Policies, NGO Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | No Comments »

Lexus Greenwashing Ad Banned In UK

Posted by keith on 24th September 2008

Lexus Fraud

Yes, people really are getting the message about greenwashing and, at least for the moment, some of it is being stamped down upon. I highlighted an appalling advertisement by Lexus in March 2008, which had been banned for claiming “High performance, Low emissions, Zero guilt”. Lexus subsequently toned down their adverts, but still implied that driving one was environmentally acceptable.

The full story is told in The Guardian:

A national press advertising campaign for a Lexus hybrid four-wheel drive car has been banned after it claimed it was “perfect for today’s climate”.

Viewers complained that the ad misleadingly implied that it caused “little or no harm” to the environment.

The press ad, for the Lexus RX 400h, made the claim: “perfect for today’s climate. (And tomorrow’s) … Driving the world’s first luxury hybrid SUV makes environmental, and economic, sense …”

Four complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority that the claims were misleading because “they implied that the car caused little or no harm to the environment and gave a misleading impression of the car’s CO2 emissions in comparison with other vehicles”.

Lexus said that the use of the word “climate” in the ad was meant to operate at “two levels”.

One was that in the current economic market the Lexus was offered with attractive financial packages, the other that hybrid cars were more environmentally friendly.

Lexus said that it did not claim that the vehicle caused “little or no harm” to the environment, just that it was more environmentally friendly than standard premium SUV vehicles.

But the ASA said the ad implied that the vehicle’s emission rate was low in relation to all vehicles and that readers were likely to understand that “the car caused little or no harm to the environment”.

The watchdog concluded that the ads were likely to mislead and banned the ads.

Lexus said it amended the copy after receiving the complaints.

If it only takes 4 complaints to get an advert banned, it must mean the ASA are getting pretty strict on greenwashing. If only this were the case in the rest of the world.

Posted in Adverts, Corporate Hypocrisy, Good News! | No Comments »

Environmental Media Association: Pulling The Message In All Directions

Posted by keith on 22nd September 2008

Environmental Money Association

Picture the scene: celebrities schmoozing at a high-class champagne reception for the latest Hollywood blockbuster wrap-up — their air kisses filling the room with pretend adoration and hidden acrimony; the canapes filled with lobster and caviar and, for the vegetarians, air-freighted olives from the sun-kissed slopes of Kos; the gentle padding footsteps as another guest descends from her limousine onto the Du Pont protected red carpet and through the crystal chandeliered foyer into the warm glow of decadent luxury.

But hey, guys! Wait up! We’ve got a message to give, and we’ve gotta give it out to the world: “Love the Earth, like, all of it, not just the polar bears and stuff. Let’s give over our next fashion spreads to fabulous green-tinted clothes and organic hampers. Let’s show the world that we care too!”

The Environmental Media Association want to be the green voice of Hollywood and it’s media arms across the world, with things like this:

* A stylish Hollywood dinner party hosted by Mary-Kate Olsen where celebrity EMA Board Members ‘mentored’ the group on how to live a sustainable lifestyle. Attendees include Mischa Barton, Joshua Jackson, Jesse Metcalfe, Nicole Richie and other young celebrities. The event was covered in Teen Vogue.

* Playful yet informative PSA’s featuring Emmanuelle Chriqui, Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Maroon 5, Debra Messing, Edward Norton, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jason Ritter, Marla Sokoloff, Constance Zimmer and others. Topics range from water, air, energy and more, and have been aired nationwide on network, local and cable TV channels as well as specialized radio markets.

* EMA Board Member DJ AM spins at the first annual EMA E! Golden Green Party, ditching his gas-guzzling car for a new Lexus hybrid. TreePeople planted a tree for every party attendee including: Pink, JC Chavez, Jon Heder, Amy Smart and Sacha Baron Cohen. The event was covered by E! Entertainment Television, InStyle, USWeekly, People and more.

Can you see the power of celebrities changing the world for the better? Nope, me neither.

Many of us who have worked with computers have heard the phrase (usually applied to a heavily-tweaked, but underlyingly bad piece of software), “there’s no point varnishing a turd!” What we have here is a group of people who are trying to assuage their guilt — and they should be damn guilty, after spending most of their working lives selling us a planet-stripping,, synthetic dream —
through an appallingly superficial piece of greenwashing.

I honestly can’t say anything good about an organisation who write the following, with reference to engaging corporations in becoming “green”:

EMA has been at the forefront in working closely with the corporate world to move the environmental agenda forward. By supporting companies that incorporate environmental business practices and offer sustainable products, we not only put a spotlight on their products, but also encourage their competitors to follow suit. EMA’s credo: We can all change the world through shopping!

For f*ck sake! Is this real or is it a cover up for a cover up for a cover up of something that is aiming to actually make the world a worse place? I’m guessing that the organisers think it’s real, but in fact they have been duped, through their own obvious ignorance into creating the latter, and here’s why…

They have a Corporate Board, which if the other organisations I have covered are anything to go by, hold a great deal of sway over the message being given out. Apart from the gaggle of “eco-businesses” (yes, it’s a contradiction), notice the following less than ethical members:

BP America Inc. – Cindy Wymore (oil, gas, tar sands…)
Modern Traveler Magazine – Robert McElwee (long haul flights to everywhere)
New Pacific Realty Corporation – David P. Margulies (developer of vast malls and complexes)
Office Depot – Yalmaz Siddiqui, Tom Fernandez (clear felling, tropical hardwoods)
Southern California Edison – Hal Conklin (coal fired power stations)
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. – Ed LaRocque, Mary Nickerson (hey, it’s a Prius! Oh, and lots of SUVs)
Yahoo! – Amy Iorio (friends of Chinese censorship)

Putting celebrity lifestyle and “green” together is bad enough, but when you let these kinds of companies into the room then you may as well say goodbye to any semblence of credibility you were striving for.

Posted in Astroturfs, Celebrity Hypocrisy, Media Hypocrisy | No Comments »

New York Overnight: Why The Hell Bother!

Posted by keith on 18th September 2008

New York Overnight Is A Waste

I’ve been getting some really transparent, awfully sad examples of greenwash lately, which suggests that the bandwagon is full and those that didn’t jump on in time are running after it in desperation. The big boys like BP, Ford, Exxon and DuPont have greenwashing off to a fine art, which is why articles like How To Spot Greenwash are so popular – people suspect and just want to check.

On the other hand, it’s very amusing to see the pathetic examples I’m sent, if only because it gives me a chance to knock their press release back into their faces with interest. Here’s a really awful one I got only today…


New Transcontinental Package Service Pledges Carbon Offsets;

Outperforms Majors on Price, Offers LATE Pickups

Los Angeles, CA, September 17th, 2008 — New York Overnight today announces a new green shipping service!! Entertainment and production industry moguls have always enjoyed the best airline service from Los Angeles to New York. However, these valuable customers’ overnight deliveries still get the same old treatment from traditional shippers such as FedEx and UPS while their fuel surcharges have gone sky-high. A new yet experienced player promises to change the landscape of overnight delivery: New York Overnight. New York Overnight combines value, convenience and–in a first for the industry-a greener footprint as well with carbon-neutral, 100% offset emissions.

New York Overnight, through an agreement with industry-leading Climate Clean, whose clients include Nike, Veev and the Environmental Media Association [must look them up – Ed.], is now offsetting 100% of the emissions for its Los Angeles-New York to Los Angeles shipments.

Of course, overnight shipping with a conscience doesn’t come cheap. It comes cheaper–MUCH cheaper. In fact, a one-pound package shipped from Los Angeles to New York via New York Overnight cost only $14.21 while FedEx charges $42.31 (with a 20% discount) and UPS charges $43.66 (with a 20% discount). That’s a 67% savings over its two biggest competitors. Further, New York Overnight will guarantee their Los Angeles-New York prices for at least one year.

Finally, while other shippers’ customers engage in the daily scramble to make deadlines, or worse, make it to the airport, New York Overnight makes office pickups as late as 7:00PM.

“We’re pleased to enhance our service offering with carbon neutrality,” says New York Overnight founder, Inna Waary. “Our clients in the entertainment, banking, apparel and pharmaceuticals industries have long relied on us. We’ve built a reputation for quality, service value and above all, complete reliability. Now we can offer a little something extra-a contribution to our future. That doesn’t come overnight-it comes over a lifetime.”

Hilary Morse * PMG
8265 Sunset, Suite 106 * Los Angeles CA 90046
W) 323 337 9042 * C) 310 717 9592

My response was short and to the point…

Alternatively, Hilary, you could just stop being in one of the most polluting industries in the world that has built up expectations of the possibility of ultra-quick delivery and ended up having no alternative but to offset (for all the good that is). If Americans didn’t expect to be able to get goods from one side of the country to another overnight then they would be able to use overland transport – preferably rail, a mode of transport that has been killed off by the air industry. As it is, you are trying to greenwash us with something that isn’t even necessary to greenwash; just do it a different way.

Thanks for the information, this will go down very well on The Unsuitablog, an anti-greenwashing site that I operate.

Keith Farnish

As we all know, offsetting was only invented to allow the consumer culture to carry on as normal, with less guilt. Of course, the lack of guilt is an illusion – like everything else in the Culture Of Maximum Harm – you should feel guilty if you want to get a parcel from LA to New York overnight! They are not talking about replacement kidneys here, they are talking about DVDs, sneakers, advertising proofs and all that really important (ha!) stuff.

Get a grip people!

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Offsetting | 6 Comments »

Meta Irony? MTV Makes My Brain Hurt (from The Sietch Blog)

Posted by keith on 17th September 2008

This video is from MTV, and is basically about the evils of green washing. If you want to know all about green washing you should check out The Unsuitablog, Keith does a fantastic idea of pointing out the hypocrisy of many of the worst offenders.

But this has got to be one of the most ironic, perplexing video’s ever. MTV purveyor of all things over the top, all things gluttony, all things bling, and all things more more more, telling us to be green. I like how they mention not to trust people who put a slick ad campaign filled with celebrities over their bad behavior…

This is not just ironic, this is ironic irony, or meta irony. This kind of irony requires a whole new kind of math, and special computers, and a chart to figure out. Sorry MTV good try, but so long as you have Pimp My Ride, and shows about silly rich kids buying everything under the sun, and endless stories about this or that rich celebrity buying this or that you will not be green.

[from The Sietch Blog]

Thanks to The Sietch, The Unsuitablog was given a home, and for that I am eternally grateful. Cheers, Naib.

Posted in Media Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

VCS: Making Greenwashing Easier

Posted by keith on 12th September 2008

Vast Carbon Source

Everyone loves carbon offsetting, don’t they? The environmental campaigner trying to green their lifestyle; the holiday maker cancelling out their flight emissions; the large corporation pretending that it is dramatically cutting its emissions…offset and the atmosphere is your oyster — everyone’s happy!

I’m kidding, of course.

Carbon offsetting is, well I don’t need to tell you what happens if you have a storage problem in your house and you build a big shed — it fills with crap, doesn’t it? If you’re producing thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide the metaphorical “shed” is a mixture of all the nice projects you’re sponsoring to build wind turbines, plant trees, send energy saving lightbulbs to the poor people and maybe throw a few tonnes of carbon dioxide underground for good measure. But it can’t happen properly unless you have some standards, and a nice catchy name, and a serious logo…as long as you are still running the show.

The Voluntary Carbon Standard is big industry’s answer to the age-old problem of keeping the economy growing by shifting the problem elsewhere. Short of bagging up all the CO2 thrown out by manufacturers, energy producers, deforesters, miners and countless other greenhouse gas producing activities, the VCS has allowed corporations to throw a massive cloak over their activities, all garnished with some lovely official ribbon:

“The Voluntary Carbon Standard Program (VCS Program) includes the standard (VCS 2007) and the Program Guidelines 2007. VCS Version 1 (v1) was released on 28 March 2006. VCS Version 2 (v2) was released on 16 October 2006 as a consultation document and did not replace VCS v1 as the applicable standard for project developers and validators and verifiers. The VCS v2 consultation document has been withdrawn. This is the VCS 2007 that replaces VCS v1 as the applicable standard. Additional guidance related to the VCS 2007 is included in the Program Guidelines 2007.”

That little snippet from all sounds very formal and above board, and that’s because the companies involved in creating the documents do this kind of thing all the time in audits, accounts, projects and so on. As long as they stick to standards, no one can accuse them of trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

But that sort of misses the point entirely. VCS is about offsets, not reducing emissions.

VCS was set up by The Climate Group (I mentioned their work here) and another “Astroturf” known as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which I will attack fervently in a future post, along with IETA, who basically provide the tools so that businesses can trade carbon (i.e. spend their way out of guilt).

It gets even more sinister when you look at the people who put the standards together:

The VCS Steering Committee volunteered long weeks of their company and personal time over a two year period to develop the VCS. The following people participated on the Committee:

* Jan-Willem Bode, Ecofys
* Derik Broekhoff, World Resources Institute
* Mike Burnett, Climate Trust
* Robert Dornau, SGS
* Steve Drummond, CantorCO2e
* Mitchell Feierstein, Cheyne Capital
* Yoshito Izumi (Observer), Taiheiyo Cement
* Mark Kenber, The Climate Group (co-chair)
* Adam Kirkman, WBCSD
* Andrei Marcu, International Emissions Trading Association (co-chair)
* Erin Meezan, Interface
* Ken Newcombe, Goldman Sachs
* Mark Proegler, BP
* Robert Routliffe, Invista
* Richard Samans, World Economic Forum
* Marc Stuart, Ecosecurities
* Einar Telnes, DNV
* Bill Townsend, Blue Source
* Diane Wittenberg, Californian Climate Action Registry

Just to the take the first 5 in the list (it’s in alphabetical order, and there’s no way of telling how much each person contributed):


Business sector energy advisors

World Resources Institute

Think tank that promotes economic growth as a “solution” to climate change

Climate Trust

Large scale offsets seller


Business certification consultancy


Emissions trading platform provider

Can you see a pattern emerging here. Try looking at the others in the list, too: it’s all about business as usual, and we’re not fooled.

For more information on the folly of offsets, go to

Posted in Astroturfs, Corporate Hypocrisy, Offsetting | 3 Comments »

Norway Tells Rio Tinto To Bugger Off

Posted by keith on 10th September 2008

Rio Tinto Destruction

Incredible, a nation acting in the best interests of the planet. Ok, it’s Norway, and they do have lots of gas and oil, but even so, a snub of this magnitude deserves to be highlighted, especially when it involves one of the most destructive corporations on Earth:

The Norwegian government has launched an unprecedented attack on the UK mining giant Rio Tinto, selling a £500m holding in the company after accusing it of “grossly unethical conduct” relating to environmental damage.

The Norwegian Ministry of Finance released a statement yesterday saying it had “decided to exclude the company Rio Tinto from the Government Pension Fund – Global, due to a risk of contributing to severe environmental damage”.

The government has blocked its $375bn (£213bn) sovereign wealth fund, known worldwide as its “oil fund”, from investing in Rio over its mining operations in Indonesia, in a move that could drive other investors to review their holdings in the group.


The bloody struggle between native West Papuans whose land was stolen from them by the Indonesian government in the 1960s has been well documented, and it is such a stark example of corporate / government injustice that I made a point of highlighting it in A Matter Of Scale:

The tribal people of West Papua live in a manner that is entirely alien to most of modern humanity. According to Bernard Nietschmann: “The people of West Papua are different in all respects from their rulers in [Indonesia]: language, religions, identity, histories, systems of land ownership and resource use, cultures and allegiance.” Imagine, for a moment, living in such a way that you had no concept of outside rules, beliefs and culture; when, suddenly, the land you have nurtured for centuries with delicate care is ripped away from you to be handed to a corporation intent on mining it for metals, leaving the land in tatters and thousands of tonnes of toxic spoil leaching poison into the ground. This is precisely what happened in the years following 1967 under the despotic leadership of President Suharto of Indonesia (who also forcibly took control of the country following a military coup in 1965). Two large mining companies from “democratic” nations; Freeport, based in the USA, and Rio Tinto Zinc, a UK / Australian conglomerate; were handed the mineral rights for a large part of West Papua in return for generous donations to the Suharto regime. Despite Suharto’s bloodthirsty behaviour across his empire, including responsibility for the slaughter of half a million Indonesians in 1965, the CEO of Freeport, James Roberts, called Suharto, “a compassionate man.”

The native West Papuans have never had the land returned to them, primarily because there is no profit to be made in giving a peaceful, nature respecting people stewardship of a region under which there are rich mineral resources to be plundered.

Now go back to the article in The Independent, and read the responses of the Rio Tinto PR machine:

A Rio spokesman said the company felt “surprise and disappointment” at the decision, adding it had come out of the blue after the company had held meetings with the ministry.

Rio countered the claims [of the Norwegian government] in a written statement to the government that it “maintains the highest environmental standards at all its operations wherever they are located, and it contributes technical support to its joint venture partners to ensure that the most appropriate solutions are identified and implemented”.

No mention of human rights abuses, of course — they are totally undefendable — and the “highest environmental standards” must be referring to the industry’s own definition, in which case this is a combination of both an absurd reframing of what environmental protection means, and a phenomenally large pile of greenwash.

Norway, for today The Unsuitablog salutes you!

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Good News! | 3 Comments »

The Guardian: The Perils Of Inappropriate Advertising 2

Posted by keith on 8th September 2008

Guardian Irony

I honestly don’t like it when a website writes a good article and I see an advert right next to it advertising something which contradicts the article. In a previous post, I suggested that The Independent needed to keep an eye on their automated adverts, but in the case of this week’s Guardian, the advert was actually being run by The Guardian themselves.

Here’s an extract from the article that the advert ran alongside:

“Sadly, not all consumer goods manufacturers are suddenly going to roll out proactive leasing schemes, given they have a vested interest in selling more and faster, as in the case of the global $23.4bn power-tool industry. But given that the average power drill is used for just four minutes every year – a slothful work rate matched by many other garden and DIY tools – it makes sense as a consumer to join a tool-sharing scheme, or even to start one.”

So, I wonder how often the average family uses the ice cream maker that they bought one hot August afternoon when the kids were pining for something cold and tasty? Patio washers, fence painters, leaf blowers — all things guaranteed to make me fume, even when they aren’t bought new. But when someone does buy something new, like the aforementioned ice cream maker, rather than buy an ice cream from a shop, or from an ice cream van — yes, that’s an example of shared use — I have a little moment of dispair.

Which makes it ever so galling that The Guardian proudly sell such items on the same page that is warning against exactly that kind of thing.

Posted in Adverts, Media Hypocrisy, Should Know Better | No Comments »

Celebrity Hypocrisy: Don’t Let Them Bullsh*t You

Posted by keith on 4th September 2008

A few videos, just in case you find a celebrity lecturing you, the fan, the viewer, the average jo(e) about your environmental performance. Some of this hypocrisy is on a corporate scale, yet no one forced these people to live a certain lifestyle – they made their choices and chose a certain way of life.

And there’s a nice summary here of some of the worst offenders.

No decent examples since 2007, so maybe they have learnt to shut their mouths. Any more contributions are very welcome here…

Posted in Celebrity Hypocrisy | No Comments »