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Archive for June, 2009

Hopenhagen: Climate Greenwashing With UN Approval

Posted by keith on 27th June 2009

hopenhagen message

A new campaign was launched a few days ago, with the blessing of the United Nations: it’s called Hopenhagen. There is clearly a huge level of creative genius behind the name (ok, I’m being sarcastic), as you can tell it is a portmanteau word, consisting of “hope” and “copenhagen”, and indeed it is intended to be the start of a massive advertising push to provide “a platform for individuals around the world to participate and have a say in the future of the world.”

That last bit was extracted from the Hopenhagen press release, as issued by IAA Global:

(June 23, 2009 – Cannes, France) The United Nations, together with the International Advertising Association and a coalition of the world’s leading advertising, marketing and media agencies today launched Hopenhagen – a movement that empowers global citizens to engage in the December United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen – at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Hopenhagen is a global marketing and communications initiative that will inspire and generate mass activation around the world.

“Climate change is one of the epic challenges facing this and future generations. World leaders will come together for the Copenhagen climate change conference in December and every citizen of the world has a stake in the outcome. It is time to seal a deal. We need a global movement that mobilizes real change,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Hopenhagen is about more than hope. “It is about global action for a global climate treaty and a better future for humankind,” Ban added.

Delegates from 192 nations will meet in December in Copenhagen to ratify a new international global climate treaty, which will take effect when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Recognizing the tremendous role that communications will play leading up to and during the Conference, the United Nations engaged the global advertising and media industry through the International Advertising Association (IAA) to develop a comprehensive communications program to drive public awareness and generate action. Hopenhagen will complement the UN’s “Seal the Deal!” campaign, which calls on world leaders to “unite to find a solution to climate change that is fair, balanced, effective and science-based.”

“Climate change is a universal challenge, and we believe the world’s citizens are ready to act – they are just seeking the right platform,” said IAA Executive Director Michael Lee. “The strategy and stunning creative concept for the Hopenhagen idea came from WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather team, digital framework and direction were developed by MDC Partner’s Colle+McVoy, and the global PR and messaging plans spearheaded by Omnicom’s Ketchum. The collaboration that has taken place among the world’s leading agencies to develop this campaign for the United Nations is unprecedented and a testament to the significance the industry places on the need for action to address climate change.”

This raises a hell of a lot of questions: not least that if Hopenhagen is the brainchild of an industry that depends on continuous consumer spending for its existence, how could it be sustainable in any way? More worrying, though, that the advertising industry seems to have the support of the United Nations.

While on the surface Hopenhagen appears to have United Nations approval, there is actually nothing on the press release that links the two organisations (IAA and UN) directly. Have they used authority by association? It turns out that the UN are actually a big part of this. A United Nations press release from 2008, says:

SECRETARY-GENERAL LAUNCHES PUBLIC AWARENESS PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN UNITED NATIONS,

ADVERTISING LEADERS FOR NEW GLOBAL AGREEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE IN COPENHAGEN

A new public awareness partnership to support United Nations-led efforts to promote a new global agreement on climate change in Copenhagen next December was launched today by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and more than 20 advertising industry leaders of the international advertising community.

Initiated by the International Advertising Association (UN-IAA), and timed to coincide with the opening of the sixty-third United Nations General Assembly and the fifth annual Advertising Week in New York, the new partnership marks a milestone in private sector support for action on climate change. The partnership builds on the International Advertising Association’s social responsibility programmes with the United Nations, a desire by the organizers of Advertising Week to galvanize the forces of the advertising community for a common, larger good, and support from the most powerful leaders of the global communications industry to come up with strategic solutions to one of the most important issues facing the planet today.

Michael Lee, Executive Director of the International Advertising Association, said, “It has become increasingly clear that the complexities of climate change issues present a communications challenge with both policymakers and the general public. The global ad community can make a significant contribution to help change consumer behaviour, influence public policy, and help the UN make further progress on this issue. The ultimate selling proposition might just be saving the planet.”

Mr. Ban stated, “We need action on climate change, and I applaud the determination of the advertising industry to help. As climate change affects everyone, everywhere, the UN needs partners in the private sector and in civil society to mobilize and spur action. Now is the time for action, and we welcome this assistance from the advertising community, which will bolster our present capacities.”

So has the advertising industry decided to abandon its work ensuring infinite economic growth and stop working with corporations; has the United Nations gone corporate and made the 2009 Copenhagen Summit a front for business as usual; or has the IAA stymied the UN entirely, leaving the UN thinking (with its collective mind) this is a really good idea for the planet?

The first question is easy to address — go to the IAA Global website, and straight away you see who the big players are in the organisation:

Hopenhagen IAA

I also know, from various experiments carried out, that any anti-corporate messages on the laughable “global community” message page are deleted from the message list (that doesn’t mean I don’t encourage you to try and ruin the database). After getting the message total up to 90,000 — with the help of a few good friends — the counter was reset overnight, and the list became moderated. In fact, I suspect that now the only reason the counter is going up is because members of IAA are adding their own messages. Clearly any dissenting views will not be tolerated: we can Hope for change, but it won’t happen through Hopenhagen.

Which means that either the UN is a corporate body; or they have been greenwashed.

It would be tempting, if not satisfying, to think the latter — surely the United Nations wouldn’t take the corporate shilling in place of standing up for the planet in general, would they?

But they would. As I showed in this article about the Climate Group (“businesses and civil society are all discovering that the move towards a low-carbon economy, far from costing the Earth, can actually save money and invigorate growth“), Ban Ki-Moon doesn’t miss an opportunity to mention economic growth in his speeches — listen for yourself, next time he speaks. But here’s the real clincher: the UN’s own Seal The Deal campaign (basically a petition) which was mentioned in the Hopenhagen press release above is, above all, an attempt to ensure the global economy can continue growing (my emphasis below):

On December 7, world leaders will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to respond to one of the greatest challenges facing humanity: climate change and sustainable economic growth. But how to protect the planet and create a green economy that will lead to long-term prosperity? The negotiations in Copenhagen will need to answer this question. Our existence depends on it.

Reaching a deal by the time the meeting ends on December 18 will depend not only on political negotiations but also on public pressure from around the globe. Public support must be galvanized. To do this, the United Nations has launched “Seal the Deal”, a campaign that encourages users to sign an online, global petition which will be presented to world leaders. The petition will serve as a reminder that world leaders must negotiate a fair, balanced and effective agreement in Copenhagen, and that they must seal a deal to power green growth, protect our planet and build a more sustainable, prosperous global economy that will benefit all nations and all people.

If you know what “green growth” means then please tell me, but as is very clear indeed; economic growth is what has caused the global environmental situation we see now. As I wrote in a recent Earth Blog article:

“The rich and powerful have no intention of changing; they want things to carry on as they have done since Industrial Civilization was first created. For them, the worst thing that can happen is for the Economy that has fed their – and our – dreams to power down and fail. For the planet, and every single natural habitat, food web and species on it, the best thing that can happen is for that destructive thing called Economic Growth to be turned on its head, and buried for good.”

As for this horrible little, advertising driven campaign known as Hopenhagen: it’s greenwashing, and nothing more.

Posted in Adverts, Astroturfs, Media Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy | 26 Comments »

The Joy Of Critical Thinking

Posted by keith on 25th June 2009

Head On Desk

Here is a press release that makes no sense at all:

Dr. Hendrie Weisinger, a leading psychologist and the author of The Genius of Instinct: Reclaim Mother Nature’s Tools for Enhancing Your Health, Happiness, Family, and Work (FT Press, 2009) says, “Today, being psychologically green means tuning into your instincts, getting back to basics, and back to our human nature. Whereas physical green is analogous to protecting our planet, psychological green is about protecting and honoring our human nature.”

About the only thing good I can say for it is that it provides a perfect example of how to mix your metaphors, and end up with a pile of verbal slush. I use this press release, sent to me a couple of weeks ago, as a way of showing how to think “anti-greenwash”. One of the most underrated skills — and one of the most dangerous to Industrial Civilization — is Critical Thinking, the ability to tease meaning out of information and counter (or reinforce) that meaning with your own ideas. That is what I am going to do on the following text, which was part of the press release. Others may call it a “hatchet job”, which is fine by me.

Read along and if you spot anything I haven’t written down (I will just comment on the worst bits, from my POV) then please comment…

“Take a look at the plights we have now and you will see for that they are a result of going against our human nature, from being ‘instinctually disconnected.’ No wonder we are often so unhappy and unfulfilled. [Ok, that's not a bad start, although it's a bit vague] No wonder we sometimes get into the wrong relationships, take the wrong jobs, and make the wrong choices. At the same time, take a look at the individuals, families, organizations, and countries that are thriving, and you will conclude that they are doing nothing more than staying in synch with their human nature [So, ExxonMobil and the Burmese Junta are just sticking with human nature, are they? Basic error by not defining "thriving".], that is why they are growing. It is our instinctual tools that allow us to thrive and to solve the everyday problems that we encounter. Indeed, today psychological green is true to the color of nature-green for growth.” [That last bit made no sense, whatsoever. Where did this "psychological green" come from? "Growth" in the industrial consumer culture is the antithesis of natural growth -- what do you mean?]

What can we do to become “psychologically green…How do we get back in touch with our human nature?” The answer lies in using the genius of your instincts [Back on track; I use my instincts a lot]. Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Listen to your emotions; they are the voice of your instincts. Too many times, we rely on the opinions and recommendations of others to make our choice. Friends tell you, “He is perfect for you.” Parents and counselors tell the high school graduate, “This is the school for me.” We follow the advice, despite the nagging feeling that tells us, something isn’t right. Listening to your emotions and feelings is the beginning for getting connected to your instinctual tunes. [Again, no problem here, although the link with nature has been entirely lost]

2. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable. You are hardwired to care-solicit-ask others for help. It is Mother Nature['s] instinctual tool[s] that help you protect your vulnerabilities [Now she's lost me. If you feel vulnerable then your vulnerabilities are not protected, but that contradicts the third sentence entirely.]. Yet, most people deny their vulnerabilities and as result, become disconnected from their care-soliciting instinct. Why does this happen? One reason is that feeling vulnerable is uncomfortable (as it should be since it communicates we are at risk.) Another reason is the conventional pop psychology message that successful individuals solve their own problems, the emotionally healthy too. Thus, we seldom ask for help when we really need it-whether it is asking our partner for help around the house or in managing finances [I've just been transported back to the 1950s!]. Being comfortable with feeling vulnerable will allow you to take advantage of your care-soliciting instincts [Why not just say, "Don't be afraid to ask for help"? Sorry if that doesn't use enough jargon].

3. Develop others: Can anyone deny the world would be better place if we all became more touched by our care-giving instincts, the evolutionary function being to develop the future [What does "develop the future" mean. Our evolutionary function is to survive; our cultural function, as imposed upon us by the culture we live in may be to "develop the future" but that is not innate.]. Fact is, Presidents have written books on the importance of care-giving [and the significance of this is what?], but Mother Nature said it first. In fact, both males and females are hardwired to be maternal and paternal-it is in your genes. Early parents who were good care-givers increased the survival chances of their off spring [Fine, and correct], and just as the Roman Empire had to develop young warriors, so does Merrill Lynch have to develop young warriors [which makes a complete mockery of the "evolutionary" argument, given that both the Roman Empire and Merrill Lynch both collapsed following intense periods of greed and acquisition!]. There are all sorts of reasons that inhibit our care-giving instincts, ranging from “it’s an effort,” to withholding love because of anger [What about the cultural system that discourages cooperation and long-term sustainability, in order to maximise profit?]-animals never do this. To get to your care-giving nature: at work, focus on developing others; at home, prioritize your children; with your partner, tune in to their physical and mental health. Also, do things for your community. All these activities will be a catalyst to get your care giving instincts going.

4. Look Your Personal Best: Silverback gorillas spend hours polishing their coats and picking fleas off themselves and each other. The more attractive they are to each other, the greater the chance of mating and perpetuation of their species. You are hardwired to beautify-to make yourself attractive for the purpose of making yourself desirable to others. If you are not, say goodbye to your line of genes. You’d be amazed how many people are surprised they didn’t get the job, even though they look like slobs, and how many executives are clueless to their abrasive demeanor that makes them unattractive to those above them and those under them. To begin to reconnect with your attractive instincts, take a lesson from the silverbacks-look your personal best. Few of us are movie star looking, but we can also do the simple things such as tucking in our shirt, polishing our shoes, [It was all going so well, and then she had to introduce cultural stereotypes - do we want to encourage a genetic line of office clones? Really?] combing our hair. Then, so that you can become a more desirable mate, a parent your children come to in times of need, and a more successful employee, develop your sense of humor, become a better listener, and be supportive to others, all actions of attractive instincts that will make you more desirable to others. [I can't really disagree with that, although I'm slightly concerned with the focus on being "desirable" -- it all sounds rather contrived.]

5. Commit to cooperate. The recent Summit [Which one, of the dozens?], according to the President, is the beginning of a more “cooperative world.” The fact is, we are all hard wired to cooperate-not compete [Well, actually, we are hard-wired to compete in cooperative groups, but in general this is correct - as opposed to the way the business world, that this book seems intent on making you a "success" in, functions]. Remember, the first atom could not make it by itself so it coagulated ["Coagulated"? How can an atom coagulate? Bad science] with others and ever since, it has been a team game [Terrible analogy: all forces, as far as we know, have anti- forces, intent on breaking apart (increasing entropy) rather than combining]. Get in touch with your cooperative nature-it brings out the best in you and others. Start by making the commitment to cooperate, especially when others aren’t. Be like lions, who don’t punish or exclude the “laggards” who don’t do their share, but rather continue their own efforts to make the pride stronger [I may be wrong here, but aren't uncooperative lions banished from prides?]. Tit for Tat is a losing strategy, and one that is hard to break-it ruins relationships. Teach your kids that they can’t be lucky every day but they can be nice every day. The fact is, nice guys do finish first [But not in the business world -- see the next sentence]. Project managers-create a team identity, you will see cooperation increase, and make sure fairness is in play, as few people quit when the rules are fair. Parents-create a sibling identity for your child’s [Child's what?] and you will rid your household from sibling rivalry [No you won't -- sibling rivalry is innate; it can be controlled but never banished] and create sibling support. Partners-honor your couple identity-it will reinforce each of your desire to nourish the relationship.

6. Become a Curious George/Georgette. You are hardwired to investigate and explore your environment-it increases the likelihood of encountering objects-be it a person, a book, or food-that can enhance your existence [I'm getting really fed up with these hyphens -- have they not heard of en-dashes?]. That is the evolutionary function of your curiosity instinct. Your curiosity instinct accelerates your learning so it is good that we have a Green President [NO!!!!!!! See my article.]who has made curiosity one of his Administration’s core values [Ok, I may be across the water, but I don't remember this]. Unfortunately, parents stifle the curiosity of their children every day by ignoring or failing to encourage their interests, usually because it does not concur with the parents’ interest. Countless couples stay stuck in their comfort zone by choosing their favorite restaurant every time out, rather than taking a chance on a new spot, and our schools have lost their edge by failing to ignite the curiosity of students, especially in science and math. [What horribly mundane examples -- what about getting out into nature; questioning the nature of schooling; questioning the entire culture of destruction?]Ask yourself-when was the last time you developed a new interest-if not, you’re probably a bore [Oh, that's very nice!]. Get back to your curious nature if you want to stay ahead of the pack [Oh, that's even nicer! All that stuff about cooperation, and then it's suddenly dog-eat-dog]. Begin to Alpha up [Clearly I didn't pay enough attention in class -- I have no idea what this means]-increase your energy level, a prerequisite for curio[u]s actions like going for a walk in new area of town. Mentally stimulate your curiosity by asking yourself questions you don’t know until you are motivated to find out. Go to a new restaurant and order a novel dish, all for the sake of jump starting your dormant curiosity instinct.

Follow these tips and the next time you are turning green [Oh, I see, it's that kind of green! So I'm sure there won't be any more mixed metaphors...], you won’t be envious or greedy. You will be growing [...ok, I was wrong].

Now go and change something!

Posted in Adverts, Media Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Holland And Barrett: Saving Us All From Swine Flu

Posted by keith on 22nd June 2009

Holland and Barrett Biohazard

It’s not just greenwash that gets me angry, anything that makes unqualified claims that could end up harming people or the wider environment deserves to be targeted: in this case it is a company I have already challenged on The Unsuitablog, Holland and Barrett. Not content with lying through their teeth about the pathetic efforts they are making to green themselves up, they are now claiming to be able to reduce the risk of Swine Flu.

Now bear in mind that Swine Flu may or may not become a global pandemic of monumental proportions, that an awful lot of people are scared about it (and I believe they should be to a certain extent). Also, bear in mind that H1N1 Swine Flu is the direct result of the hyper-consumer economy and the desire to produce food as cheaply as possible for the most profit. Any backlash should be directed squarely at the commercial world but, of course, not content with creating the conditions for a global catastrophe, the system that created the problem is now seeking to benefit as much as possible from it: such as Tamiflu distribution being the de facto response to any outbreaks; as opposed to the far more logical move of stopping the mass movement of workers, holidaymakers and schoolchildren to and from their respective locations. One of these measures benefits the industrial machine — one of them does not.

Guess which the world’s richest nations have chosen.

On the back of this are the various bloodsucking companies that are trying to make a fast buck from people’s perfectly rational fears of global pandemic. When I see a poster in the window of my local Holland and Barrett saying:

SWINE FLU WATCH!

SPECIAL OFFERS ON SWINE FLU PREVENTION IN STORE

NOW!

I have to wonder whether they are selling anti-viral masks, sensible transmission prevention advice, or perhaps something less than effective from their existing range of “remedies”.

Something like this:

Echinacea

The little I know about Echinacea could be written on the back of my hand, but I do know that it has most definitely not been shown in any objective scientic study whatsoever, to prevent Swine Flu, or any other kind of influenza, for that matter (it may help prevent the common cold, but that’s another thing entirely). But, that’s what the people in my local shop have been told to push as an influenza prevention treatment.

But it’s not just Echinacea, they also appear to be pushing Manuka Honey as a prevention remedy: again, Manuka Honey may well have certain beneficial effects for certain conditions, but as to being a way of preventing Swine Flu…no.

Now, I have no problem with non conventional remedies — I use nettle draught for hayfever and plantain for stings and bites, but when they are pushed for commercial purposes, especially by a company as large and ambitious as Holland and Barrett (owned by, not surprisingly, a giant producer of vitamins and supplements), then I see nothing but bad things on the horizon.

Posted in Adverts, Corporate Hypocrisy, Promotions | 1 Comment »

Airline Industry Makes Hilarious Joke

Posted by keith on 17th June 2009

Giovanni Bisignani

Now, who said the airline industry don’t have a sense of humour? Profits are falling, staff are being asked to take unpaid leave, airlines are being pilloried for their environmental impact, biofuels are being derided by the United Nations as greenwash and authorities, on the orders of airports, are being told to gas birds rather than accepting that maybe flying planes through migratory paths isn’t such a good idea.

Gosh! I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes at the moment. And yet, despite all this, Giovanni Bisignani, the head of the International Air Transport Association managed to make a genuinely hilarious joke that certainly had me in stitches:

“We are giving the environment a very high priority with a very clear plan”

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!

Oh, my sides!

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Mothercare Support Arms Trade

Posted by keith on 15th June 2009

Mothercare Weapons For Kids

In the ongoing saga of the Baby Show and its organisers, Clarion Events, being the very same company that organises the DSEi arms fair, the campaigners seem to have hit an interesting, but not insurmountable brick wall. There is an ongoing effort to persuade the various sponsors of the Baby Show to pull out, in view of the contradiction between the care of children (although, obviously, the Baby Fair is essentially a marketing spectacle) and the insertion of large pieces of schrapnel in their bodies caused by the “legitimate” weapons that are touted at the DSEi arms fair. The sponsors are pretending to listen, and then responding with pro forma letters that simply restate their social and environmental policies, ignoring the issues at hand; not willing in any way to give up such a lucrative sponsorship position.

Mothercare have a long history as one of the leading lights in the baby and child retail market. They pride themselves on their positive image, and make great efforts to present themselves as an ethical and responsible company. With a market value of nearly £400 million and an annual profit of over £40 million, they are not a small player in the baby and child market: they have a lot to lose, should their reputation suffer.

Mothercare are a major sponsor of the Baby Show, and have been for many years.

With this in mind, I wrote to Mothercare (Justine Allister, Head of PR) asking some pertinent questions, particularly related to the work of Clarion, and Mothercare’s association with the Clarion organised Baby Show:

From: Keith Farnish
To: Allister, Justine
Subject: Baby Show / Clarion Issues

Dear Justine

Thank you for discussing the involvement of Mothercare with the Clarion organised Baby Show (http://www.thebabyshow.co.uk/nec-birmingham/unbeatable-shopping/mothercare/), with me today. As I made clear, a number of people I have been in contact with are deeply unhappy with the pro-forma response of Mothercare to their concerns. As I see it, there are three main issues:

1) That Clarion, as part of their business, operate the DSEi (http://www.dsei.co.uk/) arms fair, selling weapons to governments and private security companies.

2) That, regardless of the legitimacy of this trade, there are thousands of “collateral” child deaths and injuries every year caused by the equipment sold at these arms fairs.

3) That Mothercare are legitimising such activity, by exhibiting at a show organised by a company that is indirectly responsible for these “collateral” deaths.

With formidable irony, the Spring 2010 Baby Show will be held in the very same hall that hosts DSEi.

For the purposes of my piece, could you please answer the following questions:

1) What is Mothercare’s policy, if any, regarding its relationships with companies that have morally questionable activities?

2) How are Mothercare able to market themselves as a responsible company, given their indirect approval of the sale of arms that, regardless of legitimacy, will be the cause of child death and injury?

3) Are Mothercare prepared to work with relevant organisations, including CAAT (http://www.caat.org.uk/events/Baby_Show_2009.php), to effect the removal of Clarion in their role as organiser of The Baby Show, and if not, why not?

Yours sincerely

Keith Farnish

The response took a little time: “with regards to your enquiry below, we take your concerns very seriously so I am sure you understand that this will take slightly longer for me to get back to you, in order for me to speak to the relevant members of staff. I will endeavour to get back to you with a response tomorrow morning.”

If I had been the kind of person who hopes, I would have hoped for a positive outcome given the time taken and seriousness with which the response was being dealt. I had a response one day after the promised date — it was not what I would have hoped for.

From: Pirie, Annique
To: Keith Farnish
Cc: mothercare@brunswickgroup.com ; sandra@sandrabull.co.uk ; Allister, Justine
Subject: Mothercare Response

Justine is at an external meeting today and has asked me to forward the following in response to your enquiry on her behalf.

Many thanks

Annique

—–

Dear Mr Farnish,

Thank you for your enquiry in regard to Mothercare’s position on the Baby Show. Taking your 3 questions one by one:

1) What is Mothercare’s policy, if any, regarding its relationships with companies that have morally questionable activities?

a.. Mothercare takes its ethical commitments extremely seriously and both our policy and targets in the area of Corporate Responsibility are published each year in our Annual Report & Accounts and on our web site www.mothercare plc.com. We are members of the Ethical Trading Initiative and have initiated projects with, for example, governments and NGO’s in India to help find ways to improve the lives of workers in our supply chain. This includes the building of a maternity wing in a local hospital in South India. Our Foundation provides substantial support each year to many important charities which support good health and well-being of mums-to-be, new mums and their children; special baby-care needs and premature births; and other parenting initiatives relating to family well-being.

2) How are Mothercare able to market themselves as a responsible company, given their indirect approval of the sale of arms that, regardless of legitimacy, will be the cause of child death and injury?

a.. It is wrong to imply that we give indirect approval for the sale of arms. We do not participate in the DSEi exhibition, so any concerns relating to that event, or any other event in which we do not participate, should be addressed to the organiser, Clarion Events. Mothercare is a responsible company and has participated in the Baby Show for nearly ten years, alongside some 200 or so fellow retailers, brands and manufacturers in the parenting sector. As the UK’s number one specialist retailer for mums to be and parents of young children, tens of thousands of visitors to the Baby Show have high expectations of experiencing our brand at the event.

3) Are Mothercare prepared to work with relevant organisations, including CAAT (http://www.caat.org.uk/events/Baby_Show_2009.php), to effect the removal of Clarion in their role as organiser of The Baby Show, and if not, why not?

a.. Mothercare takes into account the views and concerns of all relevant, law abiding organisations in framing and monitoring its ethical and social responsibility policies.

Regards

Justine

So, essentially, Mothercare are not concerned that they give money to a company that organises arms fairs, and seem to be able to wash their hands of this link entirely. Their hands certainly need washing, given all the blood that is on them.

I sent the following response, which has yet to garner a reply:

Dear Justine (via Annique)

Thank you for your advertisement for Mothercare (“As the UK’s number one specialist retailer for mums to be and parents of young children”). I will infer from your response that Mothercare takes no responsibility for its commercial links with Clarion and, while continuing to support Clarion financially really doesn’t care what they get up to in their own time. Saying “Mothercare is a responsible company” doesn’t make Mothercare a responsible company (note, that this is a typical Greenwashing response as elucidated by the big oil and coal companies, e.g. “Exxon really care about the planet”), it simply states your belief.

The simple fact is, Mothercare — through its continued links with Clarion Events — condones Clarion’s portfolio of events: if Mothercare did not condone the sale and, by extension, use of weapons that kill children (note this article only today: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8096374.stm), then it would not be involved in the Baby Show whilst it is organised by Clarion. This will be my line of discussion in the article, which is logically substantial.

I will also state that Mothercare is not willing to engage with CAAT.

Regards

Keith

Readers are strongly encouraged to contact Justine Allister (mailto:justine.allister@mothercare.com) at Mothercare, letting them know why it is morally indefensible to ignore where their money is going and what it is being used for — especially if that money is being used to promote the trade in those “legitimate” weapons that happen to kill thousands of children every year.

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 2 Comments »

Some Nice Flickr Stuff By Toban

Posted by keith on 12th June 2009

G20 Subvertised

Kudos to Unsuitablog commenter and avid Flickr user, Toban Black for the neat bit of subvertising (admittedly not for real, that would be really cool) in the image above, and for lots of interesting photos on the subject of capitalism. I particularly like his notes on each photo, which include quotations, information and links to lots of other resources.

This is a set I will be going back to frequently. Cheers, Toban.

Posted in Subvertising | 1 Comment »

Arriva Bus Uses Bizarre Techno-Techno-Fix

Posted by keith on 10th June 2009

Leicester Bus

Hot off the presses from the English Midlands (Leicestershire, to be precise) comes the source of an awful pun that I couldn’t even leave until later in the article. Sorry.

As a regular bus user, I do wonder why my legs always seem to be melting next to the heaters, even though the weather outside may be perfectly clement. It seems as though the denizens of Arriva Bus in Leicestershire, and probably everywhere else, haven’t thought that a thermostat might come in handy.

Here’s the article from the Leicester Mercury:

Passengers are being driven to despair by buses leaving the heating on in hot weather – often because drivers’ cabs are not equipped with on-off switches.

Regular public transport users say that on sunny days it has felt like they are being driven around in mobile cookers.

When route 58 regular Bill Barson, of Netherhall, Leicester, wrote to Arriva to ask why his supermarket shopping was being cooked before he had chance to get it home, he was taken aback by their response.

The heating can only be turned off via a tap under the engine, according to a letter from the firm’s customer service department, which added that: “This is not usually done until the warm weather is more settled.”

The Mercury experienced the heating still on on a 51A Arriva bus into the city last Thursday.

Three years ago Arriva spent £9.5 million on a new fleet of buses for Leicestershire.

Disgruntled passenger Mr Barson said: “Why buy buses with such a stupid set-up?

“They are trying to get more people to leave their cars at home and use buses, but who wants to go on the bus when they are throwing out heat like a mobile Tandoori oven?

“It’s got to the point now where I do not go into town as much because I would rather not be hot and bothered.”

When contacted by the Mercury, an Arriva spokesman gave a slightly different story to the customer service department.

Spokesman Keith Myatt said: “Having spoken to engineers at Thurmaston, the buses used on the 58 service have a mechanism in the cab whereby the driver can adjust the heating.

“He would not have to wait for an engineer to make an adjustment.

“There are some older vehicles in the fleet where an engineer is needed to make the adjustment but these are generally not allocated.”

However, passengers at St Margaret’s Bus Station said that Mr Barson was not the only one feeling hot under the collar.

Pensioner Albert Hargrave uses the Arriva 27 bus to get into Leicester from his home in Ratby.

The 88-year-old said: “You can definitely feel the heating on your legs even when it is a sunny day – it does seem that they are not able to turn it off.”

Melanie Ward, 23, of Kibworth regularly uses Arriva’s X3 service to travel to work in the city. She said the problem was worse on single-decker buses.

She said: “When they send the coach instead of the bus, it’s always baking hot on that.” Bus group First admitted that its vehicles had a similar problem. Its double-decker buses are kept warm by a radiator system that sees hot water from the engine pumped through 150ft of copper piping. It can only be turned off by engineers.

Spokesman Leon Daniels said an instruction had now been sent out to switch off the heating on all of its vehicles for summer.

He said: “Unfortunately it is one of those nuisances of technology, which we look forward to technology one day being able to solve.

Now, I’m not a genius, but I suspect I solved the problem in my introduction (Hint: Thermostat). But more bizarre is the last quote from the Arriva man: “which we look forward to technology one day being able to solve.”

This is actually a pretty serious mental condition; when you think that the only way of solving a problem is the further application of technology. Greenwashing is full of techno-fixes — so much so that there is an entire category dedicated to it on this blog — and it is not surprising, considering that the industrial system will never accept that nature has most, if not all of the answers, and our obsession with “progress” will ultimately lead to our demise.

If you can convince people that climate change, ecological devastation, food shortages, peak oil, social inequality, disease and dispair can all be solved with a quick application of technology, then you (as a corporation, usually) can keep on selling utopia to the world’s population in the form of the “miracle of technology”. Are we so dumb and brainwashed that we can’t see the lie?

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Techno Fixes | No Comments »

Earth Journalism Awards: Win A Flight!

Posted by keith on 8th June 2009

EJA Plane

Are you a budding journalist who really cares about the planet?

Do you want to make a splash, while at the same time let people know how badly we are treating the Earth?

Are you a hypocrite?

Then you need to enter the Earth Journalism Awards.

Send us your Best Climate Change Reports!

Print, radio, TV and online journalists, photojournalists, bloggers from around the world are invited to participate in the Earth Journalism Awards.

Send us your best stories on climate change before September 7 2009 (12.00 pm, Paris-time, GMT+2) and win a trip to cover the Copenhagen Climate Summit!

Internews’ Earth Journalism Awards encourage high-quality local climate change coverage leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, December 7-18 2009 in Copenhagen (COP15).

A total of 14 awards are now open for entry:

Seven Regional Awards on current affairs and news reporting on climate change: Eurasia, South Asia, East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, and North America, Europe & Australia.

Six Thematic Awards: The Negotiations Award, The Human Voices Award, The Energy Award, The Forests Award, The Climate Change and Nature Award, and The Climate Change Adaptation Award.

The 14th award – the Global Public Award – will be chosen by the public, which will be invited to vote online for the best story drawn from the winning regional and thematic awards through a social networking campaign on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Look out for the 7th thematic award – The MTV Positive Change Award. It will be open for entry from June 22 2009 to creative youth between 18 and 28.

Winners will be flown to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen this December, where they will cover these pivotal negotiations and be honoured at a high-profile awards ceremony.

People who care about more than just winning a fancy, polluting prize, need not apply.

Posted in Media Hypocrisy, Promotions | 4 Comments »

Green Handsets = Business As Usual

Posted by keith on 5th June 2009

Sony Consume

I had a very exciting delivery yesterday: I had a new mobile phone (cellphone) through the post. It’s one of those Nokia ones that flip out so you can use the mini keyboard to type messages, which is perfect for me because I have very small fingers to go with the very small keys. Actually, I say ‘new’ but actually you can’t buy these any more, it was second hand from eBay (and I know it’s second hand because it has a small scuff mark at the top) and works fine – it makes phone calls and sends text messages; should it do anything else?

When I used to be an IT manager, I was continually offered upgrades, but turned them all down — the phone I started with was basically the phone I finished with, and the one that I ended up using for another 2 years until the screen became too scratched to see through (from rubbing on keys in my pocket) and the green “call” button stopped working, which is obviously quite an important thing for a phone. I would say it was 7 years old when it finally broke. I have replaced it with exactly the same model.

What a rubbish consumer that makes me.

Now we see Sony Ericsson touting a “green” phone.

Mobile phone company Sony Ericsson will unveil two ‘green’ handsets tomorrow with a carbon footprint 15% lower than current models. By cutting packaging, using recycled plastics and reducing the use of solvents in the paints, the electronics company claims to have made the handsets more environmentally friendly.

The new phones, the C901 GreenHeart and the Naite, part of what Sony Ericsson says will be a revised portfolio of environmentally friendly phones to be rolled out in the next two years. It is also part of the company’s wider mission to cut 20% of its total carbon emissions by 2015.

Of course, if you want a ‘green’ phone you will have to get rid of any phone you already have (Hey! You can recycle it, so that’s alright then! [sigh]) and buy this new replacement, which obviously — like everything in the consumer electronics industry — has some nifty new features, like telling you how many calories your dinner contains, or allowing you to see through brick walls, or something like that. If new goods didn’t have new features then (disaster!) people wouldn’t feel they had to replace their old* equipment; they would just be content with using it until it broke down, which is terrible for the economy.

Sadly, Greenpeace didn’t feel the need to mention this when asked about the ‘green’ phone (why does no one ever ask me?):

Iza Kruszewska, toxics campaigner at Greenpeace UK welcomed the new phones from Sony Ericsson and said that the company had a good record in reducing its use of harmful chemicals. But she said the company should increase the number of its recycling points around the world. “They do mention their ambition to increase the number of collection points and take-back schemes they have globally but they are well behind Nokia on this.”

Yay! “Increase the number of its recycling points” — not “stop making us buy more crap all the time”, but “Increase the number of…recycling points.” I think that says all we need to know about the ‘radical’ nature of Greenpeace. According to Greenpiss (the new name for “Greenpeace-Lite”), you can keep buying loads of crap, and if it’s got ‘green’ credentials then you don’t even have to feel guilty about it…

(* I say “old”, but the fashion obsolescence treadmill keeps redefining old so that you feel obliged to buy new stuff even when your existing stuff is still new!)

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Techno Fixes | No Comments »

Suncor Make Me Gag

Posted by keith on 3rd June 2009

Suncor Bullshit

I came across a page on the Suncor web site today. Suncor produce oil from tar sands and oil shales in Canada.

Here is what they say about the environment:

Today, Canadians are asking the oil sands industry to do more – take decisive action on global and regional environmental issues. Suncor plans to be around for a long time and we know success over the long term depends on addressing a wide range of stakeholder concerns.

Environmental stewardship and responding to the needs of our communities is just as important to the economic well-being of our society as upgraders, pipelines or refineries. We are working hard to reduce the amount of water and natural gas we use, limit the level of greenhouse gas emissions and air contaminants, and reduce the length of time it takes to reclaim disturbed lands.

Responsible development makes good business sense. By investing a significant portion of today’s production revenues into tomorrow’s technologies, we expect to deliver a big environmental payoff. Technology will help us find ways to develop existing and new energy resources more efficiently and with far less impact on the environment.

So, we must accept that the extraction of oil from sand and shale will be around “for a long time”, must we?

I would like to write more, but I don’t really need to — it is all here for you to read

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy | No Comments »