The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for July, 2010

Hello Green Tomorrow: Avon Conveniently Forget Their Ingredients

Posted by keith on 30th July 2010

Hello Green Tomorrow Avon logo

Sitting in my inbox for four months, one would expect a story to go stale, but despite coming at a particularly hectic time of my life, and being revisited just this morning, it seems that some stories are destined to keep going simply because the parties involved are in such deep denial. One such story is that of the cosmetics giant Avon, long-time vivisectionists, and brainwasher of millions of civilised housewives into thinking that their lives could be inestimably better if only they slapped some chemicals on their face, are running a campaign known as “Hello Green Tomorrow”.

The press release went like this:

Avon Hello Green Tomorrow

Avon Products, Inc. has launched Hello Green Tomorrow, a unique global grassroots mobilization in over 65 countries worldwide. The first goal of this environmental movement is to restore trees in the Atlantic Rainforest, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Avon started the campaign by donating $1 million to replant 1 million trees in this critically-endangered region.

a.. With just $1 per tree, you can join this unique global mobilization and help save the Atlantic Rainforest for today and for the next generation.
b.. You and your readers can join our environmental movement by visiting, our Hello Green Facebook Tab, and following conversations on Twitter, using the #hellogreentomorrow hashtag.
c.. Imagine breathing with only seven percent of your lungs. The Atlantic Rainforest in South America helps serve as the “lungs of the earth,” but only seven percent remains, making it one of the world’s most critically endangered ecosystems. This is important to all of us, wherever we live.
d.. As the “lungs of the earth”, tropical forests such as the Atlantic Rainforest are vital to our survival. Rainforests help reduce pollution, mitigate climate change, and support a vast array of wildlife, including many species found nowhere else. Already 93% of the Atlantic Rainforest has been destroyed, but with just one dollar, you can help us restore it.

So, let’s just assume that Avon genuinely want to protect and even restore the Atlantic Rainforest, and the “Hello Green Tomorrow” campaign will play a major part in this important effort; they are claiming, as I write, to have planted 2 million trees using donations from people visiting the website. These trees are being managed by The Nature Conservancy, a major friend of corporations, and the project is endorsed by UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign, a project that is so fraught with corporate corruption that it shames the whole of the United Nations Environment Programme simply by virtue of its catalogue of ecocidal corporate partners.

So far, so bad.

The press release wasn’t sent in isolation, though. Here is the rest of it…

From: Jennifer Duval
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 7:13 PM
Subject: Avon Launches Hello Green Tomorrow: $1 Plants a Tree in the South American Atlantic Rainforest


Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Wanted to keep you abreast of Avon’s inspiring cause initiative helping to create a greener tomorrow. Avon’s Hello Green Tomorrow campaign empowers your readers to make real changes by supporting the endangered Atlantic rainforest. I have provided details on the initiative below, and would be happy to send more information your way!

[press release]

Please let me know if you have any questions.



Jennifer C. Duval

411 Lafayette Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10003

I thought I’d try a trick I learnt in the days when I used to negotiate contracts – when asking a difficult question, also make a point that would immediately put the subject on the back foot, and thus be more forthcoming.

Dear Jennifer

Could you please tell me if Avon use palm oil in any of their products?

Thank you


P.S. I am not Irish, why would I be interested in St Patrick’s day?

That sort of worked; Jennifer passed the query on to, presumably, her superior, who responded:

Hi Keith,

I hope this finds you well. Hello Green Tomorrow is a cause initiative to help rebuild the Atlantic Rainforest – there is no product tie-in. Sorry if you found the St. Patty’s reference to be offensive.

Hope this clears things up. Please do let me know if you have any questions.

Ruth E. Kallens
411 Lafayette Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10003
M: 908.433.2183
F: 212.625.1300

No product tie in! What about the Avon brand being splattered all over the press release? I get the feeling that there is some issue with showing the dissonance between Avon’s use of palm oil and their apparent concern for the Atlantic Rainforest. Could it be that this is greenwashing?

Hi Ruth

You cannot separate the initiative from the sponsor – not only are Avon involved in this, they founded Hello Green Tomorrow, so any hypocrisy lies squarely on their doorstep. It appears that HGT is being advertised as a “grassroots” campaign ( even though it is clearly an “astroturf” (a corporation masquarading as grassroots –

If it turns out that palm oil is used in Avon products then that will be disastrous for Avon’s public image, given that there is no such thing as sustainable palm oil, and that the production of palm oil is the fastest growing cause of tropical deforestation on the planet.

Yes, it appears Avon do use palm oil:

“contains shea butter and palm oil to help moisturize and protect”.

Gosh, rainforest destruction so lips can be kept nice and moist!

And here are another 392 products*:

This is not going to look good for Avon if this gets out.



And now it is out.


*at the time of writing this was 153, suggesting that someone has been carefully re-editing ingredients pages.

Posted in Astroturfs, Corporate Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 8 Comments »

Hackers Shut Down EU Carbon-Trading Website [From The Guardian]

Posted by keith on 28th July 2010

Sorry for all the reposts recently, but it’s been a very busy time at Unsuitablog HQ, and I also can’t top this bit of news from The Guardian covering an excellent example of Undermining. Emissions Trading, like all forms of offsetting, is a method of ensuring that the industrial system can keep operating.

Anti-carbon trading activists shut down the website of the European Climate Exchange (ECX), over the weekend, replacing the site with a spoof page lampooning the industry.

The website of the London-based carbon credit trading platform was hacked at close to midnight on Friday and showed the spoof homepage for around 22 hours. It then took technical staff another day to restore the official homepage.

Instead of its normal rolling ticker data listing bids for carbon credit futures, the ECX website blared: “Super promo – climate on sale: Guaranteed profit!”

Explaining the “carbon trade scam”, the spoof site decried how the EU’s flagship environmental policy is “susceptible to corporate lobbying,” offers industry “licences to pollute so they can continue business-as-usual,” and “generates outrageous profits for big industry polluters, investors in fraudulent offset projects [and] opportunist traders.”

On Saturday, shortly after the ECX website went down, activists announced their handiwork on a number of environmental discussion groups, saying: “In a public act of digital direct action, the ECX website was taken offline and replaced with our message in an effort to try to raise awareness about carbon trading as a dangerous false solution to the climate crisis.”

One of the activists responsible, from the online activist group, Decocidio, told the Guardian: “We feel the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is not well understood by the general public or even within the environmental movement. It is a major fraud touted by the mainstream media, politics, industry and lobbyists as the main solution.” The group is part of Earth First, a radical environmental protest organisation.

“Attempting to cause as much inconvenience, economical loss and image damage as possible, we deliberately tried to maximise the virtual damage,” said the hacker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A spokeswoman for the European Climate Exchange, Kelly Loeffler, said: “We have no comment relating to the incident as there is nothing to report publicly.”

The exchange was also targeted by activists from Climate Camp last summer. They dubbed it a “climate change casino”.

Damien Morris, of Sandbag, a self-described “critical friend” of the EU ETS said: “It’s very unfortunate that this sort of infighting over emissions trading has developed within the environmental movement, especially on the radical end,” he said. “There seems to be a large grassroots following and public presence of these sorts of ideas, but not at the more technical and realistic, solutions-focussed part of the movement.”

“There is certainly a place for criticism of the ETS, but the problem with those who disagree with carbon trading is that they oppose it in principle, not in practice. It’s a good idea when done properly. There are many problems with the ETS, but there is a clear pathway as to how it can be made more effective and robust.”

The weasel words of Sandbag reflect their mainstream credentials; clearly Earth First! and Decocidio are so far outside their awareness bubble that anyone who opposes emissions trading must have some kind of theoretical issue, rather than the far more obvious fact that it’s all part of the ecocidal global economy

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Good News!, Offsetting, Political Hypocrisy, Sabotage | No Comments »

Greenwash of the Week: The Sustainability Consortium [from The Good Human]

Posted by keith on 23rd July 2010

Another winning post by David at The Good Human, exposing a magnificent example of Astroturfing. I suspect one reason these things keep turning up is because of “Fluorescent Tabard Syndrome”: the psychological oddity that allows anyone wearing an extremely bright item of work clothing to go virtually unnoticed by the general public. Essentially, if the lie is big enough, or the company greenwashing is so obviously trying to cover up their ecocide, then people will accept this as OK.

Thankfully, some of us aren’t falling for it…

I have written about some whoppers on this site and in the Greenwash of the Week series (Sustainable Brands was one of my favorites), and this is right up there with some of the best. The Sustainability Consortium, an “independent organization of diverse global participants who work collaboratively to build a scientific foundation that drives innovation to improve consumer product sustainability through all stages of a product’s life“, would seemingly be a place you would see companies truly dedicated to the environment and sustainability, right? However, you would be wrong…as you can see from this small sample of members, along with some examples of how much they care about sustainability:

* Walmart – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $27.6 million to settle claims of improperly handling and dumping hazardous waste at stores across California.
* Monsanto – Monsanto’s RoundUp “May Have Dire Consequences for Agriculture” and “Monsanto Fined $2.5 Million for Misleading Farmers About GM Cotton Seed”
* Cargill – Cargill leaves a palm oil mess in Papua New Guinea and all 83,000 hectares of Cargill’s five directly owned oil palm plantations have been carved out of lowland rainforests, causing massive deforestation. As of 2009, Cargill is actively clearing forest in Borneo at their PT Harapan Sawit Lestari plantation without an environmental impact assessment.
* Clorox – Chlorine bleach releases dioxin, furans and other organochlorines into the air, can cause sore throats, coughs, wheezing, shortness of breath, fluid in the lungs and studies have shown a relationship between dioxin exposure and cancer, birth defects, and developmental/reproductive disorders.
* Colgate – Makers of “plastic, one-time use toothbrushes (called WISP’s) so that you can freshen up multiple times throughout the day. Which is why I find Colgate’s supposed environmental stewardship to be such an insult. It’s called “Respect for our Planet.” Um, yeah. If respect for our planet means throwing up a web page and then manufacturing utterly useless products that will sit in our landfills until the Sun burns out, you guys have it nailed.”
* Disney – Too much to even list here, but my friends over at EcoChildsPlay have a ton of good stuff about their “concern”.
* Kimberly-Clark – Kimberly-Clark’s new policy is to ensure that 40 percent of its North American fiber is either recycled or certified by FSC, but in order for Kimberly Clark products to be environmentally preferable, the company needs to announce meaningful targets for increasing recycled and post-consumer recycled fiber in their products. The current policy does not guarantee that Kimberly-Clark will in fact increase recycled content in any of its at-home products, most of which do not currently contain any recycled content at all. Their at-home tissue products are not guaranteed to improve. Also, check out their Pure & Natural diapers which are anything but.
* SC Johnson – Makers of Pledge, Ziploc, Off!, Glade, Raid, Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, and Drano. What a collection of sustainable products they have! I have featured them as a Greenwash of the Week before, Treehugger has added them to their Greenwash Watch series, and Seventh Generation wonders when Drano became “non-toxic and environmentally friendly”.
* Unilever – Although not directly related to the environment, it is a human-rights issue: “Unilever Builds a Facebook App To Help Indians Whiten Their Skin”
* Tyson – Tyson Foods on trial for polluting Illinois watershed and Tyson Fined $2M For Mucking Up Missouri River
* Waste Management – Federal authorities have given a toxic waste dump (owned by Waste Management) near a Central California farming community plagued by birth defects 60 days to clean up soil contaminated with carcinogenic PCBs.

Are there some members of the Consortium who actually do care to be sustainable and are not only interested in a little “purchased greenwash”? Yep. But many of them are well-known polluters, human rights abusers, and purveyors of genetically-modified foods and goods.

So much for “Sustainability”…

Full background information with links available at David’s fine site.

Posted in Astroturfs, Corporate Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | No Comments »

Redleaf Water: A Crash Course In Greenwash Spotting

Posted by keith on 19th July 2010

It’s always good to refresh your skills, and that opportunity came to me a couple of days ago when a reader sent me a nice example of subtle but very detailed greenwashing in the shape of Redleaf Bottled Water. Straight away the shields are up because we are talking about an entirely commercial product, as opposed to something that in very many parts of the world is either provided as a perfectly drinkable service with relatively low charges, or available naturally for free.

I’m sure almost everyone reading this does, from time to time, find themselves in the situation where they are forced to buy a bottle of water, there not being any other source available (in my case it’s basically when the bottle is in too bad a state to be refilled with tap water). I’m also sure that most people reading this would balk at describing commercial bottled water as “environmentally friendly”, yet go to the Environment page of the Redleaf web site and we hit this interesting statement:

At redleaf, we believe in making the world a better place, one sip at a time. We take our responsibility to the earth and our community very seriously and we’ve developed business practices and a production process that minimizes the impact we have on both. Not only do we source our water from a naturally renewable artesian aquifer but we also bottle at a ratio of 1:1 so that not a drop of water is wasted. These are just two of the reasons we think redleaf is the world’s most environmentally friendly water.

The opening sentence makes me a bit sick in my mouth, to be quite honest – replace the word “redleaf” with “BP” and “sip” with “slick” and you can see my point: now I’m not saying that Redleaf are necessarily as bad as BP, but bottling, transporting and selling water is not a good thing. It can’t be, so why suggest so?

Then we get into the main blurb and the greenwash words stack up: “naturally”, “artisan”, “renewable”, topped off with “not a drop is wasted”. Are you quite sure about that? What about the water used in the manufacture of the aquifer tapping equipment, or the production of the bottles, or the extraction of the oil to power the transportation of the end product? The company may claim to reduce the impact of all these aspects, but to make the claim that “not a drop is wasted” is just plain lying.

What we get at the end is the classic “comparative statement”, analagous to the car manufacturer that claims model x is more economical than model y, or the energy company that claim their coal-fired power stations are more efficient than all the other (coal) energy companies. Redleaf, again, may well produce the world’s most environmentally friendly water, but…hang on, that’s a complete load of bollocks!

Go back to the statement I made at the start: we are talking about an entirely commercial product, as opposed to something that in very many parts of the world is either provided as a perfectly drinkable service with relatively low charges, or available naturally for free. I am pretty lucky to have a river close to my house but, regardless of this good fortune, I can unequivocally say that filling my hands with river water then transferring it to my mouth is a damn site more environmentally friendly than any bottled water.

Interestingly, when you look at the Environment page, the claims do – at first glance – seem to be subtle, modest even; but take a closer look with open eyes and the greenwash really does pour off the pages. For instance, I’m not sure how it is possible that “no chemicals are used in [the] bottling process” given that absolutely everything is made from chemicals, but such mealy-mouthed statements are so easy to drop into the mix to convince the reader that so-called Ultra-Premium Water really is something special.

It would be good to open this up to you all: take a look at this page and tell readers of The Unsuitablog what greenwash you can see, in the comments section below. When I have a few comments then I’ll send the link off to the company…or maybe they would like to comment themselves, after all, they are the ones doing the greenwashing.

Posted in Advice, Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy | 3 Comments »

True In All But Name [Video]

Posted by keith on 14th July 2010

And that’s how brainwashing works…

Posted in Adverts, Advice, Spoofs, Subvertising | No Comments »

Monthly Undermining Task, July 2010: Escape The Tourist Trap

Posted by keith on 8th July 2010

Here is a picture of a cat in a deckchair, probably relaxing as cats are wont to do from time to time. The cat could be anywhere but I can bet you anything that the cat didn’t travel thousands of miles to wherever it is relaxing in the deckchair especially in order to relax in a deckchair; that cat is just chilled, in the deckchair, being a cat.

I know why many people take vacations (holidays, vacances…), and it’s for a reason that would be absurd if it weren’t so tragically true: it’s to get away from the place where they live. Not to go somewhere else – although that is often cited as the reason – but, to put it another way, to be in a place other than that where they spend most of their lives so as not to be reminded of what they do for the rest of the year. Oh, there are plenty of people I know – myself included – who go on vacations solely to see other places and/or meet other people, but they are in the minority.

You see, the vast majority of people living in the civilized world are stuck (so it seems) with a life that only releases them from its industrialised grip for a very short time once every year; or maybe twice if you can arrange things that way. Weekends, for most people, are spent doing the things that couldn’t be managed during the rest of the week because there wasn’t the time or energy to do them. Stuck in the spin-cycle of sleep-work-eat-watch-sleep-work-eat-watch…sleep-shop-clean-eat-watch-sleep… then the vacation becomes that slowly brightening light at the far end of a long, long shift that the industrialised and their families pinpoint as one of their few realisable aspirations.

What a bloody hopeless existence!

A few years ago I authored an essay called “The Problem With…Tourism” that set out the basic environmental and humanitarian issues of this pernicious industry. Here’s an extract:

As with many large-scale commercial ventures, the users of tourism are being promised a dream. That dream comes with few strings attached. That dream can be expensive, but the potential returns are good memories for life. And we are addicted to that dream; the one fantastic holiday that we want to repeat over and over again; the sense of “getting away from it all”, enjoying better weather, great entertainment, a chance to meet different people, and the cachet that goes with having done all this; all essentially selfish things, but none of them harmful as such.

As we continue to be enchanted by the riches that tourism has to offer, we fail to see the stream of people coming with us that grows ever wider, feeding on the same dream, taking advantage of the richly polluting cheap flights that deposit the hoards of people who engulf delicate habitats with concrete and suck dry the natural riches that so attracted them in the first place.

Does it have to be this way?

Do we ever stop and think of the reasons we go where we do? Do we actually consider the impact that our travelling, accommodation and entertainment are having on planet Earth?

The impact of tourism on the natural environment is huge, and growing at an enormous rate. With a current annual growth rate of about 5% in the western world, the emissions from flying are expected to triple in less than 25 years – far more if you consider the potentially enormous growth expected from China and other rapidly developing nations.

And on the surface, it is the act of tourism that seems to be the real problem – the pollution of travelling and the seasonal populations of travellers, along with the concentration camp-like existance of tourists, shut off from the outside world, economically unreachable by the people who are supposedly set to “benefit” from this tide of humanity. But as becomes clear when you analyse the way the civilized world is run – for the benefit of the corporate elites and their toadying political makeweights – tourism is even more sinister than this: it is a way of screwing every last drop of humanity from civilization’s willing slaves in return for a few weeks in the sun and, if you’re really unlucky, more opportunities to hand your money over to the corporate world.

And they call this a holiday?

Do you know the simplest way to short-circuit this horrible facade? Simply refuse to do what you are told.

I don’t have a detailed list of Undermining tasks of varying risks to offer you this month: just a simple set of ideas. Only you can make your mind up how risky they are, and whether you want to do them. But if you do take them, you may find yourself escaping far more than just the Tourist Trap…

If you are being sold something, don’t buy it.

If you are encouraged to go somewhere, don’t go there.

If you are offered incentives to make journeys or experience thrills you wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise, throw them back in the faceless faces of those that offer them.

If there is a way, any way, to get out of the spin cycle, slow down and take control of your life then take it!

Enjoy time your way, not the way of the machine.

Posted in Adverts, Advice, Company Policies, Government Policies, Monthly Undermining Tasks, Revenge | 4 Comments »

Boycotting BP Is Like Choosing Your Least Favourite Genocide

Posted by keith on 2nd July 2010

Which is your least favourite genocide?

I don’t know about you, but if I lived in Rwanda then the genocide of 1994 that took the lives of a million people in some of the most brutal ways imaginable would certainly be at the top (or is that bottom) of my list. Then again, anyone who follows the Jewish faith or, indeed, lived through World War II, would have no hesitation in selecting the Holocaust as their least favourite genocide. Then there is the “lost” genocide of Armenia, which modern day Turkey still refuses to acknowledge – certainly not popular in the Caucasus.

I think it’s probably time to stop, don’t you?

Way back in the prime of my naiveté I played a significant part in the Stop Esso campaign in my part of Britain. Also known in the USA as “Stop ExxonMobil”, the Greenpeace-led campaign was inspired by the fact that the then-President of ExxonMobil, Lee Raymond, refused to acknowledge the human element in global warming. Thus, it was reasoned that ExxonMobil / Esso was the “bad boy” of the oil industry and must be suitably chastised.

For about 5 years I, and thousands of fellow campaigners, were tied up in the myth that somehow boycotting and protesting against a single huge oil company would actually make a difference. This was wrong on three counts:

1) Not a single non-political boycott has ever been shown to have a significant impact on the activities of a large corporation. Aside from political trade sanctions or embargoes, the profit margins and sheer scale of these companies are large enough to absorb the impact of such activities. Campaigns that call for boycotts are even less likely to achieve any satisfactory outcome, simply because only a small minority of people ever heed such calls.

2) The aims of the boycotts are, almost without exception, about getting an existing corporation to change its ways. Now in the case of an oil company, what exactly is it that the company is expected to do? Stop selling oil? I’m no financial expert, but this sounds to me like requesting the company effectively ceases trading, which is certainly not what the vast majority of campaigns aim to do. The campaign line ends with accepting a moral compromise which, as anyone who has studied ethics will attest to, is a morally unstable position at best.

3) Single company boycotts are, in effect, condoning the activities of other companies in the same business. I’ll give you an example: when I organised a serial protest of 45 Esso service stations in one day, those taking part in the protests encountered lots of resistance even to such minor demands as getting an oil company to admit to anthropogenic global warming; but more than that, we also encountered a number of very well informed people, one of whom had experienced at first hand the brutal treatment of Nigerians in the Niger Delta by Shell sponsored thugs, and the appalling conditions suffered by people due to the constant flaring of gas and pollution of watercourses. We were asked why we weren’t protesting against Shell, to which the best we could muster was: “That’s not the focus of today’s campaign.” That may have been the case, but by making a single oil company (Esso) out to be the bad boy, as far as the public were concerned, any other oil company was ok.

You may take part in your single company protest, confident that in your heart of hearts you also despise any other company that operates in a similar manner; but unless you make that explicit, or widen your target to include the entire operational gamut, then you are also publicly giving the other companies the green light, in more senses than one.

Posted in Advice, General Hypocrisy, Should Know Better, Symbolic Action | No Comments »