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WWF Denies Palm Oil is the Problem, then Counts the Cash

Posted by keith on 23rd November 2011

It seems there is no depth to which the corporate world’s own favourite NGO, WWF, will not sink. An article in this week’s Guardian was happy to give WWF some free publicity, implying that the group actually give a stuff about the wildlife they were apparently set up to protect (or simply to ensure there is enough to shoot, as some sources suggest). The Palm Oil industry is growing month on month as new swathes of rainforest and other critical habitat are razed to the ground. According to Rainforest Action Network:

Approximately 85 percent of palm oil is grown in the tropical countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) on industrial plantations[3] that have severe impacts on the environment, forest peoples and the climate.

The Indonesian government has announced plans to convert approximately 18 million more hectares of rainforests, an area the size of Missouri, into palm oil plantations by 2020

This is just on current growth in demand, but just you wait what happens when conventional oil supplies start drying up and biofuel demand starts shooting through the roof. No more rainforests.

So, what do WWF think of the palm oil situation?

Palm oil itself is not the issue,” [Adam] Harrison [of WWF] noted. “The problem is how and where palm oil is produced.

Oh, I see. What he is saying is that we can have as much palm oil as we like so long as it’s produced in the right way. Let’s put that into context by quoting from the article some more:

The WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard, published on Tuesday, rates 132 mainly European companies, 29 of which received full marks, including 15 from UK such as Cadbury, Boots and Waitrose. No company achieved that level in the last scorecard report in 2009. At the bottom of the 2011 list are big retailers like Aldi, Lidl and Edeka from Germany, who refused to answer any questions about their palm oil policies.

“In the UK in particular we see progress,” said Adam Harrison, palm oil expert at WWF UK. “Due to several campaigns highlighting the damage caused by the rapid spread of palm plantations, companies see they are under pressure and respond.”

But he added: “Although there has been some progress on sustainable palm oil, new commitments are simply not translating fast enough into increased use of certified sustainable palm oil.” The report gives Unilever, the world’s biggest buyer of palm oil, 8 out of a possible 9.

Some companies bad, some companies good, apparently. Unilever are are the world’s largest processors of palm oil, so that should instantly put them near the front of the queue for criticism, after all if the companies didn’t put palm oil into their products then it wouldn’t be used, as was the case as little as 10 years ago when “vegetable oil” meant all sorts of different oils that invariably didn’t contribute to the removal of vast areas of rainforest. So how do WWF justify giving a company like Unilever such a brilliant score?

The Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2011 measures the performance of more than 130
major retailers and consumer goods manufacturers against four areas which WWF
believes show whether or not these companies are acting responsibly in terms of palm
oil use and sourcing:

• Being an active member of the RSPO;
• Making a public commitment to RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil;
• Disclosing how much palm oil they use;
• Showing how much of the palm oil they use is CSPO or is supporting sustainable production.

Let’s break that down a bit:

Being an active member of the RSPO;

The RSPO were founded by a band of palm oil growers, processing giants and WWF. According to WWF’s definition of “sustainable palm oil” the RSPO is the only organisation that has any credence; just like with “sustainable” timber WWF ignores, and positively campaigns against, any certifier other than FSC. WWF’s investment arm is raking in billions of dollars (I have been told this could be in the range of $60 billion for just one standards-based scheme in the Amazon) from the various schemes it oversees and then takes a cut from. The RSPO is just another such scheme: if WWF can convince everyone that this burgeoning market can be made “sustainable” then the potential from their founder member status for making money is enormous.

Making a public commitment to RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil;

The public commitment, along with the branding on products as strongly suggested by WWF, provides further credibility for this pork barrel scheme. No other certification counts, even if the palm oil was produced in an area that always contained oil palm.

Disclosing how much palm oil they use;

This serves to show the extent to which RSPO is cornering the palm oil market. Not just that, the relationship between RSPO members and WWF is a circular one; according to RSPO:

By joining the RSPO, organizations publicly communicate their commitment to sustainable palm oil production and use as well as to raise their reputation as a pro-active, solution-oriented and socially responsible organization. Ordinary Members have the right to vote at the General Assembly and can be elected to represent the relevant sector in the Executive Board by the category in question. They can have access to all materials produced by RSPO for its members, through the RSPO website and newsletter. Ordinary Members have a say in the development of criteria for sustainable palm oil production. They also have the opportunity to network with other companies in the palm oil value chain that share their values. By demonstrating their efforts towards sustainable palm oil, they can thereby improve their access to markets and investment sources.

Become a member, especially a large-scale member, and you can even change the meaning of the word “sustainable”. More importantly, you have access to all that filthy lucre. WWF, of course, get a cut of that filthy lucre.

Showing how much of the palm oil they use is CSPO or is supporting sustainable production.

CSPO means Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (a.k.a. RSPO Certified Palm Oil). Simply put, the more RSPO palm oil you use, the better your score. No matter that the members of the RSPO can manipulate the certification to suit the industry and it is in WWF’s interest to keep the biggest members on the table to ensure the RSPO monopoly is retained. As reported by Rebecca Zhou:

WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Manager Lydia Gaskell says that companies wanting to be certified are given action plans and targets according to ‘the size of the company and how sustainable they are.’

“To take a company off certification for failing to meet standards and criteria is at the very least, impractical,” said Gaskell. “There would be no need for the RSPO if everyone was meeting those principles and standards from day one.”

What really shouts out, though, is the text from WWF’s own report, which demonstrates in black and white how much value they really give to a sustainable future as compared to one in which industry holds sway over everything. They do not not recommend stopping the industrial use of palm oil; instead they look forward to a thriving palm oil future. I recommend a strong stomach if you are to read the following slice of corporate-friendly PR (the emphasis of doublespeak and greenwash is mine) – after which I feel only 5 more words are necessary:

Oil palm yields more oil per hectare of land than any other crop in the world. That is one of the reasons why palm oil makes up more or less a third of the 151 million tonnes of vegetable oil produced worldwide. Its wide availability and low price combined with certain unique characteristics means that it is used in many packaged food and personal care products that line supermarket shelves. Ice cream, margarine, biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals, soup stock cubes, snacks, ready meals, instant noodles, shampoos, soaps, lipsticks, candles and washing-up liquids—all of these items often contain palm oil that was produced in tropical countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

And palm oil is here to stay. Demand is expected to reach 77 million tonnes in 2050 to help feed the world’s growing population and the increased affluence of emerging economies like China and India. And its use may possibly grow even more if demand increases for palm oil as a biofuel.

The thriving palm oil industry also contributes significantly to the well-being of producer countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, and increasingly in the palm oil frontiers of Africa and Latin America. In these countries and regions, the palm oil sector can create employment that helps to lift rural people out of poverty.

Established brands such as ASDA , Carrefour, IKEA, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, that are relatively large users of palm oil (using tens of thousands of tonnes each year) have progressed very well. Medium-sized users such as Co-op Switzerland, Co-operative Group UK, ICA, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Royal Ahold and Waitrose, have also performed well in their size class. Among the small palm oil volume retailers, Axfood, The Body Shop and the Boots Group are ahead of the curve.

There is a second group of retailers that are at the start of their journey and that WWF expects to do better in future Scorecards. These include Casino, Coles Supermarkets, Delhaize Group, E.Leclerc, Kesko Food, Metcash Trading, REWE
Group, the SOK Group and Woolworths.

Unfortunately there is still a large number of companies that are not yet performing as well as they should, and certainly not as well as the Scorecard’s leading companies show is possible.

Disappointingly, 12 out of the 44 retailers scored have still not joined the RSPO, a very basic first step in taking responsibility for the palm oil they use.

…and benefiting WWF’s financial performance.

Posted in Astroturfs, Funding, NGO Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | No Comments »

350.org say “Hello Business, Goodbye Grassroots”

Posted by keith on 14th February 2011

For a while it wasn’t certain which side would blink first: the grassroots or the corporate loving heirarchy. Turns out that the grassroots blinked before the heirarchy had even been established. When, like 350.org you have a full time staff of just half a dozen people then you have a pretty easy decision where your loyalties lie: they claim to have tens of thousands of grassroots supporters doing hundreds of, albeit, symbolic activities across the world; they crow about this an awful lot:

World’s Biggest Day of Climate Action Unites 7,000 rallies in 188 Countries

Washington, DC – Just weeks before elections in the United States and climate talks at the United Nations, citizens from Afghanistan to West Virginia joined 350.org’s “10/10/10 Global Work Party” to issue a unified demand that politicians stop dragging their feet and get to work on climate solutions.

Leading by example, citizens in 188 countries joined more than 7,000 climate “work parties” over the weekend to get to work installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, planting trees, and then calling politicians to ask a simple question, “We’re getting to work, what about you?”

That should convince 350.org to stay with the grassroots and capitalise on the momentum they are building.

But then, on 28 January 2011, this happened:

A letter to business-people around the world:

Dear friends and colleagues:

We’re writing to invite you to participate in something amazing — and something a bit untraditional: get your company involved with 350.org.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you care about making your business green — maybe you’re taking steps to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, or have been educating your colleagues about the environment.Perhaps you started a recycling program at your office, or are building awareness-raising into your product-line. Worthy initiatives, all — and it strikes us that now is the time to join our individual efforts together, to knit together our isolated work into a bigger picture.

That’s where 350.org comes in — it has potential to engage your staff and customers, to complement what you’re already doing by knitting local projects to a global movement. How you participate is largely up to you: maybe your employees could plant 350 trees, or collect 350 bags of trash. Maybe you can put information about what 350 means for climate change on your next green product (like Camelbak). Perhaps you can sponsor an existing local 350 event, put a “Business For 350″ poster in your store-front or a similar badge on your website, or host a mini-rally (with your logo on the banner) like the staff of Keen footwear. The possibilities are endless — this is marketing, which we’re supposed to be good at.

Blinking doesn’t even approach what this is – it’s something more like foot-licking and forelock-tugging. If 350.org wanted to tear a rift between themselves and the grassroots supporters that sustain their efforts and, more importantly it seems, keep their public image flashing across the globe by virtue of sheer numbers, then they could have done no better than appeal to that ethereal entity called “business”.

This is the view of another commentator and activist, Lorna Salzman:

This appeal by 350.org to the business community defines the words “craven” and “capitulation”.

First, assign your first grade students some simple tasks. Make them feel good about it. Pin a medal on them for good citizenship. Announce to the world that you have formed a partnership with business to clean things up a bit (caution: do not mention the fact that business bears the biggest blame for climate change by promoting economic growth and overconsumption since your pupils will have to clean up the mess all by themselves).

Then after your pupils pin a medal on you for not giving them too much homework or anything that would take too much time or money, touch them all up for contributions to your toothless empty campaign that cares more about protecting its Brand (350: The Fun Way to Save the World) than about protecting humanity and the earth. Invite them to a Power Breakfast to thank them for their support.

Take advantage of the “power” image of your Fearless Leader by insuring that his bland content-less message continues to be heard and absorbed by the public loudly enough that other voices with real solutions are drowned out and characterized as cranky contrarians or seething hypercritical activists who resent your Fearless Leader’s rise to fame.

It’s hard to see the move by 350.org as anything less than a volte-face, at least on the surface; but what is the motivation behind such a bizarre move? Why would 350.org want to alienate their grass-roots membership?

If we look at the history of the organization, then the question of funding comes to the fore. 350.org was started using seed money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Bill McKibben is quite open about this, as he has said in the past; believing them to be sincere and good allies in the fight against global warming. He sees RBF as among the most dedicated funders to action and as such will not have a word said against them.

So Bill sees no conflict between taking money from RBF and trying to hold back the system from which the money originated. And I’m inclined to agree to some extent with his line of reasoning, so long as it stops there. But it doesn’t. 350.org, as I have said elsewhere, is a group that carry out predominantly symbolic, politically-based activities which makes them no more than a bit player in the battle against the forces that are killing the global ecosystem. It seems that if 350.org really wanted to be effective then they would never have followed the likes of WWF, Corporation Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy down the business path.

The logic goes like this:

1) 350.org are set up with the aim of bringing carbon dioxide levels down to 350 parts per million.
2) Climate science dictates that 350 ppm is insufficient to prevent runaway global warming.
3) 350.org refuses to sign the more radical Cochabamba Agreement, calling for a figure of 300 ppm; sticks to its guns.
4) Campaigns focus on working with the system rather than undermining it, further confirming that the 350 ppm figure is influenced by the desire to maintain the status quo.
5) 350.org leadership realise that there is little conflict between calling for 350 ppm figure and working with business, especially as their actions remain symbolic and have no chance of even hitting 350 ppm.

There is also another reason that 350.org feel comfortable working with business, and it’s very much down to the beliefs of the person that 350.org actually is: Bill McKibben. In correspondance, Bill has stated that he is a Christian and takes seriously the idea that people can repent and change – and that people who repent should occupy some of his time.

Quite how a business can “repent” is beyond me and anyone who understands the nature of religious belief. Repent is a completely inappropriate word with reference to a faceless business that exists solely to make money from the exploitation of people and the wider environment. Yet Bill clearly extrapolates the facility to repent to such non-human entities, otherwise 350.org would not countenance working with businesses at all. The fact that Bill McKibben has moved from being a writer and activist, to a writer and high-profile public persona, has distorted his vision for 350.org. The fact that his personal philosophy, as reflected in his book “Eaarth” is one of coping with change instead of undermining the systems that are causing the change (we need to do both) – a philosophy he shares with the increasingly eccentric James Lovelock – has allowed him to embrace the system he should be focussed on taking apart.

The next stage is inevitable: 350.org will become just another mainstream environmental organization, shedding a host of grassroots supporters in favour of a host of PR hungry businesses and sycophantic enviro-celebs.

In my view this is a good thing. Those thousands of people who have been led to believe that forming absurd shapes out of their bodies on beaches and writing fawning letters to politicians have a chance to get out of the symbolic game, and they should do so as fast as possible. Grassroots is not about being told how to make a difference; it is about going out and deciding for yourself how to make a difference.

Posted in Astroturfs, NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 10 Comments »

Global Cool Self-Nomination Campaign Goes Awry

Posted by keith on 13th September 2010

Flicking through my news feeds I came across an article by George Monbiot in The Guardian entitled “Green heroes working for the right kind of environmental change”. As always, I quickly scanned it looking for anyone who was actually doing anything to undermine the industrial system, and was pleasantly surprised not to see the usual mish-mash of light green writers and campaigners, but rather quite a few real people who are working with other real people: obviously no one doing anything “naughty” but then all these people are conveniently off the radar of the mainstream media.

As I was about to go to the next article, I noticed an awful lot of comments related to George’s call for nominations for another ten people. Now, there is no way, surely, that anyone would jump upon this and orchestrate a campaign to get everyone on their mailing list to post a comment…would they?

And, as if by magic, one or two names started cropping up with efficient regularity – one of them more than any other…

rebeccajg

10 September 2010 7:50PM

I nominate Caroline Fiennes, who runs Global Cool. Her organization is pursuing a very innovative campaign to change behavior of people who are beyond the reach of traditional environmental messaging. It’s a totally different approach than what I’ve seen elsewhere, and could be a great model for other countries.

Hugs1

10 September 2010 7:55PM

‘I nominate Caroline Fiennes and the team of Global Cool (http://www.globalcool.org/) – campaigns which get to the parts others don’t. Proving the concept that you can have fun living a greener life without sacrificing the things you enjoy.

Sanjiv

10 September 2010 7:57PM

I would like to nominate Caroline Fiennes at Global Cool for doing great work to raise environmental awareness more widely and to make it, well, cool!

Lesq1

10 September 2010 8:04PM

I’d like to nominate Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool.

While most environmental stuff is just preaching to the converted – and a lot of the rest is hair-shirt and sandals – Global Cool have taken on the hardest task of all – convincing the UNconverted (many would say UNCONVERTABLE) that Green is The Thing.

For sheer balls, you’ve gotta go for Caroline and Global Cool!

My second choice? Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool.

My third choice? …… You got it!

Mihrimah

10 September 2010 8:49PM

I nominate Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool. I like how Fiennes and her team are working to reach beyond the usual environmentalist crowd — so that eco-consciousness is truly mainstream.

Yes, there does appear to be a pattern emerging here. So let’s look at Global Cool, and see why Caroline Fiennes, or her PR company, think she is so worthy of nomination for this prestigeous award (for goodness sake, it’s only a list!).

Looking at the website, the first thing that struck me is that it was just a blog of trendy green stuff, packed to the gills with YouTube videos. I’m not sure how this makes Global Cool an “innovative” campaign, but maybe I’m just in the wrong demographic…or something. There is, fortunately, an About page, which reads as follows (without the billion YouTube videos embedded):

Global Cool is a green lifestyle organisation that inspires people to think differently and live differently. We work with celebrities and entertainment to show you how to live a greener life without sacrificing the things you enjoy.

Since 2007 we’ve worked with the likes of Sienna Miller, Orlando Bloom, Leonardo DiCaprio, KT Tunstall, Josh Hartnett, Stephen Fry, Rosario Dawson, Pink, Scissor Sisters, Maroon 5, Tony Blair, Prince Charles, Amy Smart, Amitabh Bachchan, Dermot O’Leary and many more to bring you a whole host of innovative ideas for leading a greener life…

Join the 100 mph Club
We took Mr Hudson, Rick Edwards, George Lamb and Scott Mills on Traincations around Europe to show you how easy it is to get around Europe by train. We also teamed up with Eurostar and Rail Europe to make it quick and easy for you to book your own Traincation.

18 Degrees of Inspiration
We showed you how to turn up the style and turn down the heat at home with our 18 Degrees of Inspiration videos with Jo and Leah Wood, Laura Bailey, VV Brown, Stella Tennant and Adam Croasdell. We also teamed up with Facebook and ASOS to give you the chance to show off your own fabulous knitwear.

Do It In Public
We went to a whole host of summer festivals and worked with bands and artists like Keane, Elbow, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, The Killers, McFly, The Courteeners, Florence & the Machine, Jet, Foo Fighters, Paolo Nutini and many more to promote the joys of public transport.

The Art of Swishing
We hosted an official London Fashion Week party in association with Estethica to launch The Art of Swishing, the latest trend in clothes recycling.

And that’s just the beginning! To keep up to date with everything Global Cool is planning in the future, sign up to our newsletter here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Global Cool is run by the Global Cool Foundation.

This looks terribly superficial – especially the lie that you can carry on doing whatever you do and still be green – and with the inclusion of Tony Blair (warmonger), Stephen Fry (techno obsessive) and Dermot O’Leary (Simon Cowell’s sock puppet) it’s a struggle to see an kind of consistency with the green message; but, as I say, I’m presumably not trendy or un-green enough to be influenced. Let’s go down a level and see what has actually been happening…

Do It In Public

Do It In Public is back for summer 2010. We’ve already been showing you how to get to and from this year’s music festivals without having to dig your car out of a muddy field and we’ll be travelling (by public transport, of course) to some of this summer’s festivals ourselves, so keep an eye out for our exclusive videos with some of the bands, including Lightspeed Champion, Caribou, Sunday Girl, Hudson Mohawke and Max Tundra.

We’re also celebrating the joys of reading books on buses and trains by launching our online book group, Books In Public. Find out more here. And if you’ve ever been sat on a bus or train and seen the man/woman of your dreams but lacked the courage to go and ask them out, we’ve got the perfect solution. Throughout the summer we’ve been hosting the Art of Conversation series on a restored Routemaster bus in London.

Ok, digging around a bit more, it seems there isn’t actually anything wrong with what they are doing – it is good to talk to people, for instance – but I have been digging around for far too long to find anything really useful. Apart from the fact that life is not just what you see on YouTube (especially when their embedding servers keep failing), it seems that I actually understand the target demographic more than Caroline Fiennes and her friends at Global Cool: if it takes more than a couple of clicks to get anywhere, then most people won’t bother. It’s all very well seeing trendy people talking about superficial stuff, but superficial doesn’t change anything, and thus Global Cool have backed themselves into a very tight corner in which non-famous trendy people look at videos of famous trendy people doing very little – to what aim I have absolutely no idea.

Back to the Guardian comment page, this pops up:

Quercusrobur

10 September 2010 8:53PM

this is looking rather like an orchestrated and concerted attempt at plugging the individual named above to me…

Thank you, Quercusrobur. The tide of nominations mysteriously stopped at this point…until a few comments had obscured the exposure of Global Cool’s PR stunt:

mlb7

11 September 2010 12:35PM

I nominate Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool – an innovative and inspiring charity which makes green behaviours fashionable

philjhjones

11 September 2010 2:11PM

I nominate Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool – a truly inspiring campaign that engages and inspires people in a completely innovative way, who ordinarily would not be involved in green thinking

http://www.globalcool.org/

A quick web search for this exact phrase uncovered Phil Jones’ Facebook profile which, if you are on Facebook, you can see suggests that Phil works for either Global Cool or it’s related campaign Project Genie – the plot thickens.

IJKLondon

11 September 2010 3:46PM

I nominate Caroline Fiennes and Global Cool … love they way they bring green issues out of the media that more or less preach to the converted (The Guardian :)) to a media readership that are more cynical and probably have less money to spend on organic/free range/recycled etc. … It’s this broader spectrum of people in the UK who can have a greater influence on our environment.

newhouser

11 September 2010 8:51PM

I’d like to nominate Caroline Fiennes from Global Cool, they are doing cool things about the environment

AngusAndKath

11 September 2010 9:40PM

We nominate Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool for her ability to bring green issues to a wider audience.

HomeMadeLifeforum

11 September 2010 10:39PM

I’d like to nominate Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool to stop creating sockpuppets to nominate herself…

Oh, thank you, HomeMadeLifeforum, for those refreshing words!

WendyinVancouver

11 September 2010 10:47PM

I nominate Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool. It`s an organization that focuses on making environmental issues cool and appealing to young people who normally don`t care much about making environmental change. It`s a really innovative approach and very important as a way of targeting people who aren`t already committed to environmental goals.

WendyinVancouver didn’t see that, and probably just opened her “Vote for me!” email, being a few hours behind the UK.

PlinyCC

12 September 2010 12:35AM

Nth that- Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool…….

At this juncture I would like to point you, Dear Reader, to the list of sponsors that a little bit more clicking uncovered, including:

Mr and Mrs Smith – a global travel company
ASOS – an online fashion retailer, one of many fashion related sponsors: you know, that thing that tells us whatever we have isn’t good enough and we have to change it for something else
Microsoft – another fashion company ;-)
CBS Outdoor – a company that pushes adverts in peoples’ faces wherever they go
White and Case – a legal firm that assists with the privatisation of common and national assets

The final word, though, must go to my new friend Quercusrobur, who almost managed to kill off Caroline’s nominations: only to be replaced by Darren Taylor and, as we can see here, Jenny Holden, who got all her Facebook friends to vote for her (I checked). Still, at least they don’t co-opt celebrities and planet-eating businesses in their work…as opposed to Global Cool:

Quercusrobur

12 September 2010 1:06AM

I’d like to nominate anyone who invents a spam filter that stops C******* F****** and her green-lite celeb-fawning eco-consumerist ‘cool’ website being nominated by her pals in place of people who are actually doing meaningful grass roots stuff that might just make a difference to this small planet that we live on

Posted in Astroturfs, Exposure, General Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 3 Comments »

Astroturf Alert: Rally For Jobs is Oil Industry Front

Posted by keith on 2nd September 2010

Just in from Public Citizen is a report on a series of rallies around the USA which are being organised by the American Petroleum Institute (API) on behalf of the oil industry. Here is the report:

Rallies Against Congressional Oil Spill Measures Represent Industry Views – Not Citizens

Today marks the start of rallies across the country organized by the oil and gas industry to block Congress from passing much-needed measures to address problems that came to light during the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which is organizing the events in Texas, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado, claims to speak not only for industry workers but for “countless consumers” who are concerned about the proposals.

Don’t be fooled. This is phony grassroots. Americans were aghast at the BP oil disaster and what they learned subsequently: that the government exercises little oversight over offshore oil drilling, that there is a ridiculously low cap on oil industry liability in the event of a major spill, that technology has far outpaced the safety measures and much more.

In response, lawmakers drafted legislation that would set new safety standards for blowout preventers and other equipment intended to shut off wells in an emergency, eliminate the existing $75 million cap for oil companies’ liability for spills, restructure the industry-friendly agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service, reform the royalty system to ensure oil companies pay their fair share to taxpayers for use of public land, and add protections for whistleblowers who call attention to safety violations in oil and gas operations, among other things.

By staging these rallies, API is trying to distort public perception. In fact, people want the government to ensure that another BP oil disaster never happens again. Lawmakers would be derelict in their duty if they didn’t respond to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Last summer, API President Jack Gerard sent a memo to API member groups that laid out a plan to create astroturf rallies as a tactic to oppose climate change legislation. The memo asked recipients to give API “the name of one central coordinator for your company’s involvement in the rallies.” And it warned: “Please treat this information as sensitive … we don’t want critics to know our game plan.”

Well, a year later, the game plan hasn’t changed, but the legislative focus has. We can’t let API – and its fake grassroots and well-funded media campaign – kill the oil spill bill.

The astroturfing is pretty blatant, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see API banners at the rallies; but just in case the links aren’t clear, the rallies are being organised under the banner “Rally For Jobs”, which is coincidentally the current headline graphic on the API web site. If you go to the “partners” page on the Rally For Jobs website then the American Petroleum Institute are there, standing in pride of place atop such other great social instututions as…

American Highway Users Alliance: An Astroturf, funded by Ford, UPS, Lafarge Cement, Chevron, General Motors and Toyota, among other. See their 990 filing section on 2007 Directors.

Americans for Tax Reform: A heavily funded conservative advocacy group – last filing in 2007 showed assets of over $7million.

Coalition for Affordable American Energy: A shell organisation (their website is defunct) founded by the US Chambers of Commerce

Freedom Works: An astroturf that organises huge rallies, founded as an offshoot from Citizens for a Sound Economy. In reality, Freedom Works is a free-market lobby organisation.

To be fair, though, there is no attempt to hide the more obvious sources of Rally For Jobs’ attitude towards pollution legislation (not that the legislation would have any teeth, anyway), for the list of partners is replete with industry bodies such as Air Transport Association, the Internation Association of Drilling Contractors, and the National Ocean Industries Association. In short, Rally For Jobs is Rally For Oil.

Then again, what would you expect? if you support wage slavery, then you must expect to get your hands dirty…

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

Pat Michaels Lets His Funding Veil Slip

Posted by keith on 17th August 2010

After umpteen years denying the (civilized) human influence on climate change, and in parallel denying he was influenced financially or otherwise by fossil fuel interests, uber-denier Pat Michaels let slip some of the source of his funding – and by implication, some of the source of his climate change denial philosophy. Let’s not forget how powerful a man Michaels is; as well as his regular appearance as a commentator on climate change in newspapers and on television broadcasts across the globe, and his influence on American energy politics, “Michaels is widely known as one of the most active and vocal global warming deniers. Michaels is a professor at the University of Virginia and according to a search of 22,000 academic journals, Michaels has published 50+ original research papers in peer-reviewed journals, mainly in the area of climate.” (source, DeSmogBlog)

The CNN interview below does spend time farting around with the trivial issue of carbon tax, but watch what happens at 6′ 20″ – bizarrely, the “40% funded” response passes without comment; even more bizarrely because the 40% figure is only for “the petroleum industry”. How much more money for Pat’s thinktanks comes from mining, industrial chemicals (almost all based on petroleum) and other corporations dependent on maintaining the status quo?

But at least part of the funding has been admitted on paper – now “all” we have to do is ensure Michaels’ words are treated as though they are covered in sticky brown crude…

Posted in Astroturfs, Cover Ups, Exposure, General Hypocrisy | No Comments »

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 hellogreentomorrow.com, 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
To: keith@theearthblog.org
Subject: Avon Launches Hello Green Tomorrow: $1 Plants a Tree in the South American Atlantic Rainforest

Hi,

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.

Best,

Jen


Jennifer C. Duval

Attention!
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

Keith

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.

Best,
Ruth
________________
Ruth E. Kallens
Attention
411 Lafayette Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10003
M: 908.433.2183
F: 212.625.1300
rkallens@attentionusa.com
www.attentionusa.com

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 (http://shop.avon.com/shop/assets/images/landing/hgt_faq_en.pdf) even though it is clearly an “astroturf” (a corporation masquarading as grassroots – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing)

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: http://www.avon.com/1/1/512-mark-dew-drenched-moisturlicious-lip-color.html

“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*: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=%22palm+oil%22+site%3Aavon.com

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

Best

Keith

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 »

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 »

Rainforest Alliance Certification : Worse Than Useless (Guest Post)

Posted by keith on 29th March 2010

Following my article on the Team Earth corporate greenwash, I was contacted by a reader – LS – who was keen for me to publish an exposé on the Rainforest Alliance, the corporate-led organisation (sorry, NGO) who’s logo adorns the jars, packets and cups of a great many comsumer products, produced by a great many less than savoury corporations. Think Chiquita (formerly United Fruit), Nestlé, Kraft, Unilever and Coca Cola, and you get an idea of how selective the Rainforest Alliance are in allowing the certification of products.

The following article was written in August 2009 by Samantha Madell, and is available (with pictures) by following this link:

Over the years, many journalists and bloggers have portrayed Rainforest Alliance certification as being equivalent to (or even better than) organic and Fairtrade certification. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case.

In truth, the Rainforest Alliance certification standards contain none of the best aspects of either organic or Fairtrade certification. (And, as has been discussed quite extensively in this thread, organic and Fairtrade certification programs are, themselves, far from perfect).

Below, I will address the following issues in more detail:

1) The Rainforest Alliance’s standards are weak, to the point of being meaningless.

2) The Rainforest Alliance’s standards are poorly enforced.

3) By poorly enforcing weak standards, the Rainforest Alliance is able to provide buyers and consumers with an abundance of cheap, “certified” products. This, in turn, has enabled the Rainforest Alliance to gain an unfair advantage over other (more expensive) certification programs which have much stronger standards.

4) the Rainforest Alliance has encouraged consumers to believe that ethical production is no more expensive than non-ethical production. The stark reality is this: ethical production is always more expensive than an exploitative method of production.

====================

1) The Rainforest Alliance’s standards are weak, to the point of being meaningless.

****
Note: Certification standards sometimes change. This blog post relates specifically to the following certification standards, both dated April 2009, and both current at the time of writing:
Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard (April 2009)
Rainforest Alliance Farm Certification Policy (April 2009)
These documents can be accessed via www.rainforest-alliance.org
****

How does Rainforest Alliance certification actually compare with Fairtrade and organic certification? The two most obvious points for comparison are pesticide usage, and the payment of premiums to growers. Then there are more general issues such as health care, education, rainforest protection, biodiversity, and sustainability. From what I can gather, the Rainforest Alliance doesn’t do much in any of these areas:

PESTICIDES

Organic certification disallows the use of synthetic pesticides. In stark contrast, the Rainforest Alliance allows the use of a wide range of pesticides. If a pesticide can be legally used in the USA and the EU, then it can be used by Rainforest Alliance certified growers.

As Bill Alpert points out in his article “Do-Gooders Who Could Do Better”, the Rainforest Alliance allows the use of pesticides that can kill the tree frog shown in its logo.

Furthermore, as Gallagher and McWhirter wrote more than 10 years ago, in “Bananas, Bulldozers and Bullets – Chiquita Banana”:

Chiquita’s use of pesticides degrades and destroys rainforests and poisons workers, sometimes fatally. Chiquita executives have found that it is far cheaper to pay willing “environmental” organizations to apply their stamp of approval than to pay for cleaning up the problem. […] Chiquita’s primary partner in green-washing is the Rainforest Alliance

Reference: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Transnational_corps/BananasBullet…

PRICES RECEIVED BY GROWERS

Organic and Fairtrade certification programs attempt to improve growers’ lives (and also reduce the use of child labor) by paying growers a set premium for their produce.

In stark contrast, the Rainforest Alliance pays no such premium. Instead, the Rainforest Alliance simply requires workers to be paid the local minimum wage. This is a meaningless standard for two reasons:

1) the local minimum wage must (by law) be paid anyway, and
2) the local minimum wage is often not enough to live on.

Nothing that I have seen in the Rainforest Alliance’s certification standards explicitly does anything to alleviate grower poverty.

Indeed, the Rainforest Alliance has been widely criticized for failing to alleviate grower poverty. In a public statement addressed to the Rainforest Alliance, the International Labor Rights Forum and the Organic Consumers Association wrote:

When cocoa farmers sell their beans in the conventional market, they routinely receive payment below the world market price which traps farmers in a cycle of poverty. As a result, they must use child labor and cut back on other expenses. If farmers are ensured a fair, living price for their beans, they are more able to institute better labor standards and provide food, health care, education and other necessary services for their families. Ensuring a fair baseline farmgate price in these conditions is not “throwing money” at a problem – it is responding to a fundamental inequality that affects farmers’ ability to implement all standards for sustainability. The price system under Fairtrade certification is thus one of that system’s major strengths.

Reference: http://www.laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-res…

ACCESS TO EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE, AND CLEAN WATER

The Rainforest Alliance’s website states that families on Rainforest Alliance-certified farms and forests “have access to education and health care”.

This is a profoundly misleading statement, which implies that Rainforest Alliance certification somehow brings about access to these services. It does not. In fact, farmers cannot obtain Rainforest Alliance certification unless and until their workers have access to education and health care. Nothing that I have seen in the Rainforest Alliance’s standards in any way facilitates access to these services.

Health care, education, and clean water cost money. However, while farmers must pay to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification, Rainforest Alliance certification does not, in turn, guarantee growers an increased income, nor any kind of financial premium for their products. In my opinion, this is unethical.

RAINFOREST AND SHADE TREES

Prior to October 2005, the Rainforest Alliance was actively promoting its certified cocoa as being grown “under the canopy of the rainforest”. That claim was false. (The Rainforest Alliance quietly removed that claim from their website, shortly after I made a formal complaint about what I saw with my own eyes at a Rainforest Alliance-certified plantation Ecuador in 2005) …

When I visited a Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa plantation and fermentary in Ecuador, I saw no rainforest anywhere near the plantation. Furthermore, there were no shade trees of any description.

Perhaps most incredible of all: a large number of mature, productive cocoa trees had been cut down not long before our visit (there were ripe pods hanging from the limbless trunks). The growers told us that they cut the trees down because they had been told that they would be better off growing maracuya (passionfruit). This is clear evidence that growers simply do not receive a high enough price for Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa.

When I came home and examined the Rainforest Alliance’s certification standards in detail, I was shocked to learn that the standards do not require a plantation to contain any shade trees, let alone rainforest.

Is this a sustainable cocoa plantation?

SUSTAINABILITY

The Rainforest Alliance routinely refers to its certified products as being “sustainably grown”, thereby implying that Rainforest Alliance certification and sustainability are synonymous. Unfortunately, the facts don’t support this claim.

For example, how can a field of felled cocoa trees (as shown above) be described as a “sustainable” cocoa plantation? Obviously, it isn’t.

However, if we suspend disbelief and assume for a moment that Rainforest Alliance certification is synonymous with sustainability – then what about the fact that a product with as little as 30% certified content can display the frog logo, and claim to be “Rainforest Alliance certified”?

Read more about the Rainforest Alliance’s highly deceptive labeling practices at Coffee and Conservation: When is 100% not 100%?

====================

2) The Rainforest Alliance’s standards are poorly enforced.

In 2005, I personally witnessed child labor at a Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa facility in Ecuador.

The children we saw were engaged in lugging heavy sacks of wet cocoa beans around. Heavy lifting can damage growing bodies, and it is widely considered to be one of the worst forms of child labor. For example, when INTERPOL recently rescued dozens of child slaves in West Africa, they reported that the children were found working in “extreme conditions, forced to carry massive loads seriously jeopardizing their health.”

It was surprising to me that, amongst our group of Western tourists, there was a high degree of complacency about this child labor.

Several members of our group believed that the boys were family members of other adult employees, and that this made the child labor OK. Other people told me that child labor is generally OK, because (for example) working on the family farm as a child never harmed them.

I have three main problems with this complacent attitude:

1) Child labor, such as we witnessed in Ecuador, is illegal. (Anybody who truly objects to this legal protection of children might want to take the issue up with Ecuador’s law makers, or UNICEF).

2) The use of child labor, as well as being illegal, is in breach of the Rainforest Alliance’s own standards. And finally,

3) Child labor goes hand-in-hand with poverty – and Rainforest Alliance certification does nothing to actively alleviate the grinding poverty which typically leads to the use of child labor.

It is obvious to me that the Rainforest Alliance doesn’t (and probably can’t) effectively enforce its standards. Therefore, their standards are not only weak, they are actually meaningless.

I am not alone in trying to highlight this problem with the Rainforest Alliance. For example, in a study titled “Examining the Rainforest Alliance’s Agricultural Certification Robustness” (2007), Feliz Ventura concluded that “it is impossible to classify the Rainforest Alliance certification process as robust”.

Furthermore, as Justin Trauben wrote for the Organic Consumers Association in June 2009:

with the release of “Tainted Harvest: Child Labor and Obstacles to Organizing on Ecuador’s Banana Plantations”, the veil was pulled by Humans Rights Watch. The farms investigated in the article, farms certified by Rainforest Alliance, relied on child labor, violated basic labor rights and suppressed attempts at unionization. In response, Rainforest Alliance went back and re-inspected the plantations in 2003, but maintained all their certifications.

Perhaps worst of all: in 1998, when Rainforest Alliance-certified plantations were found to be in breach of the standards (specifically, by using pesticides not registered for use in the United States) the Rainforest Alliance responded – not by de-certifying the plantations, but rather by weakening their own standards!

Read more about this unbelievable behaviour here, in an article titled “Environmental group loosens pesticide standards”.

=========================

3) By poorly enforcing weak standards, the Rainforest Alliance is able to provide buyers and consumers with an abundance of cheap, “certified” products. This, in turn, has enabled the Rainforest Alliance to gain an unfair advantage over other (more expensive) certification programs which have much stronger standards.

(I would like to preface my expansion of this point by reminding readers that existing Fairtrade and organic certification programs are far from perfect. However, by numerous objective measures, Fairtrade and organic are both much stronger certification programs than Rainforest Alliance).

In 2008, global sales of Fairtrade certified products increased by 22%. That sounds like very impressive growth – until you compare that figure with the Rainforest Alliance’s sales figures:

The amount of coffee purchased from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms has increased by an average of 93 percent every year for the past five years.

In a document titled “Sustainable is Attainable” (PDF doc), the Rainforest Alliance notes that consumers want environmentally friendly products. The problem that they have identified is that many consumers “do not what to sacrifice anything when buying environmentally friendly products (price and quality)”.

The Rainforest Alliance concludes that “people want to see sustainability mainstreamed”. Their response to this knowledge is to commit to “mainstreaming sustainability!”.

The concept of “mainstreaming sustainability” seems, to me, to be a euphemism for providing an abundance of cheap food items bearing the cute (but essentially meaningless) green frog logo.

In its “Sustainable is Attainable” document, the Rainforest Alliance discusses what a great marketing opportunity the Rainforest Alliance frog logo represents. Take, for example, McDonald’s UK sales of Kraft Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee:

• Unit sales up 15%
• Coffee £ sales up 23%

Hang on a minute … the number of cups of coffee sold has increased 15% (impressive!), but the income earned from coffee sales has increased 23% (even more impressive!). To me, this sounds distinctly like concerned consumers are being gouged.

Remember that Kraft is not obliged to pay anything above the market price for Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee. You should also be aware that Kraft is one of the Rainforest Alliance’s biggest corporate sponsors: according to the Rainforest Alliance’s recent annual reports, Kraft donates an unspecified amount (between $100,000 and $999,999) to the Rainforest Alliance each year (as does Mars).

=============================

4) the Rainforest Alliance has encouraged consumers to believe that ethical production methods are dirt cheap. The stark reality is this: ethical production is more expensive than production methods which exploit people and the environment.

By providing enormous quantities of cheap agricultural products (such as cocoa, tea, coffee, and bananas), the Rainforest Alliance has led consumers to mistakenly believe that ethical production methods can be as cheap as exploitative production methods. Unfortunately, this isn’t true: decent wages and sustainable growing methods are inevitably more expensive than exploitative and non-sustainable methods of agricultural production.

=============================

What can you do?

Don’t take ethical claims at face value: educate yourself; read the relevant standards; ask questions.

Be prepared to pay more for genuinely ethical products.

How do I respond to these issues? By speaking out, and by actively avoiding all products which bear the Rainforest Alliance logo.

Posted in Astroturfs, Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy | 10 Comments »

Team Earth: Another Load Of Corporate Bullshit From Conservation International

Posted by keith on 26th March 2010

Environmental groups used to be funded largely by their members and wealthy individual supporters. They had only one goal: to prevent environmental destruction. Their funds were small, but they played a crucial role in saving vast tracts of wilderness and in pushing into law strict rules forbidding air and water pollution. But Jay Hair–president of the National Wildlife Federation from 1981 to 1995–was dissatisfied. He identified a huge new source of revenue: the worst polluters.

Hair found that the big oil and gas companies were happy to give money to conservation groups. Yes, they were destroying many of the world’s pristine places. Yes, by the late 1980s it had become clear that they were dramatically destabilizing the climate–the very basis of life itself. But for Hair, that didn’t make them the enemy; he said they sincerely wanted to right their wrongs and pay to preserve the environment. He began to suck millions from them, and in return his organization and others, like The Nature Conservancy (TNC), gave them awards for “environmental stewardship.”

Companies like Shell and British Petroleum (BP) were delighted. They saw it as valuable “reputation insurance”: every time they were criticized for their massive emissions of warming gases, or for being involved in the killing of dissidents who wanted oil funds to go to the local population, or an oil spill that had caused irreparable damage, they wheeled out their shiny green awards, purchased with “charitable” donations, to ward off the prospect of government regulation. At first, this behavior scandalized the environmental community. Hair was vehemently condemned as a sellout and a charlatan. But slowly, the other groups saw themselves shrink while the corporate-fattened groups swelled–so they, too, started to take the checks.

Christine MacDonald, an idealistic young environmentalist, discovered how deeply this cash had transformed these institutions when she started to work for Conservation International in 2006. She told me, “About a week or two after I started, I went to the big planning meeting of all the organization’s media teams, and they started talking about this supposedly great new project they were running with BP. But I had read in the newspaper the day before that the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] had condemned BP for running the most polluting plant in the whole country…. But nobody in that meeting, or anywhere else in the organization, wanted to talk about it. It was a taboo. You weren’t supposed to ask if BP was really green. They were ‘helping’ us, and that was it.”

(extracted from Johann Hari, “The Wrong Kind of Green“)

Looking at the summary above, one is tempted to abandon the idea that NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) have any part to play in the removal of destructive actions upon the natural world. I think that’s a fair assumption. None of the NGOs come out of this well, not even the apparently “radical” ones like Greenpeace and RAN who are still batting on the side of industrial civilization; but if you had to choose which ones to really steer clear of, and relentlessly attack and expose, a surefire way of choosing is to look for the names of “Corporate Partners”.

If an NGO partners, or receives money from a corporation, then thay are not to be trusted.

Here is one excellent example, that I found while trawling the web:

Team Earth is all of us, working together to make our world a place of clean air, fresh water, plentiful resources and a stable climate, today and far into the future. Team Earth is companies, schools, non-profits, you, your family and friends – everyone who wants to help make sure the Earth is healthy enough to support us all.

It’s about smart, sustainable actions (call it “S-squared”) that each of us can accomplish in our daily lives. Actions that, when multiplied by our social networks, and the cross-section of people that make up Team Earth, will have a huge impact on the health of the planet we call home.

We are setting out to tackle the big challenges of our planet and to our lives – climate change, clean water, healthy food, the ways we are using our resources, and more. Each of us can make a difference, and by working as a team, we will all live better, healthier lives.

This is straight out of the corporate style book; almost excruciating in its “Hey guys, let’s put on a show, right here!” mentality. Alarm bells! Scroll down a few lines and the rationale becomes clear:

Who’s on the Team?

You. Me. The neighbors down the block. Your boss. Parents and kids across the country. People in big cities and small towns.

We are companies like Starbucks and Wrigley. Students and teachers in thousands of classrooms and schools.

Team Earth is anyone and everyone who wants to do the right thing for our shared home, united by a joint commitment, so that when each of us makes a small, personal contribution, the cumulative impact is huge.

Nice bit of community togetherness, and then “WE are companies” – you might be “on the team” but “Team Earth” is a group of companies who are greenwashing as though their survival depends upon it.

Not their ecological survival – nothing as trivial as that, you understand – but their financial survival. They have to be seen to be doing good. And who better to get to run your Astroturf than Conservation International, who proudly display their logo at the top of each page. Mentioned above as a truly dishonourable stain on the reputation of NGOs everywhere, Conservation International are quite possibly the most corporate-friendly NGO around; and if you don’t believe the quotation, have a look at their roster of Corporate Partners which is have the extreme displeasure of reproducing here:

3M
Alcoa
Alpargatas (Havaianas)
Aveda
Bank of America
Barrick Gold
Bella Figura Letterpress
BG Group plc
BP
Brunton Inc
Bunge Limited
Cargill
Celebrity Cruises
Celestial Seasonings
CEMEX
Chevron
Coach, Inc.
Coca-Cola
Compendium, Inc.
Daikin Industries Ltd
Daiwa Securities Co. Ltd.
Darden Restaurants
Dell
DreamWorks Animation
DuPont
ePals
FedEx
FIJI Water
Ford Motor Company
General Growth Properties
Givaudan
Gold Reserve Inc.
Goldman Sachs
Hamilton
Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
Hyatt
Intel
International Paper
JPMorgan Chase
Kango
Kimberly-Clark
Kraft Foods Inc.
Marriott International, Inc.
Matter Group
McDonald’s
Monsanto
Newmont Mining Corporation
Office Depot
Organic Bouquet
Pearl Jam
Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality
Rio Tinto
Royal Caribbean
Save Your World
SC Johnson
Seeds of Change
Shell Group
Sony Computer Entertainment America
Sotheby’s International Realty
Starbucks Coffee Company
Toyota Motor Corporation
United Airlines
United Technologies Corporation
Volkswagen
Walmart
Walt Disney Company
Weyerhaeuser
WhiteWave Foods
Wrigley Company
Yves Saint Laurent

That’s a pretty good rundown of all that is bad in Western commerce – they only need ExxonMobil and BHP Billiton for a full house, but I’m sure they’re working on it as I write.

As for Team Earth, well it’s just another lump of corporate bullshit masquerading as ordinary people who care. The really sad thing is, the people who fall under their spell are likely to think that Team Earth are getting down and doing good work on their behalf, when all the “Team” are doing is making a load of corporate Earth killers look slightly less murderous.

STOP PRESS! Team Earth have a Facebook Group which I would encourage you to join. They have a nasty habit of blocking people who don’t agree with their point of view, and deleting anything that runs counter to their corporate worldview. You might want to post the link to this article, or perhaps this image, which tells the truth about Conservation International…

(click for downloadable full size)

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

Scientists vs Deniers

Posted by keith on 11th March 2010

The following groups say the danger of human-caused climate change is a … FACT:

U.S. Agency for International Development
United States Department of Agriculture
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
National Institute of Standards and Technology
United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Energy
National Institutes of Health
United States Department of State
United States Department of Transportation
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Aeronautics & Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Smithsonian Institution
International Arctic Science Committee
Arctic Council
African Academy of Sciences
Australian Academy of Sciences
Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts
Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias
Cameroon Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of Canada
Caribbean Academy of Sciences
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Académie des Sciences, France
Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina of Germany
Indonesian Academy of Sciences
Royal Irish Academy
Accademia nazionale delle scienze of Italy
Indian National Science Academy
Science Council of Japan
Kenya National Academy of Sciences
Madagascar’s National Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences
Academy of Sciences Malaysia
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias
Nigerian Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of New Zealand
Polish Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences
l’Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
Academy of Science of South Africa
Sudan Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Tanzania Academy of Sciences
Turkish Academy of Sciences
Uganda National Academy of Sciences
The Royal Society of the United Kingdom
National Academy of Sciences, United States
Zambia Academy of Sciences
Zimbabwe Academy of Science
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians
American Astronomical Society
American Chemical Society
American College of Preventive Medicine
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Physics
American Medical Association
American Meteorological Society
American Physical Society
American Public Health Association
American Quaternary Association
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Society of Agronomy
American Society for Microbiology
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Statistical Association
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Botanical Society of America
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
Federation of American Scientists
Geological Society of America
National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society of American Foresters
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society of Systematic Biologists
Soil Science Society of America
Australian Coral Reef Society
Australian Medical Association
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Engineers Australia
Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies
Geological Society of Australia
British Antarctic Survey
Institute of Biology, UK
Royal Meteorological Society, UK
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
European Federation of Geologists
European Geosciences Union
European Physical Society
European Science Foundation
International Association for Great Lakes Research
International Union for Quaternary Research
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
World Federation of Public Health Associations
World Health Organization
World Meteorological Organization

(but, apparently, they are all lying)

The following groups say the danger of human-caused climate change is a … FRAUD:

American Petroleum Institute
US Chamber of Commerce
National Association of Manufacturers
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Industrial Minerals Association
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Great Northern Project Development
Rosebud Mining
Massey Energy
Alpha Natural Resources
Southeastern Legal Foundation
Georgia Agribusiness Council
Georgia Motor Trucking Association
Corn Refiners Association
National Association of Home Builders
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Petrochemical and Refiners Association
Western States Petroleum Association

(but, apparently, they have no reason to lie).

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