The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for the 'Sponsorship' Category

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 »

English School Embraces iPads, Apple and Techno Brainwashing

Posted by keith on 30th August 2011

There is a rule in civilized society that goes something like this: Whenever something is compulsory then it must have something wrong with it. We see it all the time, in the school system and it’s one-size-fits-all approach to child indoctrination; in the application of statutory rules that are essentially corporate policies; in the forced registration and noting of people and everything associated with them – compulsion is rampant within civilization because if it weren’t then people might do whatever they liked, and that would be a terrible blow to the economy and the power of the ruling minority.

Such is the micro-management taking place in every aspect of our lives, that it comes as little surprise when a new compulsion is introduced, and a great surprise when any genuine freedom is granted. One such new compulsion, or so it seems, that only briefly caused a ripple – and then possibly only because of a fear of increased access to pornography – was a new scheme introduced by Longfield Academy in Dartford, Kent. Essentially, every student (of state-sponsored indoctrination) will be given an iPad, which would be used to, in the school’s own words: “revolutionise learning in the new Academy and at home”. There is little about this idea that doesn’t make my skin creep, and the creeping becomes more intense as you delve deeper into the details.

The otherwise abhorrant Daily Mail was refreshingly candid in the headline to the story that broke in July, 2011: “School orders parents to buy their children a £600 iPad2″. It went on:

A school came under fire yesterday for forcing its parents to buy a £600 iPad2 for their children. Teachers at Longfield Academy, in Dartford, Kent, have succumbed to the current technology trend and are bulk-buying 1,400 of the touchscreen computer tablets made by Apple. From September the school will require all pupils to have one and are installing interactive whiteboards that link to the iPads.

Parents will have to splash out £16 a month, for three years, for the iPads – equivalent to £576. The total cost to parents at the school will be a staggering £806,400. The move by Longfield, a school for pupils aged 11 to 18, is the first of its kind in England, but hundreds of schools could follow suit as it has been revealed that some 500 are poised to adopt a similar scheme with digital education charity, e-learning Foundation.

Experts yesterday criticised Longfield for piling pressure on cash-strapped parents to pay for the ‘toy’. They questioned the school’s desire to use iPads as an educational tool – saying they were more suited to watching movies, surfing the internet and playing music.

And they warned that it will lead to an increase in the number of pupils viewing porn.

Education expert Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, said: ‘This school is jumping on the “cool” bandwagon. It’s after cheap headlines. It should instead be focusing on the quality of education it provides. The school is shamefully giving parents the impression that buying an expensive iPad is in their child’s long term interest. In reality parents are being asked to invest a small fortune in something that is little more than a toy and hugely associated with the viewing of porn.

Longfield’s decision to teach all pupils with an iPad is the first of its kind in the England.

To be honest the “porn” issue is a moot point – people will view porn whenever and however it is available, so long as it remains available, so the iPad is no worse than any other technology on this point. On every other point, though, it is clear that the scheme does nothing but feed the technological obsession of the school system while lining the pockets of Apple Computer. This latter point is made clear via the school’s own newsletter, all about the scheme, which explained:

On the 30th March two parents events were carried out where the vision for the scheme was outlined and the iPad project
manager from Apple demonstrated the educational applications of the device.

Going on to answer the revealing question, “Why are we going to use Apple only?” with a trite explanation pointing to “life expectancy” and “creative and collaborative work”, conveniently skipping over the idea that Open Source or even other commercial offerings have much the same capabilities. But that’s not the point. Apple appears to have benefitted perhaps accidentally from this decision but then been called in to ensure the technology becomes binding. Brand loyalty is what all corporations love best, and what better way to seal brand loyalty than to make your brand ubiquitous in a (to all intents and purposes) compulsory “learning” environment?

Apple love this lots, as you can see from their Youth Programs, offering among other things:

Youth Workshops
From composing a song in GarageBand to building a photo album to creating a compelling Keynote presentation, our Youth Workshops offer families with kids (ages 6 to 13) a chance to work together to hone their Mac skills and use iLife and iWork applications to complete exciting projects. We offer the free workshops at Apple Retail Stores worldwide.

Field Trip to the Apple Store
Take your students on a Field Trip to an Apple Retail Store for an unforgettable learning experience. On their Field Trip, students can create something amazing right on the spot. Or they can bring in a project they’ve already created and turn our store into a theater, sharing their achievements with parents, teachers, and friends. No matter which option you choose, everyone will have a great time.

and the exceptionally immersive:

Apple Camp
Lights. Camera. Camp. Nothing beats Apple Camp for a fun summer activity for your kids. This summer, kids ages 8-12 will learn the ins and outs of iMovie and how to make a film in about the time it takes to watch one. The free workshop, held at the Apple Retail Store, spans three days and leads up to an Apple Camp Film Festival where campers debut their masterpieces.

So by falling for the latest retail obsession, no doubt helped by the fact that it is run by the Leigh Academies Trust (motto “Act Enterprisingly. Work in Partnership. Achieve Excellence.”), Longfield Academy has allowed Apple to influence a significant part of the lives of the young people whose care it has been entrusted with. By further making the iPad a home/school deal then Apple gets to eke its way into the private lives of these same young people who without the iPads may have (horror of horrors!) decided to spend some time away from technology when they get home rather than being gripped with the ubiquity of computerisation.

I can’t finish off this noxious tale without linking to a video produced by (some of) the students of Longfield. What is really frightening is that they really think this is a good thing…


UNDERMINING OPPORTUNITY

Are you a student at Longfield Academy? Do you like being brainwashed by the technocracy and the so-called “education” system? Well, first I think it would be fair to refuse the iPad – just take it back, if you have it, or if you are today’s new intake (yes, term starts today, at the time of writing) then refuse it in the first place. Legally, no school can force you to accept the iPad; less still can they make you pay for it – they would be in breach of tax rules and subject to ferocious fines from HMRC if you were forced to pay.

And how about a nice bit of subvertising? Maybe you have an art project coming up, or perhaps something in media studies. How about taking the beloved Apple logo and turning into something a lot more truthful – perhaps a worm coming out of its rotten core, or some slave labour overseen by a grinning Apple?

Some good examples of subvertising here: http://thesietch.org/mysietch/keith/subvertising-gallery/, to adorn the toilet walls, or even the art room :-)

Posted in Advice, Human Rights, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Sponsorship, Subvertising | No Comments »

London 2012: Crass, Commercial and Completely Acceptable

Posted by keith on 25th July 2011

The Olympic Charter reads as follows:

Fundamental Principles of Olympism

1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

3. The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings.

4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organisation, administration and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organisations.

5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.

Notice the highlighted points, particularly those mentioning Universal Fundamental Ethical Principles and Human Dignity – they are key to the next set of information, which you might find runs rather contrary to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism. The more you know about the activities of the corporations mentioned, the more appalled you are sure to be.

Coca-Cola is proud to be a Presenting Partner of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay, and looks forward to helping to spread the magic of the Olympic Games well beyond London, inspiring communities across the UK to participate in the biggest celebration of world sport.

Coca-Cola’s partnership with the Olympic Flame began in Barcelona in 1992, and London 2012 will mark the eighth time the company has served as a Presenting Partner. Coca-Cola will draw on its unrivalled heritage of involving people in the excitement of the Olympic Torch Relay to bring the Olympic Games to doorsteps across the UK. Find out more at www.cokezone.co.uk/olympicgames

(http://www.london2012.com/games/olympic-torch-relay/presenting-partners/)

The London 2012 Organising Committee today announced Rio Tinto as their 40th domestic sponsor for next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Rio Tinto will provide the gold, silver and copper to produce 4,700 medals for the London 2012 Games. The company, a leading international mining group headquartered in London, will become the Official Mining and Metals Provider to London 2012 and the 24th domestic Tier 3 sponsor.

London 2012 will be the second Games at which Rio Tinto has supplied the metals, having previously done so for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 2002.

LOCOG Commercial Director Chris Townsend commented, ‘The medals are one of the great traditions and enduring images of any Olympic or Paralympic Games, so Rio Tinto will play a significant role in the successful delivery of London 2012. We welcome them to the London 2012 family and we look forward to working with them to ensure that our medals will be both spectacular and sustainable.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2011/04/london-2012-secures-rio-tinto-as-sponsor.php)

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has appointed Heineken UK, Britain’s leading brewer, as Official Lager Supplier of London 2012 in a Tier Three sponsorship deal.

As part of the deal, the company’s flagship premium beer, Heineken, will be the branded lager served at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Heineken UK will have exclusive pouring rights for its portfolio of beer and cider brands at all London 2012 venues where alcohol is served.

As an official supplier of the London 2012 Games, Heineken will also be able to utilise exclusive hospitality and marketing opportunities associated with the event. It will also enjoy sponsorship and venue supply rights associated with the British Olympic Association, Team GB, the British Paralympic Association and ParalympicsGB.

Chris Townsend, LOCOG Commercial Director, said: ‘Like many major events, the provision of food and drink is a part of the overall experience and this year sees our plans in this regard move up a gear. We are especially pleased to be working with Heineken, as we have a shared goal of encouraging adult visitors to our venues where alcohol is served to celebrate responsibly. We welcome Heineken to the London 2012 family and look forward to working with them between now and the summer of 2012.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2011/02/london-2012-signs-heineken-as-latest-sponsor.php)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced that Procter and Gamble (P&G) will join The Olympic Partners (TOP) Programme.

P&G will be an official Olympic worldwide partner in the ‘personal care and household products’ category until 2020, including the London 2012 Olympic Games. As part of the agreement, P&G will also partner the IOC and the National Olympic Committees around the world.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said: ‘Procter & Gamble is a first-class company, and we are absolutely delighted to announce that we will be partnering with it until 2020. P&G’s global reach and consumer insight will be a real boost in our efforts to communicate the Olympic values to a worldwide audience, and its financial support over the next decade will benefit the entire Olympic Movement, including the athletes themselves.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2010/07/11th-olympic-worldwide-partner-announced.php)

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is pleased to confirm ArcelorMittal as a Tier Two sponsor of London 2012 and Official Steel Supporter of the Games. The deal follows confirmation that ArcelorMittal will fund the construction of a 115m-high visitor attraction in the Olympic Park in time for the Games. The attraction will be designed by artist Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond and named ‘The Orbit’ during the Games.

As part of the deal, LOCOG will benefit from the sale of tickets to visit the viewing platform of the tower, as well as being able to provide hospitality in the tower at Games-time. The tower is expected to be completed by May 2012 and will be an iconic presence on the skyline as well as providing visitors with spectacular views across the Olympic Park.

LOCOG Chair Seb Coe commented: ‘The Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are already transforming east London and the addition of the Tower at Games-time will provide an added dimension to the Park. We are thrilled to have ArcelorMittal on board as a sponsor and I have great pleasure in welcoming them to the London 2012 family.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2010/05/london-2012-confirms-arcelormittal-as-tier-two-supporter.php)

The London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) today announced BMW as the official Automotive Partner of the London 2012 Games. BMW becomes the seventh Tier One partner and 24th domestic partner overall.

The company will supply around 4,000 vehicles to transport the ‘Games family’ during the Olympic and Paralympic Games – including athletes, technical officials, the media and International Sports Federations.

BMW is also a ‘Sustainability Partner’ and has committed to provide a low emissions fleet. It will showcase electric vehicles and also provide bicycles to help athletes and LOCOG staff get around at Games time. The measures will help deliver LOCOG’s objectives of a ‘low carbon and ‘healthy living Games.

LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe said: ‘Operationally, an automotive deal is vital for any Organising Committee and so I’m thrilled BMW is on board. They share our vision to stage a sustainable Games in 2012 and will be a valued partner.

‘On a commercial level, signing another Tier One Partner in this challenging environment is a fantastic achievement but it goes to show the inspirational power of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2009/11/bmw-signs-as-newest-london-2012-tier-one-partner.php)

GE [General Electric], a worldwide partner of the Olympic Games, has today announced plans to donate £4.8 million ($8 million) worth of medical equipment, including foetal monitors, incubators and MR scanner, to Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, East London.

Hackney is one of the five Host Boroughs of the London 2012 Games. The hospital is the nearest to the Olympic Park.

The pledge will enhance the hospital’s care of premature and sick babies. It will help reduce infant mortality rates across the borough and make a significant contribution to the Government’s policy agenda on maternal and infant care.

Paul Deighton, Chief Executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), said: ‘We applaud GE’s donation – which is a great example of a tangible legacy left by a corporate sponsor beyond the 2012 Games.

‘This is what Olympic legacy is all about – giving the people of East London access to world class facilities on their door step – in this case healthcare – which will help improve lives for generations to come.’

As a worldwide partner of the Olympic Games, including London 2012, GE will provide GE infrastructure solutions for Olympic venues including power, lighting, water treatment, transportation and security. It will also supply hospitals with ultrasound and MRI equipment to help doctors treat athletes.

The donation is part of a GE Healthcare programme ‘healthymagination’, using innovative technology to improve healthcare around the world.

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2009/06/ge-donates-4-8m-pounds-to-host-borough-hospital.php)

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) today announced The Nielsen Company as its official Market Research Services provider.

Working in collaboration with the LOCOG marketing team, The Nielsen Company will undertake all of LOCOG’s market research services requirements, including developing a market research strategy, undertaking tracking studies and organising online panels and surveys.

LOCOG chair Seb Coe welcomed the appointment: ‘This is more fantastic news for the project, as we’ve signed yet another market-leading company to the commercial programme. The Nielsen Company will assist us in the decision-making process by testing our ideas in the marketplace. One of our challenges – and opportunities – is connecting with young people. Nielsen will help us to do this and will, I’m sure, prove to be a huge asset to our marketing push, which is moving up a gear in 2009.’

‘Nielsen is pleased to partner with LOCOG in support of London 2012,’ said Susan Whiting, vice-chair of The Nielsen Company. ‘The Olympic and Paralympic values are shared by Nielsen’s employees, and we look forward to providing critical consumer and media insights that will deliver an Olympic experience that London and the UK can be proud of.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2009/06/london-2012-appoints-market-research-services-provider.php)

London 2012 Sustainability Partner EDF Energy has launched an annual ‘Green Britain Day’, aiming to show the world how Britain can lead the world in the race against climate change.

Inspired by the Games, people are being invited to join Team Green Britain and use the day, 10 July, as the start of a journey to be more sustainable.

Advice can be found on the Team Green Britain website on ways to be more sustainable across five themes: home and garden, food, lifestyle, travel and money.

Olympic and Paralympic champions including cyclist Victoria Pendleton and Paralympic swimmer Eleanor Simmonds are among those who have joined the team.

Over 450 schools have signed up to be part of activities, as part of EDF’s online ‘POD’ educational resource; 1,000 more have downloaded materials to help them ‘do something green for the team’ on the day. There will also be 20 community events running across the UK.

The project is running in association with the Eden Project, who are holding a concert featuring Paul Weller and Florence and the Machine to round off the day.

Sebastian Coe, London 2012 Organising Committee Chair, said: ‘London 2012 is all about using the power of the Games to inspire change and it’s fantastic to see EDF Energy, the first sustainability partner of London 2012, taking this on in their activation. The Green Britain Day campaign is a great way for people to come together and make a difference.

‘Sustainability underpins our planning for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. It will be a key part of our legacy and Team Green Britain will, I hope, grow as we head towards 2012 and live on after the Games have gone.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2009/06/edf-energy-launches-team-green-britain.php)

Tier Two Supporter Cadbury [Kraft] has extended its existing deal with London 2012 so that they will supply all confectionary and packaged ice cream sold at official London 2012 outlets at Games time.

As part of the extension sugar-free gum Trident becomes the fifth Tier Three brand to sign to London 2012.

London 2012 Chief Executive Paul Deighton said: ‘This deal is a great opportunity for Cadbury to extend its partnership with the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and for us to continue to develop our commercial programme and raise more private finance to host and stage the Games.

‘Cadbury has a long tradition of sports sponsorship, both in this country, and of supporting major international events, and are proving a strong addition to our team of world class commercial partners.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2009/03/cadbury-extends-partnership.php)

Atkins is the latest Tier Three provider for the London 2012 Games, as the partnership programme continues apace.

Atkins is the official Engineering Design Services provider for the 2012 Games. Their services include help with building services design, acoustics, fire and accessibility advice for temporary Games venues in London and across the UK. These include Horse Guards Parade, Greenwich Park and Footballing venues St James’ Park, Hampden Park and the Millennium Stadium.

Atkins has been part of the design team for the Olympic Park site since late 2005, working with partners to help with aspects of clearing and cleaning the site, road and bridges and ecological support.

London 2012 Chair Sebastian Coe said: ‘We are now at the half-way point between winning the bid and staging the Games, and the appointment of Atkins is a real sign that the project is developing at a rapid pace and that we are well on track.

‘Atkins is a world class player in this field, with a fantastic record of working on major projects. They know the project inside out and will be a valuable partner on the road to 2012.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2009/01/atkins-announced-as-latest-tier-three-provider.php)

BP has been announced as the sixth Tier One Partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

As the official Oil and Gas Partner and a Sustainability Partner, BP will provide the fuelling facilities for Games-related transport. It will also provide Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) for catering, vehicle washing facilities and technical support services, including a system for tracking and reporting carbon emissions.

Following a strong tradition of supporting the arts, BP will promote and support the Cultural Olympiad with exhibtions and outreach programmes around the UK.

LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe said: ‘From the moment the Olympic flag is handed to London, the eyes of the world will be on the UK. So I am delighted that we have the best of British companies joining us on our journey to 2012 to deliver a truly memorable Olympic and Paralympic Games.’

The number of Tier One Partners signed so early is unprecendented. They will help fund the cost of staging the Games as well as helping to spread the message of the Games, to inspire change.

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2008/07/bp-announced-as-latest-tier-one-partner.php)

British Airways has been announced as the newest Tier One partner for the 2012 Games, in the airline category.

A firm supporter of the London 2012 bid, the airline will now have marketing rights to the London 2012 Games and provide flights to athletes for the Beijing Games this summer and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

As part of the deal announced at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, British Airways will also provide support for volunteer training and a travel bursary scheme for aspiring athletes.

Willie Walsh, British Airways chief executive, said: ‘British Airways is a natural partner for London 2012 and we are proud to become part of the team that makes the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games a success.

‘As one of Britain’s most high profile and iconic brands, it is right that we should sponsor the Games in our home city. We supported London’s bid in 2005 and we will be proud to welcome the world to London when the global spotlight falls on the UK in 2012.’

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2008/02/british-airways-announced-as-tier-one-partner.php)

Leading energy company EDF was today announced as London 2012′s next Tier One domestic sponsor and a sustainability partner.

As Europe’s lowest carbon-emitting energy company, EDF will help make sure the 2012 Games are sustainable and will encourage people and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint through a ‘Green Lane’ campaign.

The company now have exclusive marketing rights for the utility services sector, including use of the new London 2012 logo, plus exclusive access and category marketing rights to Team GB and Paralympic GB for Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010.

The announcement was made at an event at 2012 venue Greenwich Park, where a ‘Green Lane’ was created to show how homes can be made to be environmentally friendly.

EDF has a strong connection with the Games and its UK subsidiary was the first company to sign up as a partner during the bid for 2012.

Pierre Gadonneix, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EDF, said: “I am delighted that EDF will be an official partner of London 2012.

“With these Olympic and Paralympic Games, we want to deliver the vision of inspiring future generations and leaving a lasting legacy, in sport and in society.”

Sebastian Coe, Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee said: “Sustainability is at the heart of London 2012 and we’re looking forward to working with EDF to make London 2012 truly sustainable Games, delivering a lasting legacy benefiting sport, the environment and the local and global community.”

(http://www.london2012.com/news/2007/07/edf-announced-as-london-2012-sustainability-partner.php)

Commercialism in sport! Who’d have thought?

Posted in General Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 1 Comment »

Dispatches: Conservation’s Dirty Secrets

Posted by keith on 21st June 2011

JUST-WATCH-THIS…

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od#3201652

Dispatches reporter Oliver Steeds travels the globe to investigate the conservation movement and its major organisations. Steeds finds that the movement, far from stemming the tide of extinction that’s engulfing the planet, has got some of its conservation priorities wrong.

The film examines the way the big conservation charities are run. It questions why some work with polluting big businesses to raise money and are alienating the very people they would need to stem the loss of species from earth.

Conservation is massively important but few dare to question the movement. Some critics argue that it is in part getting it wrong, and that, as a consequence, some of the flora and fauna it seeks to save are facing oblivion.

Long term it can also be viewed on YouTube via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUwYZSwSLY0

More information about Conservation International’s activities can be found at http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/877241/conservation_international_agreed_to_greenwash_arms_company.html

More information about WWF’s capitalist addiction can be found at http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/partners/corporate/index.html. You can make your own mind up about the motivation of the various businesses.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Cover Ups, Exposure, Funding, Human Rights, NGO Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 2 Comments »

Scholastic U-Turn On Coal: Shame About Their Other Partners

Posted by keith on 17th May 2011

Well, that didn’t last long. From the first outrage to a “Move along, nothing to see here!” clean up of the website, Scholastic seem to have recovered relatively easily from what they claim was just a mistake. When Scholastic published a set of four worksheets and a printable map (see here for a cache image) that had been produced by the American Coal Institute, the group Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood went into overdrive. May 11, 2011 saw the first offensive which had snowballed into a well-orchestrated furore the next day, followed a couple of days later by an apparently complete reversal of publishing policy by the much-loved American publisher of schoolbooks and materials.

Here’s how it played out in the New York Times:

Coal Curriculum Called Unfit for 4th Graders
Published: May 11, 2011

Three advocacy groups have started a letter-writing campaign asking Scholastic Inc. to stop distributing the fourth-grade curriculum materials that the American Coal Foundation paid the company to develop.

The three groups — Rethinking Schools, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Friends of the Earth — say that Scholastic’s “United States of Energy” package gives children a one-sided view of coal, failing to mention its negative effects on the environment and human health.

Kyle Good, Scholastic’s vice president for corporate communications, was traveling for much of Wednesday and said she could not comment until she had all the “United States of Energy” materials in hand.

Others at the company said Ms. Good was the only one who could discuss the matter. The company would not comment on how much it was paid for its partnership with the coal foundation.

Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake
Published: May 12, 2011

Children’s books and other educational materials produced by the publisher Scholastic reach about 90 percent of the nation’s classrooms. With this enormous access to what amounts to a captive audience of children, the company has a special obligation to adhere to high educational standards.

It fell short of that when it produced a fourth-grade lesson packet called “The United States of Energy,” a treatise on coal that was paid for by the American Coal Foundation, a nonprofit group. As Tamar Lewin noted in The Times on Thursday, the lessons talked about the benefits of coal and the pervasiveness of power plants fueled by it — and omitted mention of minor things like toxic waste, mountain-top removal and greenhouse gases.

The issue came to light recently when children’s advocacy groups hammered Scholastic for giving a one-sided view of coal usage. This is not the first time that the company had come under fire. Last year, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood attacked Scholastic for encouraging schools to have classroom parties with, and to collect labels from, the sugary juice drink SunnyD as a way of winning free books.

(We’ll come to that last point later)

Letters: This Lesson Plan Is Brought to You by…
Published: May 16, 2011

“Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake” (editorial, May 13) acknowledges that Scholastic’s children’s books, magazines, reading programs and Web site content are used in most American classrooms — a responsibility and trust that we have built through painstaking work through 90 years of service to teachers and schools.

A tiny percentage of this material is produced with sponsors, including government agencies, nonprofit associations and some corporations.

Your editorial criticizes a lesson packet called “The United States of Energy,” about different sources of energy — coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind and natural gas — primarily for its sponsorship by the American Coal Foundation.

We acknowledge that the mere fact of sponsorship may call into question the authenticity of the information, and therefore conclude that we were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship in this instance. We have no plans to further distribute this particular program.

Because we have always been guided by our belief that we can do better, we are undertaking a thorough review of our policy and editorial procedures on sponsored content to ensure that we publish only those materials that are worthy of our reputation as “the most trusted name in learning.”

RICHARD ROBINSON
Chairman, President and C.E.O.
Scholastic Inc.
New York, May 13, 2011

It is now all but impossible to find any evidence that the worksheets and map were ever on the Scholastic web site unless you search various web caches. Of course the American Coal Foundation still proudly peddle their filth because that’s what business does. There is no sense in suggesting that the coal industry stop producing these materials as the commercial model that they and all corporations work by is the need to continually generate profit for shareholders; if they don’t grow then they fail, therefore any way of getting in the minds of vulnerable individuals (including you and me) is fair game for a corporation.

Scholastic is a corporation – it may produce what it likes to call “educational” materials (a.k.a. whatever is approved by the industrial capitalist system) but it still needs to make money, so willingly takes any handouts it can from other corporations. There isn’t a lot of money in “educational” publishing, the margins are simply too low, so sponsorship is the way to go for any good corporation. As CCFC point out:

For years, Scholastic has exploited its reputation as an educational publisher to serve as a Trojan horse for all sorts of inappropriate marketing in schools—from the highly commercialized content of its Book Clubs, to marketing the over-the-counter drug Claritin in elementary schools, to urging teachers to throw parties for the sugar-laden beverage SunnyD in their classrooms. Scholastic’s InSchool Marketing division offers its services as curriculum producer for hire. The program is designed “to promote client objectives” and “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors.”

So this apparent U-turn and clean-up of the web site is really just a way of saving face because a lot of potential customers really do want less commercial influence in schools, enough customers to offset the losses caused by refunding the American Coal Foundation.

Not to worry, though, because there are plenty of other sponsorship opportunities available that might seem a little more acceptable to the school system. I had a look through the Science section on the Scholastic web site and, as they say, there are few overt commercial connections: I found the Lexus Environmental Challenge and the extremely blatant Count on Wet Ones Wipes (that’s for the indoctrination of tiny people). But what was more interesting was the number of resources that clearly had an extreme bias towards industry and the culture of imperialism:

What Is Technology, and How Does It Benefit Us? is such an obviously loaded title that you don’t have to read the contents to realise that technology is bound to be seen as a Great Thing. But read I did, and found this little gem (my emphasis):

Explain to students that although technology presents many benefits to humanity, there may also be by-products or issues that arise through the process of manufacturing and the development of technology. Engage students in a discussion of these benefits, as well as the by-products or issues and how these issues are being or might be addressed. If your students don’t include environmental challenges in their discussion, suggest the responsibility everyone has in controlling waste, and that recycling represents our effort to achieve that. Examples of how technology can enhance society might include: battery technology, solar power, satellites, text messaging, MP3s, gaming, plasma TVs, air and water testing, improved product designs.

Nice bit of accentuate the positive going on there.

The Culture of The Inca does a remarkable job in ignoring virtually anything to do with the culture of the Inca, including their brutal massacre by Spanish conquistadores, favouring instead to focus on llamas!

The empire of the Inca existed for many centuries in Peru. Today the descendants of these people continue many aspects of the culture, including traditional language, stories, folk songs, dance, and farming practices.

The descendants of the Inca still live in Peru. Visit them, listen to their songs, read their jokes, and try out a bit of their language at http://www.andes.org/.

[various instructions]

Did you notice llamas in the pictures you looked at? The llama was the most important animal to the Inca, and is still important today. To find out why, go to http://www.llamapaedia.com/origin/domestic.html. List at least three ways the Incas used llamas.

Extension Activity:

Llamas are also popular in the United States. You can find out much more about llamas at http://www.llamapaedia.com/index.html. Work with your classmates to research and report on different aspects of llama care, llama behavior, and how llamas are used today.

And just as I was going to wrap up the examples, I found a perfect example of state-sponsored brainwashing in the form of Save the Flag: Find out how to keep yours in shape for summer’s patriotic holidays. Are you ready?

What you need:

one 12″ x 12″ sample of each of the following: red felt, white felt, blue felt, 100% cotton white fabric
scissors
bowl of hot water
sandpaper
dirt
sunny window

What to do:

1. Discuss famous flags from U.S. history with your child — the Betsy Ross flag and the flag that inspired the national anthem, among others...

…at which point I could safely assume that Scholastic probably isn’t the best place to get information about the slaughter of Native American peoples either. Nope, thought not.

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Media Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 5 Comments »

Nature Conservancy Embrace Dow Chemical Business Model

Posted by keith on 27th January 2011

Below is a long list of chemical compounds and elements. This is not just an ordinary list, for it is special in all sorts of ways – not least of all to anyone who is a supporter of our old friends The Nature Conservancy. The list contains just those substances that the US Environmental Protection Agency deem it necessary for companies to declare, and which have been declared by one particular company, for just one site:

1,1,1,2-TETRACHLOROETHANE
1,1,1-TRICHLOROETHANE
1,1,2,2-TETRACHLOROETHANE
1,1,2-TRICHLOROETHANE
1,2,3-TRICHLOROPROPANE
1,2,4-TRIMETHYLBENZENE
1,2-DICHLOROBENZENE
1,2-DICHLOROETHANE
1,2-DICHLOROETHYLENE
1,2-DICHLOROPROPANE
1,3-BUTADIENE
1,3-DICHLOROBENZENE
1,3-DICHLOROPROPYLENE
1,4-DIOXANE
2,2-DICHLORO-1,1,1-TRIFLUOROETHANE
2,3-DICHLOROPROPENE
ACETALDEHYDE
ACRYLAMIDE
ALLYL ALCOHOL
ALLYL CHLORIDE
ALUMINUM (FUME OR DUST)
AMMONIA
ANTHRACENE
ANTIMONY
ARSENIC
ASBESTOS (FRIABLE)
BARIUM COMPOUNDS
BENZENE
BERYLLIUM
BIPHENYL
BIS(2-CHLORO-1-METHYLETHYL) ETHER
BROMOFORM
BROMOMETHANE
CADMIUM
CARBON DISULFIDE
CARBON TETRACHLORIDE
CERTAIN GLYCOL ETHERS
CHLORINE
CHLOROBENZENE
CHLORODIFLUOROMETHANE
CHLOROETHANE
CHLOROFORM
CHLOROMETHANE
CHROMIUM
COBALT COMPOUNDS
COPPER COMPOUNDS
CUMENE
CYCLOHEXANE
DIBENZOFURAN
DICHLOROBROMOMETHANE
DICHLOROMETHANE
DICHLOROTRIFLUOROETHANE
DICYCLOPENTADIENE
DIOXIN AND DIOXIN-LIKE COMPOUNDS
EPICHLOROHYDRIN
ETHYLBENZENE
ETHYLENE
ETHYLENE GLYCOL
ETHYLENE OXIDE
ETHYLIDENE DICHLORIDE
FORMALDEHYDE
FORMIC ACID
HEXACHLORO-1,3-BUTADIENE
HEXACHLOROBENZENE
HEXACHLOROETHANE
HYDROCHLORIC ACID (1995 AND AFTER 'ACID AEROSOLS' ONLY)
LEAD
MANGANESE
MERCURY
METHANOL
METHYL ISOBUTYL KETONE
N-BUTYL ALCOHOL
N-HEXANE
NAPHTHALENE
NICKEL COMPOUNDS
NITRATE COMPOUNDS
NITRIC ACID
PENTACHLOROBENZENE
PENTACHLOROETHANE
PHENANTHRENE
POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC COMPOUNDS
PROPIONALDEHYDE
PROPYLENE
PROPYLENE OXIDE
PYRIDINE
SELENIUM
SILVER COMPOUNDS
STYRENE
SULFURIC ACID (1994 AND AFTER 'ACID AEROSOLS' ONLY)
TETRACHLOROETHYLENE
THALLIUM
TOLUENE
TRICHLOROETHYLENE
VANADIUM (EXCEPT WHEN CONTAINED IN AN ALLOY)
VINYL CHLORIDE
VINYLIDENE CHLORIDE
XYLENE (MIXED ISOMERS)
ZINC COMPOUNDS

But not only is this a list of substances merely declared, it is a list of substances that have been released into the environment beyond the legal boundaries of the site: The Dow Chemical plant, Plaquemine, Louisiana. Every one of these substances is classified as a pollutant by the EPA; every one of these substances is out of the control of Dow Chemical.

This list is not from 1940, or even 1970, but 2009. In 2009, this one plant released half a ton of lead; a pound of dioxin; 12 tons of benzene; 32 pounds of mercury…go and look for yourself if you want. It’s all in a handily downloadable file.

This is just one site, albeit a big one, from the EPA list, which only covers the USA. According to Dow Chemical themselves, “China is Dow’s second largest country in terms of sales, with 5 business centers, 20 manufacturing sites and approximately 3,900 employees.” That’s one more nation: 20 more sites, none of which are under such close scrutiny as in the USA.

The nature of Dow Chemical is the manufacturing and processing of industrial products. This is a good snapshot of the corporation:

The Dow Chemical Company is the world’s second largest chemical company, behind only BASF. Dow’s primary industries are chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, agricultural sciences and plastics. Dow’s main business is supplying chemicals to other industrial and chemical companies. Using oil, coals, natural gas, salt, brine and other basic inputs, Dow makes inorganic chemicals like soda, solvents, and chlorine, and organic chemicals like acetone, ethylene glycol, glycerine, phenols, etc. Dow is also the biggest plastics manufacturer in the world.

The page from which this comes is required reading for anyone who wants to absorb (and, no doubt, your body already has) the nature of Dow’s business. Like any corporation, they exist to make money for their shareholders – and like any corporation, if they can get away with something to increase shareholder profit then they will. It’s the nature of capitalism; the name of the game.

If you visit Dow’s website, then you will notice something truly striking: a bloody great mountain; a pristine lake; desert sands and an ocean full of tropical fish. That thing about getting away with something – Dow have mastered the art. While few people will ever read the EPA reports on Dow’s toxic releases, many people will go to Dow’s website and be confronted with a tableau of nature’s bounty, and the following words:

The Nature Conservancy Collaboration

Leaping in head first to the challenge of “protecting nature” in partnership with Dow chemical is The Nature Conservancy, which Dow have kindly furnished with $10 million over a five year period.

According to TNC: “The Nature Conservancy and Dow Chemical Company are working together on a breakthrough collaboration to demonstrate that protecting nature can be a global business strategy – and a corporate priority. Dow and its foundation together have committed $10 million over the next five years to develop tools and demonstrate models for valuing nature in business decisions. With the help of the Conservancy, Dow will work to incorporate biodiversity and the value of nature into its company-wide goals, strategies and objectives. With support from Dow’s foundation, the Conservancy will use lessons learned, collaborative scientific analyses, and its own conservation experience to pursue wide-spread use of these conservation tools by other companies.”

$10 million may seem like a lot of money to you and me, but to Dow Chemical it’s just 0.3% of their annual profit (as of 2009) – yes, that’s profit, not income, which is 3 times as much. Actually it’s even less because Dow can claw much of that investment back in charitable giving rebates. And what do Dow Chemical get for that $2 million a year?

They get branding – everywhere, on their websites, on the Nature Conservancy’s website, on their corporate materials (The Nature Conservancy logo), on every billboard and TV ad they are no doubt planning to roll out in order to make the most of their “partnership”.

They get fantastic PR – just do a quick search on “Dow Chemical” and “Nature Conservancy” and as of today there are 115,000 hits on Google. More specifically, do a search for “Dow Chemical” and “protecting the earth” and you get 2,590 results and counting. Dow look like a great, green company.

They make money – just look at the wording of the joint press release from Dow and TNC:

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN – January 24, 2011 – Andrew Liveris, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) and Mark Tercek, chief executive officer of The Nature Conservancy jointly announced today a new collaboration between the organizations to help Dow and other companies recognize, value and incorporate nature into global business goals, decisions and strategies. The senior leaders issued the news to some of the world’s foremost business, environmental and sustainability leaders, dignitaries and media at the Detroit Economic Club.

The global organizations will work together to apply scientific knowledge and experience to examine how Dow’s operations rely on and affect nature. The aim of the collaboration is to advance the incorporation of the value of nature into business, and to take action to protect the earth’s natural systems and the services they provide people, for the benefit of business and society. One of the major objectives of this collaboration is to share all tools, lessons learned and results publicly and through peer-review so that other companies, scientists and interested parties can test and apply them.

“This collaboration is designed to help us innovate new approaches to critical world challenges while demonstrating that environmental conservation is not just good for nature – it is good for business,” Liveris said. “Companies that value and integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services into their strategic plans are best positioned for the future by operationalizing sustainability. At Dow, we see sustainability as an adjective and one that we apply to almost everything we do: sustainable manufacturing, sustainable solutions and sustainable opportunities to constantly add to the quality of life for our communities and fellow citizens. Today, tomorrow, always.”

What a crock of shit! I have emphasised the parts that betray the true reason for the deal because they have so carefully been wrapped in a shawl of greewash, ably assisted by one of the largest NGOs in the world. Dow Chemical have hamstrung not only the business-friendly Nature Conservancy, but anyone who really believes that business can work in partnership with nature.

The whole concept of “nature” as an entity is alien to the business world except as a resource to be exploited for profit; the PR copy version of “Nature” might benefit – hey, want to see a pristine lake protected by Dow’s money? – but look beyond that lake, into the soil, the underground water supplies, up into the air, down through the oceans and weaving our way through the organic tapestry of life that is being picked apart, terminally frayed by the activities of the industrial world. Look beyond the glowing, rhetoric laden bullshit touted by companies like Dow, dutifully spewed out by dangerous NGOs like The Nature Conservancy, and you see something that should never have been.

A ruined world: Today, tomorrow, always.

Or at least until the industrial system is gone.

Posted in Campaigns, Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 8 Comments »

Mother Nature Network: A Hypocritical Crock Of Shit

Posted by keith on 10th January 2011

I make no apologies for the title of this post: I have just spent a short while reading the biographies of the Mother Nature Network Team, and have ended up in the kind of moral position that Immanuel Kant might have struggled with if he had had the internet to contend with in his philosophical struggles.

MNN promotes itself as covering “the broadest scope of environmental and social responsibility issues on the internet. And, we do so in a way that is engaging and easy-to-understand. As opposed to scientists, activists or experts—MNN is designed for the rest of us—everyday people who simply want to make our world better.”

So who are these people referred to as “the rest of us”? Clearly not scientists, activists or experts – although I would have thought that these people would at least play some part in making “our”* world better – but perhaps people such as those on their team. Now I don’t pretend to have a squeaky clean career path leading (or rather, nothing at all to do with) my current vocation as a DIY troublemaker; but nor do I proudly exhibit all the companies I have worked for, as though this is somehow a qualification for making the world better. Unlike their CEO, Joel Babbit, who was a high-flying PR guru whose “clients have included The Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Dell, USA Today, American Express, Holiday Inn, UPS, and Citigroup [and] is especially noted for his marketing work related to corporate transitions which have included the acquisition of RJR Nabisco by KKR, BellSouth by AT&T, Georgia –Pacific by Koch Industries, and numerous acquisitions during the formation of Coca-Cola Enterprises.”

Hmm. As I say, your past is not necessarily a guide to your future, but I’m slightly worried that this is considered relevant enough to highlight on your bio page, Joel.

Go further down the list, and it seems MNN is actually a big party for PR, marketing and technical bods rather than something to make “our”* world better.

*Ah yes, the asterisk; that’s because it is not “our” world, it is “the” world. We don’t own it, just happen to misuse it.

So what of the stories on Mother Nature Network? I picked one, that looked as though it would reveal the editorial policy of MNN, something about the Consumer Electronics Show. I would have assumed that to “make our world better” it would have to include an element of criticising the nature of technology, it’s ability to consume the human soul while at the same time despoiling vast tracts of land and water with pollution, sucking huge amounts of energy in its usage and making the lives of the millions of people involved in its manufacture anything but human.

This is the crux of the article:

Slick new smartphones, ultra-thin laptops, tablet computers to rival Apple’s iPad and Web-connected and 3D television sets are expected to grab the most attention during the four-day event at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

But the show floor will also feature more smart home appliances such as ovens which can download recipes and vehicles which give drivers hands-free voice control access to their smartphone applications.

Technology titans such as Cisco, Intel, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Motorola, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba were among the firms offering a glimpse of their upcoming products to reporters here ahead of the official CES opening.

Motorola Mobility and LG Electronics both announced plans to launch touchscreen tablet computers this year powered by “Honeycomb,” the latest version of Google’s Android software optimized for tablets.

It’s just a copy and paste from Associated Press; no comment, no critique, nothing at all. What the hell does this have to do with Mother Nature?!

Skipping around the site, reveals the news pages to be little more than a catalogue of light-green, consumer and lifestyle editorial, with nary a mention of anything that would actually make a difference to human behaviour; and the reason for the complete lack of anything challenging is made clear at the bottom of the every page:

That really is their list of sponsors, each of which has paid to sponsor a section within MNN, and each of which must therefore have been approved by MNN as being appropriate for that section.

Like Southern Company, sponsor of the Energy section – with two giant animated banner ads to show for it – and whose 43 gigawatt generation plant comprises 57% coal, 16% nuclear, 23% gas and – just so they can mention it in their “sustainability” page – 4% hydro. And that hydro plant is largely river-killing dams, in case you were wondering.

Like Georgia-Pacific, sponsor of both the Business Products and Healthy Eating sections, and solely owned by Koch Industries, primary supporters of the Tea Party anti-climate change agenda, and whose own website displays a level of climate change muddle-headedness and disinformation that can only come from a company whose income is dependent upon the continual consumption of dirty energy. For their part, Georgia-Pacific have repeatedly flouted pollution laws and continue to buy timber from illegally logged forests.

Like Siemens, sponsor of the Sustainable Business Practice section, whose business interests include weapons systems, oil and gas (“one of the most important technology partners for the oil and gas industry”) and all sorts of heavy industrial managementsystems, including those for nuclear power.

Like Coca-Cola, the water snatchers. Like MillerCoors, behemoths of the brewing world.

Get the picture?

So next time a web site claims it wants to make our world better, it’s worth thinking who exactly that “our” is. Could it be the companies who give them the money they need to run the site? Could it be the interests of the people who actually run the organisation? It certainly won’t be the world that needs to be given a bit of breathing space from all these corporations in order to recover.

Posted in Adverts, Media Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | No Comments »

The Unsuitablog’s Worst of 2010

Posted by keith on 4th January 2011

Taking a cue from all the awards and “looking back on”s going on at the moment, it seems like just the right time to pick the very worst ethical hypocrites of 2010. Taking the year as a whole, there is a huge selection to choose from even when just looking at the pages of The Unsuitablog; and that’s going to be the focus – I could reach out to other places but I think that just throwing a few darts at a board of corporate logos is far less instructive than looking into the dark recesses of near history and seeing what can be pulled out of the grime for a further airing.

Best of all, it gives me the chance to have one more pop at those offenders who really deserve a second go at.

Worst Large Company

Lockheed Martin would deserve this award for merely having the word “responsible” anywhere on their website, but as we found out in June, it seemed that one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world had undergone a complete logic transplant.

LOCKHEED MARTIN ANNOUNCES NEW GREEN INITIATIVES FOR 140,000 EMPLOYEES, THEIR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES

BETHESDA, Md. – Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) today announced new green initiatives to reach its 140,000 employees, their families and communities. The orchestrated effort is rolling out in conjunction with National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), the largest organized environmental education event in the United States.

Held each year during the week before Earth Day, EE Week coordinates environmental education outreach nationwide to increase Earth Day’s impact. Lockheed Martin will celebrate EE Week and Earth Day by introducing several new company-wide employee initiatives to encourage environmentally-friendly behavior at work, at home and in local communities.

“At Lockheed Martin, it is our goal to raise awareness of natural resource conservation and to help our employees take an active role in their communities,” said Dr. David J.C. Constable, vice president, Lockheed Martin Energy, Environment, Safety & Health. “With the reach of our organization’s network, we have the opportunity to inspire hundreds of thousands of individuals – starting with our employees, their families and communities – so that as a corporation, we can make a big impact one small action at a time.”

The only response I could make was a video spoof, which still hasn’t been seen enough. It seems like a suitable enough prize for this video to be posted as far and wide as possible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRfGzFMypIk

Worst Small Company

Cairn Energy is not a very small company, but compared to the other players in their sector (oil and gas) they are just a baby. Yet, for all their size, they seem to have become experts at pissing off communities and exploiting pristine environments that put even the oil giants to shame. Their efforts in greenwashing are similarly spectacular:

Below is a verbatim lift from the Corporate Responsibility page on the website of Cairn Energy. I have just highlighted the one key point that you must bear in mind when reading:

Cairn’s strategy is to deliver shareholder value through establishing commercial reserves in high potential exploration plays in various parts of the world. In implementing this strategy, the Group focuses on conducting all of its activities in a responsible manner.

Human Rights
Cairn recognises the importance of human rights. In Rajasthan, for example, we apply a ‘Rights Aware’ approach to safeguard the local community’s right to water in an area with limited water resources while accessing the water required to support our operations.

Environmental Impact
Cairn recognises that its exploration, development and production activities can have an impact on the environment. Some of Cairn’s exploration and production acreage lies in areas of environmental significance. Cairn recognises its responsibilities and focuses on the avoidance of negative impacts on the environment during its operations.

Climate Change
Activities involved in our operations, such as power generation, flaring, venting and transportation, produce emissions to air, including methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), two gases recognised as greenhouse gases (GHG). The burning of oil and gas, our primary products, also produces GHG emissions. Climate change is a complex issue with many causes both natural and due to human activity. We acknowledge that there is a growing consensus about the extent and effect of global warming. Energy is essential to social and economic progress but we recognise that we have a responsibility to take a precautionary approach to climate change. At all times, we seek to minimise GHG emissions from our operations.

People and Planet have a slightly different viewpoint:

A slide within Cairn’s presentations on Arctic oil exploration shows the melting Arctic ice. Reduced heavy sea ice makes exploration work easier around Cairn’s two most “promising” licences, off Disko Island – an area frequently visited by those inspecting the impacts of climate change first hand. What Cairn Energy views as an opportunity, Greenland’s Inuit population experience as a threat to their very survival and are increasingly vocal about the impacts which climate change is already having on them.

The prize is a free-of-charge rebranding.

Worst Industry Front

The American Petroleum Institute is a long established front for, well, the American petroleum industry, and have a strong pedigree in producing all sorts of highly damaging misinformation for the benefit of the American public. In September, the API went all Tea Party – a prime audience for their rhetoric – in organising a series of rallies against oil industry regulation, apparently to benefit the general public.

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:

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.

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.”

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.

Their prize, in recognition of their phony “people power” is for all of you to go and buy yourselves a decent pair of shoes, and start walking instead of driving. Who knows, you might even meet some real people.

Worst Charity or NGO

Conservation International easily take the prize for being both the largest and the most corporate-friendly “environmental” organisation around. In 2010 they continued their romp with business by launching Team Earth; an astroturf with a twist, for it pretends that corporations can play nicely with the public.

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.

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.

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.

Another prize of a free corporate rebranding for Conservation International, or rather Corporation International.

Worst “Environmental” Campaign

So many to choose from with so many awful disasters and civilization-made catastrophes happening in 2010, but my personal choice was the unspeakably crass video produced by the 10:10 team in the UK. Now I’m all for tough messages, but the idea of blowing people to smithereens because they didn’t agree with the specific message espouced by the 10:10 Organisation (yes, the organisation that uses military style dog-tags as a branding opportunity) really pissed me off.

It also pissed off mobbsey on the Powershift forum, who stated beautifully:

This is just sick; not the fake blood (cinematic suicide bomber chic?), but the whole belief in piffling measures like low energy lights and the like as being the way we can cut emissions. We have to offer a vision outside of the present consumer paradigm that encourages a shift in lifestyle rather than the substitution of existing consumption trends. Actions like this are a simplistic exhortation to change brand or product, not to change the nature of the human system and its impacts on the biosphere. And if, in the rhetoric of “10:10″, this is just something easy to get people interested, that’s absurd too — a lot of recent work on issues around behavioural economics demonstrate that such incantations to change only work where the change is insignificant or equivalent, but fail when it requires a real and difficult realignment of lifestyle patterns.

A prize of some blood-soaked 10:10 tags is very, very appropriate.

Worst Politician / Government

Up to the end of 2010 there were so many dodgy politicians to choose from that I would probably have had to call stalemate on this award. Then WikiLeaks released Cablegate, and the military-industrial politicians spoke as one in their condemnation of…not the crap and hypocrisy revealed in the cables, but the fact that the cables were released at all. In a scramble to be the most shrill commentator of all, few topped Sarah Palin’s claim than Julian Assange was “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands”, although various US and Canadian politicians did manage to suggest that a mass cull of everyone involved in WikiLeaks would be of benefit to humankind.

So, in tribute to the efforts of this august institution (WikiLeaks, not world government) the award goes to every politician who suggested violence in the face of freedom of speech in 2010.

The prize is a few more people mirroring the WikiLeaks website, copying the Insurance file for safekeeping, and sending on a few choice leaks to a site of your choice (EnviroLeaks is your friend).

Worst Religious Hypocrisy

It was going quite well in the religious world until Christmas, with even the Pope railing against environmental damage, and all sorts of religious institutions helping in community efforts. And then that hardy annual Operation Christmas Child came along to spoil the party of every poor child who doesn’t want Christian Evangelism shoved in their faces. Where help is concerned, missionaries have never exactly been on the side of the unconverted, but OCC are taking it to a level not seen since the Crusades:

I’d like to share with you just one story about what God did in a little village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mimbulu is a collection of mud-brick houses and thatched huts with no electricity or running water. Most of the villagers are subsistence farmers living on far less than $1 a day. You can imagine how happy and excited the children were when our team handed out shoe box gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Later, hundreds of girls and boys signed up for our Discipleship Program, and most of them made commitments to Jesus Christ through the Bible study course.

Traditional religions and occult practices are common in this part of Africa, but many people in Mimbulu have been delivered from spiritual darkness as a result of this evangelistic outreach. Three girls, all under the age of 10, confessed to being involved in witchcraft, repented of their sins, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. One cult leader, after reading his son’s Bible lessons, renounced his false religion and surrendered his life to the Lord. Other adults turned to Christ at the graduation ceremony where they heard their children recite Scripture and listened to a pastor preach the Gospel.

The Lord is doing great things in Mimbulu, and we give Him all the glory!

We treat every single gift box as a Gospel opportunity. That’s why prayer is the most important thing we ask people to do when they pack their shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We want each person to pray for the child who receives the box and ask God to touch that child’s heart. That’s where the real power of Operation Christmas Child lies—in God’s answers to those millions of heartfelt prayers.

Another appropriate rebranding for Operation Christmas Child, along with a bonus prize of hundreds of parents raising serious complaints with their children’s schools in 2011 should the brainwashing boxes be suggested.

Operation Christmas Child convert christian samaritan's purse

The “Too Naive To Understand” Award for Accidental Hypocrisy

Sometimes The Unsuitablog is a bit too successful, but rarely do I ever feel sorry for one of the targets. In May the Green Youth Movement was soundly berated for its sloppy attitude to environmentalism; being dressed up as the kind of thing you can “do” as part of your hectic Beverley Hills lifestyle.

I have met some incredible young people with vision, passion and the willingness to stick two fingers up at the system in order to create some kind of change. I have learnt from some young people what it feels like to be a concerned person in a society that values shopping, celebrity and vacations above the fundamental need to have a functioning ecosystem. I have seen young people cry – including my own children – at the thought that certain types of humans are capable of such horrific acts in the pursuit of wealth and status. Oh, that I had such knowledge at such an early age – what could I have done by now?

Well, if I had been Ally Maize, I could have got to meet Miley Cyrus, Renee Zellweger and that prime example of eco-conscious thinking, Paris Hilton. I could also, as per the above introduction to GYM, have become utterly deluded that small, superficial actions create big change; adopted the lie that politicians have any part to play in a sustainable future; in order to alienate part of my audience entirely, I would have referred to “teens” as “young children”; and finally, I would have got my parents to by me an electric car for when I passed my driving test – well, she does live in Beverley Hills…

The attack was justified on the basis that GYM hired a PR company to pump up its image – then I found out that the parents of Ally Maize were far worse than Ally herself (see the comments below the article). Too late: GYM was dead in the water, or as near as dammit. A good thing too, because if we are to bring the next generations along in the fight for environmental justice, the last thing we should be telling them is that it’s ok to just do little things.

I can’t present Ally Maize with a sense of modesty, but I think perhaps the magic curtain has been lifted a little for one deluded person. That’s reward in itself.

The “Cannibalism” Award for Self-Destruction of the Environmental Movement

Anyone who says the Environmental Movement is growing is a fool. There is no one “movement”, and even if there is something resembling a movement then it’s so diluted as to be completely ineffective. When an organisation comes along and brands itself in such a way as to imply it has all the answers, then you should expect it to be pretty damn good.

350.org are pretty damn something, but it’s not good:

Not a week goes by without some campaign or other being launched to prevent environmental destruction, or make efforts to put right that destruction. The vast, vast majority of these campaigns are based upon the same “logic” as the vast, vast majority of people who make comments to newspapers or television stations: this is the system we have, so we have no choice but to make it behave itself as best it can. That, of course, is bullshit.

As I have written time and time again, it is an utterly pointless task trying to make Industrial Civilization sustainable or “environmentally friendly”, because the nature of civilization is to destroy, to take what it wants to achieve its aims and only stop when it runs out of energy, people or space. It only stops when it collapses – it never stops of its own accord.

The mainstream environmental movement has never got this, and never will, because its very existence depends on the support of a large number of people both for income and staffing. It also depends on the good will of the system itself, that permits it to protest peacefully, speak freely and generally operate within the Law of the Land. There is an invisible line that separates the words and deeds of the mainstream from the words and deeds of the “extremist”; that same line separates that which is pointless, ineffective action from that which will actually achieve the kind of change humanity requires in order to survive.

This line is never crossed.

If you want to see this entire movement in microcosm, look no further than 350.org and the work they do which has come, in recent months, to define environmental symbolism.

350 parts per million – their lodestone number – is too high to prevent the Earth continuing to warm. The symbolic action, particularly the appeals to politicians, is not just pointless – it is extremely divisive. Symbolic action in defence of a dying planet is like a Band Aid on an amputation. 350.org should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating such a dangerous idea.

But they aren’t, because they think they are right – they have become too big.

The best prize for them is a real movement of people who get things done, and don’t accept compromise. We will see this in 2011; mark my words.

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Cover Ups, Government Policies, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Religious Hypocrisy, Should Know Better, Sponsorship, Symbolic Action | No Comments »

McDonald’s and PepsiCo to Help Write UK Health Policy

Posted by keith on 15th November 2010

This article from The Guardian will come as no surprise to anyone who watches how much food companies and supermarkets are allowed to influence public education in the UK. What might come as a surprise is how blatant the level of influence is – in the words of the UK government:

“A ‘Responsibility Deal’ is a Conservative response to societal challenges which we know can’t be
solved by regulation and legislation alone. It’s a partnership between Government and business that
balances proportionate regulation with corporate responsibility.”

Proportionate Regulation, means very little regulation at all; Corporate Responsibility means business as usual…

The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, the Guardian has learned.

In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five “responsibility deal” networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month.

The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. Working alongside them are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal’s sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.

The leading supermarkets are an equally strong presence, while the responsibility deal’s physical activity group is chaired by the Fitness Industry Association, which is the lobby group for private gyms and personal trainers.

In early meetings, these commercial partners have been invited to draft priorities and identify barriers, such as EU legislation, that they would like removed. They have been assured by Lansley that he wants to explore voluntary not regulatory approaches, and to support them in removing obstacles. Using the pricing of food or alcohol to change consumption has been ruled out. One group was told that the health department did not want to lead, but rather hear from its members what should be done.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the leading liver specialist and until recently president of the Royal College of Physicians, said he was very concerned by the emphasis on voluntary partnerships with industry. A member of the alcohol responsibility deal network, Gilmore said he had decided to co-operate, but he doubted whether there could be “a meaningful convergence between the interests of industry and public health since the priority of the drinks industry was to make money for shareholders while public health demanded a cut in consumption”.

He said: “On alcohol there is undoubtedly a need for regulation on price, availability and marketing and there is a risk that discussions will be deflected away from regulation that is likely to be effective but would affect sales. On food labelling we have listened too much to the supermarkets rather than going for traffic lights [warnings] which health experts recommend.” Employers are being asked to take on more responsibility for employees in a fourth health at work deal. The fifth network is charged with changing behaviour, and is chaired by the National Heart Forum. This group is likely to be working with the new Cabinet Office behavioural insight unit, which is exploring ways of making people change their behaviour without new laws.

Lansley’s public health reforms are seen as a test case for wider Conservative policies on replacing state intervention with private and corporate action.

While public interest groups are taking part in drawing up the deals, many have argued that robust regulation is needed to deal with junk food and alcohol misuse.

The Faculty of Public Health, represented on several of the deal networks, has called for a ban on trans fats and minimum alcohol pricing. Professor Lindsey Davies, FPH president, said: “We are hopeful that engaging with the food industry will lead to changes in the quality and healthiness of the products we and our children eat. It is possible to make progress on issues such as salt reduction through voluntary agreements, and we’re keeping an open mind until we see what comes out of the meetings, but we do think that there is still a role for regulation.”

Responding to criticism that industry was too prominent in the plans, the Department of Health said: “We are constantly in touch with expert bodies, including those in the public health field, to help inform all our work. For the forthcoming public health white paper we’ve engaged a wide range of people, as we are also doing to help us develop the responsibility deal drawn from business, the voluntary sector, other non-governmental organisations, local government, as well as public health bodies. A diverse range of experts are also involved.”

He added that the government wanted to improve public health through voluntary agreements with business and other partners, rather than through regulation or top-down lectures because it believed this approach would be far more effective and ambitious than previous efforts.

An over-arching board, chaired by Lansley, has been set up to oversee the work of the five responsibility deal networks, with representatives of local government and a regional health director – but it too is dominated by the food, alcohol, advertising and retail industries. Gilmore called for a better balance of commercial interests and independent experts on it.

Other experts have also expressed concern at Lansley’s approach. Professor Tim Lang, a member of the government’s advisory committee on obesity, doubted the food and drink industry’s ability to regulate itself. “In public health, the track record of industry has not been good. Obesity is a systemic problem, and industry is locked into thinking of its own narrow interests,” said Lang.

“I am deeply troubled to be sent signals from the secretary of state about working ‘with business’ and that any action has got to be soft ‘nudge’ action.”

Jeanette Longfield, head of the food campaign group Sustain, said: “This is the equivalent of putting the tobacco industry in charge of smoke-free spaces. We know this ‘let’s all get round the table approach’ doesn’t work, because we’ve all tried it before, including the last Conservative government. This isn’t ‘big society’, it’s big business.”

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | No Comments »

Monthly Undermining Task September/October 2010: Unfashion

Posted by keith on 19th September 2010

Fashion! Turn to the left
Fashion! Turn to the right
Oooh, fashion!
We are the goon squad
and we’re coming to town

(“Fashion”, David Bowie)

The Unsuitablog is being fashionably late in publishing the latest Monthly Undermining Task; the main reason being that I wanted leave the previous one up as long as I possibly could, particularly in light of an article by Javier Sethness, which included the following phrase that I couldn’t possibly disagree with:

“Just as the hegemonic system McKibben mystifies—capitalism—must be dislodged and abolished, so must McKibben himself come to be displaced as leader/father of contemporary movements against climate catastrophe.”

So there you go – it’s nice not to be alone.

This month (I’m skipping into the next month too, as this is so important) we are targeting something that should be the antithesis of every environmental group, and environmental activist on Earth – but it’s not and, in many cases, is embraced by so-called environmentalists for the very reason given in the above quote. Fashion is the artificially generated desire for change. Note the word “artificial”: as humans we do, to a certain extent, desire change in order to achieve fulfilment; but only in civilised society are we bound to the idea that we should change constantly, driven by a system that ensures we are never fulfilled.

Fashion exists to keep humans in a state of psychological flux: malcontents always looking for the next thing to desire. What is especially evident in the destructive monster called Industrial Civilization is that the idea of fashion is increasingly becoming the driving force behind economic growth. Where once it was enough for industry to ensure that everyone had what most people in the industrial world would consider to be basic goods, such as a shoes, a warm coat, a television and a refrigerator; the saturation of the Western economies with such “basic” goods, along with ever-shrinking profit margins (only partly supplemented by using slave labour) means that baseline consumption has to be augmented by a constant desire for different versions of the same thing.

Once you have a computer, you don’t need another one for a long, long time; unless companies bring out software that is constantly “upgraded” to ensure that at some point you will have to buy new hardware in order to run the new software. You don’t need the upgraded software, but you are sold it in a very convincing way – to such an extent that it becomes highly desirable. At some point you feel that you do need the new software; and in order to run the new software you need to upgrade your hardware. Of course, you might be given the desire to change your hardware before you “need” to, for instance to take advantage of faster performance you never realised you needed.

Remarkably, this is only a simplified version of the full story – leaving out built in obsolescence and withdrawal of support – such is the nature of computing. More transparently, but in essentially the same way, are we given the desire for new clothing and footwear; new ways of listening to and watching things; new ways to communicate; even new ways to read books – by doing away with the books themselves. The superficial driver may be practical: personal betterment, convenience, speed, scale; but beneath all of this, including the computer example, is the idea that someone, somewhere has something you have not got, and which you have become in need of.

Fashion cannot exist without this “need”. The industrial economy, increasingly, cannot exist without fashion.

Of course, once you have the thing which you desire (or rather, “need”) then a new desire has to be created. The incremental “upgrade” – be it to a different colour or style of coat, or a more convenient way of recording television shows – is readily attainable providing you are prepared to spend the money, and ideally take out a loan; and if the upgrades are just significant enough, and just affordable enough, then you will never realise that what you desire is actually completely unattainable. It must be, otherwise consumption would eventually stop.

The iPhone 3 became unfashionable immediately upon the release of the iPhone 4. There was no need for anyone to buy an iPhone 4 if they already had an iPhone 3; but very many people were persuaded in contradiction of such an obvious point. There will be an iPhone 5 soon.

So, how is this desire for the unattainable maintained in a society where we are, apparently, so market-savvy and educated? I’ve given one of the key reasons away: the idea that the unattainable is seen to be attainable. I’ve also hinted at a deeper psychological trick: the personalisation of desire, by which a “need” that is external to the individual, eventually becomes internalised, and thus what is perceived to be a genuine need. This is nothing short of psychological manipulation; and it is one of the most powerful forces existing in modern society.

The methods by which these two con-tricks are pulled off are many and varied, and you will probably be familiar with the vast majority of them.

A very powerful – possibly the most powerful – method by which fashion is imposed upon people is social peer pressure. The idea that someone important, and possibly influential, to you has something you do not have is more than enough to create personal “need”. This factor is heavily exploited by industry, most obviously in the form of advertising that suggests collective desire (notice the number of adverts that use happy crowd or friend scenes), but increasingly through virtual social networks such as Facebook, and direct viral networking.

More subtly, but on a larger scale, is the use of targeted media such as technology and clothing magazines (who will readily promote product x in exchange for advertising revenue) along with newspaper supplements, that show new products as being “essential” or at least highly desirable. Far more cheaply, as far as industry is concerned is the blanket press release to kneejerk bloggers, desperate to be the first to report on the latest big thing – well, big in terms of potential income – and extremely willing to publish these press releases verbatim.

At a more formal level, but clearly in response to the corporate desire for continued economic growth (profit), is the relentless push by civilised governments for continual consumer spending. This can manifest itself in political speeches that ask citizens to support industry and maintain a “healthy” (ironic, considering it is destroying the global ecosystem) economy; and even government policy that may give tax breaks for consumer spending – providing that spending is on new products and, ideally, the very latest of everything. On the surface this may be suggested as promoting “eco friendly” products, when it is actually ensuring we keep the economic machine grinding on.

Incredibly, despite our knowledge of these methods, we all – at some time or another – fall for them. We fall for them because they exploit some of the most primal aspects of humanity: the need to be wanted and loved; the desire to belong; the willingness to follow strong leadership. It may just seem like a small word – fashion – but it encompasses a Pandora’s Box of manipulative methods that exist in order to keep us buying, and thus allowing the ravenous industrial machine to keep eating up the very ecosystem we depend upon for our survival.

This can be stopped.

During 2010, I have detailed all sorts of methods for undermining different aspects of industrial civilization: from mind numbing television and behaviour altering advertising to life destroying debt and child enslaving school testing; from the civilised corruption of language to the all-embracing cash economy; from the addiction of mass tourism to the placatory, fake greenness of the mainstream environmental movement.

Contained within those articles, along with the three original Unsuitablog anti-greenwashing guides are literally hundreds of potential avenues for undermining a way of life that will lead to our ultimate demise. As London Fashion Week ramps up to a screaming crescendo, and the fashion world’s commercial clock makes us once again feel inadequate in a new season – one that wild nature has been happy to repeat in resplendent glory every year since humans first colonised seasonal lands – I am turning to my readers, and fellow Underminers, to say how you would undermine the system that turns artificial, unnecessary commercial change into something we feel we need to have.

How would you create a world of Unfashion?

Suggestions can be sent to news@unsuitablog.org, posted on the Anti-Greenwashing Action Facebook Group, or posted as comments below this article. All suggestions that have a decent chance or working, and are practical for ordinary people to do will be published here.

Away you go…


From DVD:

Anti-peer pressure: make sure you don’t perpetuate social peer pressure and act as the opposite dissenting voice for people you know. Move against the trends too, downsize and simplify rather than buy in to them.

Adbusting: consumer advertising does a huge amount to create the unhappiness in people to need constant change – consider ways to fight back against it (http://thesietch.org/mysietch/keith/2010/02/09/monthly-undermining-task-february-2010-time-to-break-the-ads/)

From LS:

For my part I opted out of the “fashion” game a long, long time ago. My solution embodies the principle of: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And that is pure poison for the fashion industry. I do the following

1. Buy the highest quality garments that I can find (which is increasingly difficult of course). Don’t buy clothing that is clearly rubbish, it just encourages the retailers to replace good quality clothing with more rubbish
2. Only wash clothing when it actually needs it (not just because your wore it yesterday) and dry it on a cloths line. Washing wears out clothing faster, especially if you tumble dry
3. Repair garments to increase their lifespan
4. “Retire” clothing to wear while working in the garden as it ages and becomes unsuitable for wearing in public
5. Wear garments until they can’t be repaired any more
6. Convert unwearable clothing into rags for use around the house

I have also stopped buying new clothing to a large degree. So much perfectly good clothing is available second hand that I can provide most of my needs (often in very high quality once expensive garments) just by browsing a few second hand stores.

From Knutty Knitter:

I don’t buy fashion either and my sister who loves fashion now makes her own and does lots of swap sessions with friends. As for computer stuff – if it isn’t open source I mostly don’t have it.

All my appliances including computers are old – my stereo system is 30 years plus! It works really well so why would I need a new one.

I will have to purchase a new oven because I don’t have one yet (the last one was left in the previous house as part of the fixtures). Thats a total of one new appliance every five years or so – am I annoying enough yet?

I do buy art supplies but I don’t look at ads for that – I just go with what I actually want. Anyhow I don’t watch tv unless its recorded so I can skip the ads, don’t buy magazines or papers and don’t accept junk mail so I never know whats hot anyway :)

My friends like me for who I am not what I possess and that is the way I’ve always been – just more so since I started seriously into green. Keeping up with the Joneses was always overrated anyhow :)

From Sarah:

We’re not green. We just live simply. We’ve never used a credit card, and only have a loan for schooling of debatable use and a house that we couldn’t afford otherwise.

We cloth diaper, using a plain Chinese Tri-fold and waterproof liner. We gift handmade stuff. We sell handmade, hard-wearing kitchen stuffs. We go for weeks on end buying only groceries. (I’ve heard of “Year of no stuff” people doing that, and thinking it was some great thing, but the Amish and the Mennonites in our area have been doing that forever.) For that matter, why not take a page out of the Amish handbook, and take some sort of pious pride out of being simpler than everyone you know?

Instead of shopping for relief of that marketing-induced guilt of not being worthy on our own merit, we try to spend the time making something. We’ve made bramble baskets, all sorts of kitchen and bathroom items, painted pots and vases, made up-cycled denim bags, re-buttoned dresses and coats, pillow forts with children, hats, scarfs, Renaissance Festival Gear, campfires, s’mores, pies, sheds, crackers, and baby slings (among others). The point was we found worth in developing ourselves (like ladies of accomplishment in the Jane Austen novels) rather than just celebrating how much money we could make at a job we hate to buy things we don’t think we could make ourselves because we’re too lazy or scared.

The big thing for us is that only one of us works outside of the home (by choice and a strong in-home childcare market in our area), giving us time to make things. And if it isn’t made by our hands, it isn’t cool or worthwhile.

Thanks for all these so far.

Posted in Adverts, Government Policies, Monthly Undermining Tasks, Revenge, Sponsorship | 7 Comments »