Sunday, March 18, 2012

Greenwashing: Corporations Pretending to be Green

~ Upcoming 'Earth Day' is open-season for greenwashing ~

It's not easy being green. Behaving in environmentally-friendly ways that protect and preserve fresh water, clean air, fertile land, forests, oceans and all living species takes considerable effort.

However, corporations have found an easy way to be green -- by greenwashing to create a pro-environmental image. Greenwashing is used as a marketing tool to sell products, employing pictures of green forests, clear blue skies and clean waterways. Greenwashing is also used as a public relations tool to distract people from corporate activities that degrade or harm the environment.

Remember 'clean coal'? Have you seen any evidence of this? Me neither. But the absence of its existence didn't stop the industry from promoting clean coal in expensive ads on TV and billboards and in newspapers. The industry got so caught up in their own hype that they actually tried to brand dirty coal as green -- an example of unabashed greenwashing by the industry.

Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, but is it green? Think about how the industry is now extracting gas: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale rock deep underground. This process is new, risky and pollutes water. Fracking uses millions of gallons of fresh water per well, adds some toxic chemicals, and extracts hazardous and radioactive chemicals as well as brine from the shale. Poisoned wastewater returns with the gas to the surface of the Earth. There is no proven method to cleanup this hazardous wastewater. It has polluted rivers that supply drinking water, and contaminated land, roads, forests and streams through spills and illegal dumping. Frack wastewater is currently being injected deep underground in western states and in nearby Ohio where it has caused earthquakes. Methane gas leakage, evaporation of volatile organic chemicals, and gas compressor stations cause air pollution. Does any of this sound environmentally-friendly and green?

The shale-gas fracking industry is now trying to cleanup their public image through greenwashing by sponsoring environmentally-friendly groups.

The Buffalo Sabres "Green Team" is an environmentally-friendly group. As stated on their website, "The Buffalo Sabres are dedicated to the sustainability of the environment in Western New York and Southern Ontario through the “Blue & Gold Make Green Initiative”. The organization is committed to creating programming to help our fans reduce their environmental footprint and at the same time, educate Sabres fans on conservation issues, teaching fans how to be greener, and directing them to additional resources where they can learn more about environmental issues."

The Sabres "Green Team" is to be applauded for their noble, environmental efforts.

But look at the corporate logos of sponsors for the "Green Team". The first three are involved in shale-gas fracking! The association of these sponsors with the "Green Team" is another example of corporate greenwashing: associating environmentally-harmful industries with an environmentally-friendly group, the "Green Team". This is shameful on the part of these corporate sponsors!

This year the Sabres "Green Team" has a new logo, which is shown below.
The same three shale-gas fracking industries are again sponsors. The fourth sponsor, MODERN Recycling company, is the only one that could be considered to be green.

Traditionally, it becomes open-season for greenwashing as 'Earth Day' (April 22) approaches. Environmental groups and organizations who aim to be good stewards of the Earth need to beware of partnering with sponsors seeking only to green their corporate image. Even partnering with an authentic "Green Team" can indirectly make you partners with an environmentally-harmful corporate sponsor, like the shale-gas fracking industry. Know your partners, not by their green sheen but by how their work impacts the environment and humanity.


Anonymous said...

Excellent article Dave! - Rebekah

Jay Burney said...

How does Modern Recycling relate to electronics recycling? I dont know if they do electronics recycling but they are not listed as part of the e-stewards program sponsored by the Basel Action Network. In fact, on the Modern Recycling Webpage they have a link to a chinese electronics manufacturing facility owned by Techmerge, which owns modern. Modern is also described as a chinese company with its purchasing department located in the US. So modern is a manufacturer and I am not sure how ultimately green they are. Techmerge/Modern also own a plastics manufacturer