10 Jul 2009

National Greenwash Day

I have to say I fully support Ecotricity boss Dale Vince when he calls on his Zerocarbonista blog for today to be retitled National Greenwash Day - The Guardian also covered the story - see here.

Photo: EDF and Ecotricity - has EDF pinched marketing?

Today is what EDF want to call Green Britain Day - Of course I hugely welcome moves to cut energy and green us all - this move by EDF is about asking people, including schools to ‘do something green for the team' today - but coming from EDF this move strikes hollow - it has very little credibility....

EDF is the biggest global corporate producer of nuclear waste and one of the worst carbon polluters in the world - they are now telling us how to save energy while demanding a reduction in UK wind power targets. Are they serious?

In my blog earlier today I have correspondence from earlier in the week with the Eden Project over their support for EDF - I've since had a reply from Tim Smit pointing to his article in The Times - to me this is wholly unsatisfactory and doesn't address the matter that EDF is actually trying to block wind power developments - this is working against a low carbon future.

Worse still it seems many other companies have got on the bandwagon. British Gas have ads saying: 'Green Britain Day. For us, it's everyday.' While Npower has today rolled out a tactical press ad for its educational programme Climate Cops, featuring the strapline ‘Every day's a green day for Climate Cops.'

I've also just come across a Facebook campaign to stop the 'greatest British greenwash of all time.' Anyhow it seems Ecotricity are going for court action - see here - not just because EDF have seemingly pinched their Green Union Jack but also for misrepresenting their goods/services - see pic above from the Facebook site.

This all leaves me wondering about the Eden project's Big Lunch on 19th July - I've publicised on this blog before - it is a great idea - but I have become slightly less comfortable with this as I discovered EDF also supports this - however it is one thing to support a Big Lunch it is another to organise a national 'Green Britain Day' - nevertheless this raises questions of sponsorship and ethics and allsorts - what do others think??

....and as for a lunch we can do that anytime - indeed plans are afoot for another event in Bread Street but later in the year.......anyhow let me finish with Dale's article in The Guardian today:

Green Britain Day is a dangerous PR distraction from the real task at hand

Greening Britain is a serious goal that requires a vision underpinned by real policies with meaningful outcomes

I'd like to declare today to be Greenwash Day. To celebrate that relatively modern phenomenon of companies trying to sell themselves as being rather greener and more ethical than they really are. Today would be an apt day, it is after all – Green Britain Day. Where's the Greenwash in that? Oh where to start.

Green Britain day comes to us courtesy of EDF. That's Electricité de France to give them their full name. EDF is a state-owned French nuclear power company. They are also the world's biggest corporate producer of nuclear waste, one of it's biggest traders and burners of coal, and have a tiny tiny fleet of windmills (0.7% of their generation). And to promote this campaign they've "borrowed" (as Fred Pearce gently puts it) someone else's logo Рthe green union flag. This flag symbolises two things: care for the environment and British identity. EDF can claim, of course, neither.

This really does take greenwash to a whole new level. It could almost be the plot of a a farce. If it wasn't for the fact that EDF is seriously intent on convincing us in Britain that it – and nuclear energy – are green and good for Britain.

Stealing someone else's clothes is not a new tactic in the world of dirty big business. And neither is greenwash.

A few years ago the UK witnessed "fairwash", where years of pioneering work on the concept of Fairtrade were swamped by a tidal wave of big-budget corporate lookalike schemes. Everybody and their brother now has a version of Fairtrade. It might be tempting to say where's the harm in that, the more people doing it the better. Well yes, if they truly are doing it, I would agree. But that's not how this usually goes down. When big brands move into the ethical arena it's for the kudos, to look like a better company, to follow a new trend and gain sales – it isn't for the cause, it's for their cause, which is of course to make money and to add "shareholder value".

Pale corporate imitations of green and ethical brands or products are truly harmful. They distract consumers and divert spending from the real thing and they bring the risk of early onset "issue fatigue". You know how it goes – yawn, yawn, here's another company that says it pays its suppliers a decent price because it really cares about them or says it's really committed to fighting climate change. Or whatever …

Maybe we need a regulator for environmental and ethical claims. We've got Ofgem for electricity and Ofwat for water – I propose we should name this one Ethoff.

Let's come back to Green Britain Day. The campaign itself has laudable aims, fighting climate change and making Britain a greener place. Who could argue with that? But look for any substance and you won't find it. It's all recycled and gimmicky. And it's a distraction. Green Britain is a serious goal, it requires a vision underpinned by real policies, a suite of joined up actions that we can all get behind – with meaningful outcomes. It's a mission not a PR opportunity.


Russ said...

EDF is just the evil twin, that's all. *thumbs up*

hostuniversal said...

Funny. Now the Tories are accusing Labour of stealing their green ideas from an energy paper published earlier this year. From the outside, it does look like the Brown Government has turned Cameron green - certainly wasn't much talk of it before now. And it is a remarkable coincidence that EDF launched Team Green Britain a week before this major new 'Green' policy initiative. And it is striking that both EDF & HMG have gone to maximum spin to make us think nuclear is green. Maybe there is more to the Gordon and Andrew Brown connection than we thought. Andrew, Media Director EDF, commercial clout, followed by Gordon, political clout. A 1-2 of clunking fists and a punch drunk British public willing to believe Brown is Green. Just what the good doctor ordered for two brothers both near the bottom of the environmental tables. Or it's just coincidence?

Anonymous said...

Tories and Labour are not the slightest green - they deserve the Greenwash title just as much as EDF.