Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Inspired by a recent post regarding awards for greenwashing, I have decided to kick off a list of my own as the mood takes me:


Green Awards (not worth the paper...IMHO)


21st Century Challenge - we didn't make it. See who did.


FoE (need to track it down)
Greenpeace (ditto)
PR watch Falsies



And don't forget, even though one may have passed... there's always next year!

Just sharing

BBC - No consensus on IPCC's level of ignorance

Though there is a counter-view linked, it seems odd that the BBC would give lead to 'a' person, no matter how qualified.

It will be fun... no... sad seeing how this plays out. I'm guessing he'll be accused of god knows what. The sceptics will take all sorts of stuff out of context and blow it up. The usual.

BBC - The IPCC: As good as it gets
BBC - Unravelling the sceptics
BBC - Climate scepticism: The top 10

Now... any the wiser? Going to change your ways?

Real Climate - BBC contrarian top 10 - Kind of a summary of summary of summarys, with at least more than a hint that scientists are involved. Still suffers from various main protagonists being labelled/outed as poster kids for an entrenched view (seems by various finger-pointings even IPCC contributors and the Real Science top brass are stuck in various 'camps').

The main thing to me is still how all these guys are so much happier engaged in this theoretical debate than actually thinking too much on what can be done now.

The sky is falling... I mean it!

Emergency talk costs lives?

Some people think the rhetoric of climate change is too emotive. While others, like me, would wish some could just stick to the facts and stop trying to gild various lollies, equally shrilly, for 'our' own good.

No doubt it's serious. And needs addressing.

I just can't help but notice that the current level of rhetoric doesn't seem to be working. So maybe we need a change in that approach, plus of those who see themselves as the messengers of 'the word'.

Maybe there's a lesson from the ad world (ok, it's a first when it comes to man-worsened climate change), which I have worked in most of my life, and especially life assurers. It has long been appreciated that shrieking 'we're all going to die!' doesn't sell policies as well as more subtle, end-benefit, persuasion-based approaches.

Oh, and rushing out the next half-considered survey to offer a ready target for those of a more cynical disposition to illuminate, tends to knock calmer efforts back even more.

It looks like we are playing chicken with the future, but I'm not to sure the nicely funded Green-Elite Chicken Littles who think they have grasped the wheel are best suited to turn it.


OK, yet another super 'techy' word that means nothing to almost all of us as reported in the Telegraph today. This one, however, just may be a word that comes into common parlance over the coming years and decades.

So what is it? Electrohydrogenesis is a process from which "efficient and sustainable hydrogen production is possible from any type of biodegradable organic matter".

Scientists have "devised a method of hydrogen production that relies on combining electron-generating bacteria and a small electrical charge in a "microbial electrolysis cell" to belch out hydrogen gas."

The scientists' "reactor generated hydrogen gas at efficiencies up to 99% of the theoretical maximum yield. 'This process produces 288 per cent more energy in hydrogen than the electrical energy that is added to the process'."

Now that is some claim. If validated, this just may represent a realistic way forward for the generation of hyrodgen as a genuine fuel source. Maybe they have even located the holy grail of the 'hydrogen as a fuel' research arena?
Much as I like the concept of Hydrogen powered vehicles, providing, of course, that the Hydrogen itself can be produced in an environmentally acceptable and safe manner, I have to seriously question the enviROI of this from Reuters, reporting on an order for 10 hydrogen powered buses for London.
Sorry, but at a million pounds each [What the **!!!!!] I'm sure that there must be far more important and urgent things, with far more viable enviROI's for this sort of dosh to be spent on!

Where there's a will, there's a way out

This is what I clicked: China 'will agree to cut its carbon emissions'

'China, now the world's biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, will eventually agree to cut its soaring carbon dioxide emissions, one of the country's leading environmentalists forecast yesterday – but only on the basis of a deal with the United States and the rest of the developed world.'

Talk about a let-down.

Another 48 hrs, and another, and...

I don't know, but I really can't equate this button link (on an eco-page) with front pages on the evils of plastic bags - 48 hrs in Fez

I know such things are what fund them, but how many 48 hour multiples can 'we' afford before 'they' see such as this as being more part of the problem...

To win battles, use those who know how to fight... with the right weapons

Prodded, I suspect, by a post from a new 'green agency' selling their wares (I certainly had a look, but could find no portfolio of work, which was a worry - lots on the boxes they had ticked, though), the moderator on eco-innovation network asked for some thoughts on green marketing:

Having been through the 2nd green consumer wave in the late 80's and
90s - when i did my 1st greener marketing book - i am keen not to see
the re-emergence of the Friends of the Earth 'Green Con of the Year'
award in the 3rd 'green' consumer wave we are now in (certainly in the

My observation is there are many marketing services companies, ad
agencies, etc - suddenly claiming to be 'green' - my concern is that
advise may not be up to standard e.g. the green comms part of
the 'mix' is much more information-based and is not copywriting based -
failure to pick-up complexities and nuances can be disasterous

What needs to be done in terms of developing a 'code of conduct'? - is
there need? and what should be done?

Struck a chord:

As with the many carbon offsetters, traders, footprinters, soakers and all others popping up to feed off the need/desire to be ‘greener’, between the various disciplines in the marketing, advertising, promotions and media firmament there now seem to be almost as many official bodies as there are practitioners. Along with a burgeoning collection of monitoring schemes and labelers (of questionable use, having just read recently five e-performance ‘surveys’ in a week that managed shuffle Tesco and M&S from top to bottom), such that a pack of Smarties will soon need to have a CDR attached just to accommodate the various competing info charts and bars.

And most seem to have a code of practice, all about as much use as they are compulsory.

Overseeing industry there are various well-staffed quangos with, it seems, few if any teeth to effect more than a nasty wrist slap usually once the horse has well and truly bolted, run the 3.15 at Chepstow, been put out to stud and is now the principal ingredient in your tube of Thixofix.

I also assume above these guys are government, who make laws and enforce them, but that any such effective entity exists beyond hype, spin, self-interest and covering up the next Panorama exposé is really the stuff of legend.

Sadly, I rather fear the FoE will have plenty of material already for its next edition. In fact I believe Greenpeace and others have also jumped on the name and shame bandwagon too. So soon we can will be having competing hit lists to contend with: ‘When Greens Go Bad’, or, ‘Now that’s what I call a dodgy offset #66!’ (I have to confess I have been toying with my own, but for now have contented myself with a growing collection of ads that have ‘...but won’t cost the Earth’ in the headline.)

At least thanks to the efficiency of PR dissemination these days, whatever the ASA publishes each week will, if suitably entertaining or compromising, hit the major media within hours. I do believe ‘green-minded’ (or at least aspiring) brands from Innocent Drinks to Lexus to - most recently - Shell, have all found out this to their cost. Sadly sticking a flower in an exhaust pipe isn’t quite making the cut for the authorities, if not some consumers, if not backed up with some substantive justifications. Trouble is the job is usually done by the time they get pulled.

As a creative practitioner over a few decades I still keep my hand in, though I do now focus more on the karmic correction of trying to use the dark arts of persuasion to steer folk to a greener direction. I do so in the hope of offsetting the consequences of my being a tad too good at getting them to buy stuff they didn't really need and/or go places they didn't really need to travel to.

But frankly it has amazed me not that there are so many jumping on this bandwagon to 'sell' expertise in this arena, but that there are still so few. How long before Ego, Driven and Entitled (and yes, my agency boasted my name in its partner string) can boast a 'Head of Green Marketing' (please don't tell me they do already!) which will doubtless be a big box-ticker to some quango numpty looking for a 'green' agency, and with all sorts of ethical requirements to clear with the Minister and triple-bottom-line committee before s/he gets taken out to the bars of SoHo.

In a capitalist/consumerist society, ‘marketing’ in all its forms will in most cases struggle to be truly green. With a few exceptions of real mitigation/reduction, the aim is usually to compete and dominate by selling more ‘stuff’. And, to be fair, I'd go further and try to separate the agency side from the marketing a bit more, though accepting that most agencies have a philosophy of know the clients' business as well as they do themselves. It’s just a sensible practice to stay ahead of the curve (and competition) by being just so darn useful and proactive the client really wouldn't dare risk succumbing to another's entreaties... or fee reductions.

At the end of the day ad guys may well be trusted advisors, but are also mercenaries, if highly professional ones. And business is business. The brief is all, and the signature on the contact report more so. Given a task one comes up with a campaign, from creative ideas to media plans, that delivers the best ROI for the budget. It’s all about getting the most persuasive message in front of the highest number of relevant audience members, for the least money.

My agency had a simple philosophy that the client got presented with: Quick. Cheap. Good.... Pick any two (and one must always be Good).

It was up to the client to choose those that would take that fight out into the marketplace, and win it on their behalf through hard work and skill. All we asked was that they knew what they were doing. And because they choose us that meant they usually did.

We had specializations, and that allowed us to excel with various niches. It's not mandatory, but to create a message an audience will empathize with it certainly helps to have those on board who know the subject backwards (not something I see in many major media environment reporters/editors these days, who serve up some rampant dross to feed the MWCC cynics, like electric cars ‘that don’t pollute’) to find the USPs and opportunities... but also what will tickle the fancy of the person on the receiving end.

But one cannot hope to have quite the same level of insight into, or product knowledge of the person whose every waking moment is (or should be) devoted to their industry and developing their brand/product service (mind you, long-termism in these careers is not prevalent, and hence rarely reflected in strategy, resulting in quick wins that can often be damaging after the commissioner is long gone).

So I do cock an eye at who is failing whom, and the motivations of those who seem prepared to risk the bad PR of an ASA carpeting and Daily Mail inside spread, all for a few grams of carbon more or less in their claims.

The facts are indeed the facts. But unless it has moved on a bit, they still need to be legal, decent, honest and truthful (sadly ‘relevant and ‘beneficial’ are not always included in complement, often along with ethical or moral). I don't see the need for a code of conduct much beyond that. And even if there was how it would be any more enforceable than it is already under current legislation. Just ask Mr. O'Leary. We don’t need more bodies feeding off the system, just more effective ones.

At the end of the day it's down to all those within the process to ask themselves why they are doing what they do. And if they cannot come up with an honest answer, if they are still proud to stand behind their actions then that’s between them and their future generations.

I fully agree with you that it is a major worry just how much venal rubbish is being issued currently in the name of green, with more being shoveled in constantly. I had felt the only saving grace was that all of it was so creatively dire (I am hard-pressed to think of a single green marketing effort that has appealed, much less persuaded me) that at least no one was paying a blind bit of notice. But that is not the case. Thanks to less than innocently-motivated tabloids and others, some egregious examples of greenwashing are going out, being outed and getting noticed, but for all the wrong reasons. And about the only consequence I can see is that it makes the efforts of those with good, genuine products/services and messages, and those working to help promote them properly (ie: with persuasion and argument and end-benefit, not fear, guilt, nanny-nag, etc. Or all too prevalent green-tinted distractions of little actual enviROI+ value) that more difficult.

But until pros who have more in mind than profits, targets or ratings come together from all sides of the mix to make sure that the best enviROI is delivered to the consumer at the same time as ROI in the marketing process, we will see what we are seeing daily now: chancers buying bamboo couches and claiming to be a green agency because they recycle their coffee cups, and marketing commissioners with budgets in the millions and sustainability forms more designed to meet CSR objectives, getting seduced by this aspect of the process at the expense of the thing they are actually meant to be achieving: a clear objective with a good brief to develop a well-targeted execution.

I think only the market will decide what will prevail. Which, with luck, it still can. You can only sell so many cars that don’t prove to do the mileage or emit the claimed green benefits (even if the exhaust pipe is on a power station) before something catches up with you. And overtakes.

But, to be sure, what would be a real help is a single, trusted measure of what is accurate, ruthlessly enforced by a body with teeth, such the consumer can believe what they see or hear is at least accurate enough to make an informed decision upon.

However, even if all could agree on what makes for a fair ‘green’ claim, between carbon footprints, food miles, organic impacts, etc, etc, so that any such thing does become meaningful to a bewildered consumer base (and not just the jargonistic target-setters at their Bali conferences), on current evidence I don’t see most believing that the International, EU or national governments of the day are doing it for the right reasons, and not just to get out of a landfill hole, a missed target fine or to pump some subsidy dosh into an offshore engineering company with a really good lobbying consultant.

PR Watch - Falsies Awards