Green Marketing Is Pollution

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

I can’t think of a practice that is more damaging to corporate reputation, or insulting to consumers’ intelligence, than green marketing.

There are many subjects that can be effectively addressed by conversation alone. For instance, debates on the nature of love are adequate, as are dialogs about, say, the shape of the Universe. We can talk our way through geometry proofs, and add melody to sing Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

But talking alone doesn’t save the environment. 

We have a planet that is warming and changing, and even if you’re a political reactionary and choose to contest the conclusions of a zillion scientists — and doubt an observational method that was good enough to yield all of the comforts of science, medicine, and technology upon which you rely — you can’t deny that pollution is generically bad, and that sustainable business, on average, is a good thing.

But all we get from the oil companies on the subject is glorious blather. This is the stuff of complaint, protest, and revolution, isn’t it?

Just take ExxonMobil as an example: it’s running an ad campaign replete with the faux employee testimonials about the company’s efforts to find sources of alternative energy.

The workers are unwitting (at best) lying liars. 

ExxonMobil doesn’t care about alternate energy. In fact, its recent shareholder’s meeting witnessed the defeat of every effort to make environmental responsibility a reality at the company. It devotes an incomprehensibly small amount of money to research in the field. 

It’s not alone. BP and Chevron have been running advertising for years, claiming to be participants in "a conversation" about alternate energy futures.

All the while, these companies have made unconscionable profits from selling oil, and doing little to change that equation.


Own any stock? Why should they do otherwise?

Green marketing spawns a lot of dishonesty.

First, there’s the abject falsehood at the center of the belief that marketing communications can fix or otherwise distract people from the issue of environmetnal degradation. Do the agencies that promote this garbage actually believe what they sell to the oil companies? Euro RSCG, Alyn/Fleishman-Hillard, and others should be held accountable for their lies: how do you hire one of these agencies, or believe their proscriptions about brand, when they are responsible for such dishonest communications?

Second, what about all of the environmental activists who encourage companies to talk about green issues? Who needs talk other than special interests that can reference the noise in their fundraising letters? Methinks the enviro lobby sometimes risks being paid off too easily. 

Finally, the oil companies. 

The ugly fact may very well be that investment in green technologies is a waste of money…right now, based on market demands and near-term forecasts. Skip the visuals and soaring soundtracks, and perhaps there’s a cogent, real case to be made that we’re years, or decades, away from needing alternate energy sources.

Perhaps the honest conversation would be based on oil companies declaring some truth about energy consumption, like the fact that using fossil fuels, combined with efficient homes and businesses, is the real answer for the foreseeable future.

If so, why doesn’t ExxonMobil (or why don’t the other companies) tell the truth?

I know why. The branding gurus have done the polling and analyses, and told these companies that they can buy off environmental concerns with some glossy advertising. It does the agencies, consumers, and the companies no good.

They’re just creating more pollution.

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