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Green/Sustainability

Coal Rep’s Climate Change Spin Sparks PR Ethics Debate

How does a PR rep handle the conflict inherent in representing The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, an organization created to increase coal exportation in the northwest US, with a history working for the EPA? The two organizations could not be more ideologically opposed to one another.

In this extremely off-the-record clip, Edelman VP Lauri Hennessey tells coal industry marketers how she navigates around the issue by using her EPA past to convince environmentally concerned audiences that more coal exports would not contribute to climate change. A couple of things are clear:


The clip may be a hit piece, but it’s also a revealing look into the way spin works in one particular case.

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Patagonia Claims to Sacrifice Profits for Social Responsibility

Crunchy.Granola clothing brand Patagonia‘s success tells the tale of a company that turned corporate social responsibility into big profits, but now they’ve launched a campaign called “The Responsible Economy“ designed to convince anyone who’ll listen that they care more about the former than the latter.

Oh, really?

The ad on the left appeared in The New York Times during Fashion Week, and it’s just the latest step in Patagonia’s ongoing drive to define itself as the very antithesis of what it really is—a big, popular company that recently celebrated its 40th year spent selling pricey outdoor wear.

The point of this ad was to highlight a new initiative that fits within the larger campaign by giving customers store credit to trade in old clothes before the company “reconditions” them and sells them as used or “worn ware.”

Here’s proof they’re not messing around:

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Public Grows More Skeptical of Brands’ ‘Green’ Claims

If you think it, then it might as well be true.

The big takeaway from the latest “Green Gauge” survey from global research company GfK shouldn’t surprise you: consumers are growing more and more skeptical of brands’ green claims.

The depth of the public’s confusion and distrust, however, is worth noting:

  • 22% of consumers aren’t sure about the accuracy of environmental claims made by brands (that’s a 200% increase over the past five years)
  • 10% don’t know how well companies carry out their “environmental responsibilities” (a 300% increase over the same time period)
We feel like these numbers are too low, because 100% of consumers should be “unsure” of environmental claims made in ad and marketing content. (You can blame our cynicism and our experience in marketing and PR.)

Maybe these consumers are just afraid to admit how little they know.

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Animal Rights Groups Help Inspire Hong Kong Shark Fin Soup Ban

At some point, all those “green” PR stunts might just pay off.

Over the years, groups ranging from the World Wildlife Foundation to Wildaid, The Humane Society International and Save Our Seas have mounted campaigns designed to raise awareness about the process of “finning”, or capturing sharks in bulk and cutting their fins off for consumption.

Chinese restaurants and pharmacies have long marketed cartilage-based shark fin soup as a cure-all that prevents everything from impotence to cancer, but its popularity has also led to a shortage in the world’s shark population that spurred animal rights groups to take action.

While the soup remains a popular delicacy at weddings, the campaigns of groups like WWF Hong Kong seem to be working.

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Chinese Chicken Creates a PR Challenge for Food Distributors

Any business selling America’s favorite flightless bird faces a bit of a conundrum after authorities decided to allow our own fowl to be processed in China before hitting stores and restaurants stateside.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to let a limited number of Chinese plants process chicken for sale in the United States—and it’s not even Chinese chicken. That’s right, these feathered sandwich fillers, which were raised and slaughtered on this side of the Atlantic, will travel East for a bit of re-dressing before returning in time for a dip in the deep fryer.

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What Can Estée Lauder’s New Focus on Corporate Responsibility Accomplish?

Yesterday brought news that The Estée Lauder Companies, in an move clearly designed to strengthen the brand’s reputation as a responsible company around the world, created a new position within its corporate responsibility unit.

The company chose Pamela Gill Alabaster, former SVP of corporate comms, sustainable development and corporate affairs at L’Oreal, to fill the new role with the general purpose of keeping CSR strategy “in alignment with the Company’s long-term business objectives”. What does that mean, exactly?

In recent years, Lauder launched various CSR initiatives focused on highlighting environmental programs and presenting a more diverse face to an expanding global market. The company has faced related PR challenges in the past, particularly on the subjects of sustainability and animal testing—both of which will be central to this new CSR move.

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Why Recycle? Because Your Trash Has Big Dreams, Says New Campaign

Did you know that your soda can aspires to become part of a sports stadium and your empty plastic bottle dreams of contributing to an ocean-side park bench? Well, they do, and you can help them reach their lofty goals by doing one simple thing: recycling them.

At least that’s the message sent by Pereira & O’Dell‘s new pro-bono campaign for the Ad Council and Keep American Beautiful, “I Want to Be Recycled.”

The PSA featuring the bottle opens with the evocative line, “They said I couldn’t dream. Called me a piece of trash and swore that’s all I’d ever be.” The viewer then watches this tenacious little dreamer overcome its seemingly hopeless start inside a trash can, and follows it across city streets, down lonely highways, and through rugged terrain until it finally reaches its destination and becomes what it “always wanted to be.” The spot ends with the tag line “Give your garbage another life. Recycle,” and shows the address for IWantToBeRecycled.org.

Basically, think “Where the Heart Is” condensed into 30 seconds and starring a milk bottle instead of Natalie Portman. Read more

Chipotle Becomes First US Restaurant Chain to Voluntarily Label GMOs

Chipotle has marketed itself as a healthier alternative to fast food since the beginning, using many organically grown and locally sourced ingredients, and eliminating additives, preservatives and other toxins often found in fast food.

Last year, the restaurant chain even took a stand in favor of California’s Proposition 37 (voted down last November), which would have required all food containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such. The company stated at the time:

“At Chipotle, telling the story of our food has always been important. We want our customers to know exactly what they are eating. For us, this is real transparency—because knowing more about where our food comes from is always better than knowing less. In light of this, and our vision of Food With Integrity, we wholeheartedly support the cause of Prop 37, having endorsed the measure as soon as we heard it was on the ballot. We want to encourage you to learn as much as you can about the foods you eat, because the truth should never be hidden, and you have the right to know.”
The restaurant even went so far as to call out the big agriculture and chemical companies that spent over $30 million urging the public to vote down the bill.

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Green Works Urges Fans to Play St. Patrick’s Day Charades on Vine

On Monday we gave you a list of brands doing cool things on Vine, Twitter‘s six-second looping video app. Today we have to add Clorox‘s Green Works to that list for their St. Patty’s day-themed campaign urging fans to “go green” by playing charades. Tweeters who guess each charade correctly will then be entered to win $500 (which they will presumably use to buy everyone a round tomorrow night). And yes, this is Lance Bass (aka the taller Justin Timberlake).

Rebecca Boston Sobel, head of PR and digital strategy for Green Works, explains:

With the recent relaunch of our marketing campaign, we’re focusing mostly on creating digital activations that are timely, deliver on our core message – that green can be for everyone – and ultimately fun for consumers. Playing St. Patty’s Day charades on Vine for a chance to win a pot of “green”  was an engaging way to highlight that you don’t have to “put on a charade to be green” and delivered across the board.

So another step in the evolution of Vine as a PR tool. What do we think?

Al Gore Taps Agency Behind ‘Truth’ Campaign to Spread Awareness About Climate Change

Anyone who picked up a magazine or watched TV in the early 2000′s probably remembers the shocking images and hard-to-swallow facts of the anti-smoking ‘Truth‘ campaign. Ad spots like the ominously (and appropriately) titled “Body Bags” delivered statistics about the dangers of smoking without an ounce of sugar coating–and with a healthy dose of shock value. Even if you didn’t want to hear it, you were compelled to pay attention (especially when your loving daughter cut out the magazine ads and stuck them to your steering wheel…you’re welcome, Mom!).

Now, champion of all things green and climate-related Al Gore is hoping to elicit the same can’t-look-away public reaction when it comes to not-so-pretty facts about global warming. Gore’s Climate Reality Project has hired Arnold Worldwide, one of the agencies behind “Truth,” to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change and challenge the “fake science” and half-truths being circulated.

Arnold has answered the call to action by creating a website/social media tool called “Reality Drop,” which finds climate news from all over the Web and compares it with the most relevant science. Articles displayed in red are said to contain myths and denier-science, while those displayed in green contain evidence that climate change is an undeniable scientific fact. Visitors to the site are encouraged to share the green articles on Facebook and Twitter, and also to “drop some reality” on the red articles by posting comments containing copy-and-pasted scientific facts provided on the Reality Drop website.

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