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Green/Sustainability

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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U.N. Outreach Event: How Can We Promote Sustainable Business?

Americans wondering what transpires at the U.N. got some answers on Monday when the United Nations Association of the U.S. (UNA-USA) hosted a day for members. Sustainability was first and foremost on the agenda for those attending, namely business and community leaders, the media, individual supporters and academics.

As Patrick Madden, executive director of UNA-USA said, “There are various conspiracy theories swirling around about what the U.N. does. In the U.S. it’s a particular challenge since most U.S. citizens don’t see the U.N. directly at work in their country. That makes it harder for most of the American public to see the benefits”. Minh-Thu Phan, UNA-USA director of public policy, added, “Many Americans care about these issues, but not enough to act on them or to call their congressmen.”

Sustainability is an area where the U.N. has been active, and one that has gained traction in the public and private sectors. On Monday the panel discussed the aftermath of Rio+ 20, a U.N. conference on sustainable development that was the U.N.’s biggest conference ever, with 50,000 attendees in Brazil last June.

“The message was simple: we need to re-think development”. Those were the words of Nikhil Seth, a U.N. director of sustainable development. He provided a broad overview of the Rio + 20 conference, and Eban Goodstein, director of Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy, focused on sustainable business issues.

Click through for takeaways.

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Which Brands’ ‘Green’ Claims Are Legitimate?

Running a green/sustainable/environmentally friendly brand is obviously a big deal now. Following retail giant H&M‘s promises to use its water responsibly (under the watchful eye of the World Wildlife Federation), we figured we’d revisit the issue.

The public is understandably skeptical of such “sustainability” pledges, especially when made by notorious polluters like BP. It’s sort of like Apple promising to stop using child labor to build your iPhone or McDonald’s swearing by “certified sustainable fish” for its seafood McBites: how much of this is for real and how much of it is just another “greenwashing” corporate reputation stunt?

It’s one thing for a brand to release ads highlighting its environmental efforts but, as the Greenpeace Stop Greenwashing project tells us, most of these companies aren’t really all that interested in making their practices more sustainable–especially if they operate in the energy, automotive or forestry industries.

BP is a great example of a brand that just doesn’t have much credibility in the environmental sphere, no matter how many enthusiastic press releases its team writes. Puma, on the other hand, has begun publishing regular accounts of its supply chain’s influence on the environment, making clear that many of its practices have a serious impact and setting related goals that can be measured statistically.

So tell us: which brands do you trust on the sustainability front? While we’re at it, we have a couple more questions:

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Frankenfish: The GMO PR Wars Continue

The PR battle over genetically modified food (and how/whether it should be labeled) just got fishier.

AquaBounty Technologies (ABT), a biotechnology company in Massachusetts, has developed a fish called the AquAdvantage Salmon, which grows twice as fast as its naturally-bred counterparts. Pending FDA approval, this flashily-named fish could be the first genetically-altered animal marketed for human consumption. We’ve previously discussed the fact that there is no law on the books requiring genetically modified foods to carry labels identifying them as such — and this makes matters even sketchier. Unless customers purchase organic or “free range” seafood, they won’t know whether the fish they’re buying is plain old farm-raised salmon or this new brand of “frankenfish.”

Here’s the quick (and extremely simplified) version of how the “AquAdvantage Salmon” engineering process works: Atlantic salmon don’t grow continuously because their growth hormones are only active for roughly three months per year. In order to “fix” this, ABT created a new gene construct that combines a regulator gene from a fish called an ocean pout with the growth hormones of Chinook salmon. This combination is then injected into the eggs of Atlantic salmon–and the resulting fish take 18 months to grow to the same size regular salmon spend three years achieving.

The company claims that the frankenfish is an answer to global food shortages thanks to its “shorter production cycles and increased efficiency of production”.

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GMO Labeling Wars: Big Agriculture and Chemical Companies Win the Day

The U.S. remains one of only a few developed countries that do not require genetically engineered foods to be clearly labeled. In fact, roughly 80 percent of our processed foods contain GMO ingredients in some form, yet the FDA still allows their makers to use labels like “all natural,””naturally derived,” “naturally flavored,” etc.

After learning in June that a Right to Know initiative mandating GMO labels would appear on California’s ballot this year, observers engaged in a good bit of speculation over how the agricultural and chemical corporations that create these products would handle an industry-wide PR issue. The answer came in the form of a $46 million PR effort that blitzed radio waves and flooded mailboxes with negative advertising.

Those ad dollars now seem well-spent: voters defeated Prop 37 at the polls yesterday by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. The initiative would have required the packaging of all processed foods to bear the labels “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering” by 2014. The rule also would have required “genetically engineered” labels for produce and prevented the producers of GMO products from using words like “natural” or “naturally made” in their advertising.

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Famous Chefs Protest Against Seafood Fraud

Everyone loves the name Chilean Sea Bass. But when you think about it for a while, it begins to lose its appeal.

Chile, after all, is damn far away. Where in Chile was this sea bass caught, and by whom? How was it transported all of those thousands of miles only to end up in an alley behind the restaurant you are currently sitting in as a candle flickers on your table next to a hip Italian clay pot of fresh rosemary growing beside a bubbling indoor waterfall? It all seems so contrived.

That’s because it is. For starters, at home, the Chilean Sea Bass is also known as the Patagonian Toothfish, which sounds like something out of Jurassic Park III. Secondly, the fish has been the center of controversy among chefs, foodies, purveyors and environmentalists for a decade because it represents a much broader problem: seafood fraud.

Chances are, if that Chilean Sea Bass you just ordered could pull up a chair and join you for dinner, his version of his journey would differ greatly from the waiter’s version. Officially, all imports of Chilean Sea Bass should be accompanied by an official Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, which chefs are supposed to check upon purchase.

But with so many customers craving that full, buttery taste–and so many restaurateurs and seafood providers willing to look the other way in order to remain competitive, the situation is ripe for corruption.

Now celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Thomas Keller and others are protesting for change by signing a petition demanding that the U.S. government prohibit illegal seafood from entering the marketplace by enforcing stricter regulatory policies regarding imported fish. The public should applaud this effort. Read more

How Is IBM America’s ‘Greenest Company?’

After reading The New York Times expose about the incredible amounts of energy wasted in the data centers of “environmentally friendly” Internet juggernauts like Facebook and Google, we have to admit we’re a little surprised to learn that tech brands dominate Newsweek’s list of the “greenest” companies in America year after year.

This year, in fact, IBM and Hewlett-Packard retained the top two spots, followed by Sprint Nextel and Dell. We had to check our calendars: Is it 2012 or 1997?

How did IBM achieve its somewhat enviable position atop the green heap? We won’t get into Newsweek’s extensive methodology, but the report notes two particular projects: The Smarter Planet initiative helps IBM clients analyze their consumption of resources in order to make for more environmentally efficient businesses, but we’re more interested in the company’s Zurich Research Laboratory.

In 2008, the Swiss techies pioneered a “zero carbon emission data center” that works by redirecting the massive amounts of waste heat generated by all those buzzing hard drives and using it to regulate the temperatures of buildings and create a “municipal heating network”. Most importantly, the system uses the heat to more efficiently cool the chips themselves–so IBM truly recycles its own energy.

OK, that’s pretty cool.

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Axe ‘Showerpooling’ Ads: Shameless and Sexist or Provocative with a Purpose?

Every member of the ad team responsible for promoting Axe grooming products clearly attended class on the day their marketing professors told them that “sex sells.”

Take, for instance, their ad featuring a stampede of half-naked women converging on one lone man (who apparently smells awesome) as the words “spray more, get more” appear on the screen. Not blunt enough for you? How about the shampoo bottle tagline that promises, “the cleaner to you are, the dirtier you get”? All this professional copywriting work sends one very clear message — use Axe, get laid.

Axe’s latest ad campaign, however, ventures into uncharted territory. In this case, the product’s ultimate benefit (sex) lies hidden beneath a very thinly veiled pseudo-PSA about water conservation. “Showerpooling”, as the company calls it, encourages young men to save water by showering with “a like-minded acquaintance or an attractive stranger”. While it’s pretty clear what might appeal to guys about this idea (and we don’t mean the eco-friendly part), Rob Candelino, vice president of marketing for U.S. skin care at Unilever (Axe’s parent company), swears the campaign really is about water conservation. Sort of.

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Will the FTC’s Revised ‘Green Guides’ Keep Marketers Honest?

We recently discussed consumers’ growing cynicism about products marketed as “green” or “environmentally friendly” — turns out that people are sick of having their well-meaning efforts to better their environment exploited by advertisers and corporations simply looking to cushion their bottom lines. In the wake of many dubious claims, consumers are now understandably hesitant to believe earth-friendly marketing messages.

Today, in its continuing effort to keep the marketers of “green” products honest (or at least discourage them from telling bold-faced lies), The Federal Trade Commission released its revised “Green Guides“, a set of guidelines meant to help advertisers make claims that are “truthful and non-deceptive”.

While the guides aren’t technically regulations, they describe the types of environmental claims the FTC may or may not find deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. The Act allows the FTC to take “enforcement action” against deceptive claims, which can lead to Commission orders prohibiting deceptive advertising. If a company then violates these orders, it would be subject to fines.

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