Beyond Greenwashing

Uh oh, feel a rant coming on…

I just got wind that the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau is launching a P.R. and advertising campaign across the United States, starting this Friday. For example:

On May 17th BP wrote a $15 million dollar check–pocket change, really–to be allocated to the states of Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama for public relations and advertising to mitigate the affects of the oil spill on tourism. While tourism is very important to the Gulf Coast, and essential to New Orleans, what I find so galling is that none of the powers that be had any clue how to deal with the actual problem, the neverending geyser of oil spewing into the Gulf, but nearly instantaneously knew how to roll out a slick P.R. campaign, effectively distancing anyone in the region who wanted to be distanced from the spill. Florida threw out a hasty “The Coast is Clear,” campaign only to have to pull it when oil started to wash up on their beaches.

This sort of campaign reminds of me of the one BP rolled out several years ago. Anyone else remember when they tried to position themselves as a “green” energy company. Here’s a 2002 article from the NY Times Magazine entitled “How Green is BP?” I will quote some:

The New York Times examines BP/Amoco, the world’s second largest oil company, and its $200 million PR and advertising campaign to greenwash its image. It is an “enormous corporate rebranding exercise, shortening its name from British Petroleum to BP, coining the slogan “Beyond Petroleum” and redesigning its corporate insignia. … in came a green, yellow and white sunburst that seemed to suggest a warm and fuzzy feeling about the earth. … But … BP remains an oil company, deriving the vast majority of its profits from the black stuff that — from drilling rig to oil tanker to refinery to gas station — scars the earth, pollutes the air and eventually warms the planet. And once the company tried to convey its new identity in billboard form, the contradiction only deepened.” As reported in PR Watch, BP has greenwashed itself is by partnering with green groups including the National Wildlife Federation which allowed BP to decorate its gas stations with NWF toys and logos.

I think we all now know exactly how “green” BP is–like the antithesis of “green,” responsible for the greatest environmental disaster in history would be the definition of the opposite of “green.” And yet, for years they did virtually nothing to change their approach to energy solutions, but spent a ton on greenwashing.

My point is that our priorities are obscenely out of order. New Orleans IS affected by this oil spill. And something about the quickness and slickness of this ad campaign vs. the tortuously bumbling process of trying to stop the leak–let alone clean up the oil–leaves me feeling sick. And this ad campaign, with its nervous giggle tone, “Everything’s okay folks, this way to Bourbon Street,” encourages the American public to put on their blinders to the heinous problem that has no less than the sustainability of human civilization as we know it at stake. Not to mention, in the ad the blame is being ascribed to the British, as opposed to corporate plutocracy and worldwide energy policy, which is largely dictated by the United States. This ship is about to go over the falls, and this is one of those moments when everyone needs to pull together and figure out how to steer ourselves away, in a different direction.

But, instead, we are just photoshopping our monuments to history.



Filed under civics

3 responses to “Beyond Greenwashing

  1. Danielle

    Excellent analysis. I could not agree more. keep it up!

  2. Danielle

    Also, I think you should send this to the Gambit and Times Picayune as a letter to the editor.

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