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Nuclear industry started the now sophisticated practice of corporate greenwashing

nuke-greenwash

The troubling evolution of corporate greenwashing  The term “greenwashing” was coined in the 1980s to describe outrageous corporate environmental claims. Three decades later, the practice has grown vastly more sophisticated, Guardian, , 21 Aug 16, In the mid-1980s, oil company Chevron commissioned a series of expensive television and print ads to convince the public of its environmental bonafides. Titled People Do, the campaign showed Chevron employees protecting bears, butterflies, sea turtles and all manner of cute and cuddly animals.

The commercials were very effective – in 1990, they won an Effie advertising award, and subsequently became a case study at Harvard Business school. They also became notorious among environmentalists, who have proclaimed them the gold standard of greenwashing – the corporate practice of making diverting sustainability claims to cover a questionable environmental record.

The term greenwashing was coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, back when most consumers received their news from television, radio and print media – the same outlets that corporations regularly flooded with a wave of high-priced, slickly-produced commercials and print ads. The combination of limited public access to information and seemingly unlimited advertising enabled companies to present themselves as caring environmental stewards, even as they were engaging in environmentally unsustainable practices.

But greenwashing dates back even earlier. American electrical behemoth Westinghouse’s nuclear power division was a greenwashing pioneer. Threatened by the 1960’s anti-nuclear movement, which raised questions about its safety and environmental impact, it fought back with a series of ads proclaiming the cleanliness and safety of nuclear power plants. One, featuring a photograph of a nuclear plant nestled by a pristine lake, proclaimed that “We’re building nuclear power plants to give you more electricity,” and went on to say that nuclear plants were “odorless […] neat, clean, and safe”……

One shift has been outreach. Many companies are now working to engage customers in their sustainability efforts, even as their core business model remains environmentally unsustainable. The Home Depot and Lowes, for example, both encourage customers to do their part by offering onsite recycling for several products, including compact fluorescent lights and plastic bags. Meanwhile, they continue to sell billions of dollars per year worth of environmentally damaging products, such as paints that are loaded with toxic ingredients and which release noxious fumes.

“It’s misdirection, and it’s intended to shift the customer’s focus from a company’s appalling behaviors to something that’s peripheral,” Ballard says.

The bottled water conundrum

Another trend, says Jonah Sachs, CEO of branding agency Free Range Studios, is linking sustainability claims to other issues, such as personal health. “There’s this perception that personal health and environmental sustainability are two sides of the same coin,” he says. “Sometimes this is true, but many times it isn’t. Bottled water is a great example: in terms of health, it’s much better than soda or other drinks, but in terms of the environment and sustainability, it’s ridiculous.”

The water industry trades heavily on images of rugged mountains and pristine lakes to sell its products. And many companies – Nestle, in particular – spend millions of dollars trying to convince the public that their bottled water isn’t only good to drink, but is also good for the planet. Over the past few years, the bottled water giant has claimed that its Eco-Shape bottle is more efficient, that itsResource recycled plastic bottle is more environmentally responsible and that its use of plant-based plastics is less damaging to the planet.

In 2008, Nestle Waters Canada even ran an ad claiming: “Bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world.”…….

A golden oldie

 Some of the classic greenwashers are also taking cues from the new greenwashing playbook. In 2013, amid worries about unemployment and continued concerns about energy sustainability, Westinghouse put a fresh face on its old claims with a brand new commercial. “Did you know that nuclear energy is the largest source of clean air energy in the world?” the ad asked viewers right before claiming that its nuclear power plants “provide cleaner air, create jobs, and help sustain the communities where they operate”.

What the commercial failed to mention was that, two years earlier, Westinghouse was cited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for concealing flaws in its reactor designs and submitting false information to regulators. And, in February 2016, another plant that uses Westinghouse reactors, New York’s Indian Point,leaked radioactive material into the surrounding area’s groundwater.

Greenwashing may have taken on a new shape in the last decade, but it’s still as murky as ever. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/aug/20/greenwashing-environmentalism-lies-companies

August 21, 2016 - Posted by | spinbuster

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