09 November 2006

Lovely weather we’re having…

It’s November 9th today and I had my lunch sitting on a park bench in gloriously warm sunshine. Global warming, eh? And everyone’s going on about how they want us to stop it; about how we all should be aiming for carbon neutrality to save the planet.

This week’s PRWeek highlights the story…and some of the inherent contradictions. Danny Rogers, in his opinion piece, points out how the PR industry is jumping on the green bandwagon faster than it has jumped on any previously passing one – and it’s never been shy to adopt a fad. Agencies going carbon neutral, others establishing ‘green’ practice groups (I’m sure that forcing employees to wear sandals and grow beards isn’t allowed)…even if some think as an industry that we talk more than we walk.

Before the industry settled on the hype of green, the forerunning fashion was, of course, Corporate Social Responsibility, whereby normally pathological organisations did nice things so that everyone liked them (or at the very least, ignored the nasty stuff they were doing somewhere else). “Yes, I realise that they’re driving indigenous populations from their traditional homelands in the Amazonian basin, but at least they’ve planted some new trees down the rec…”

But, as PRWeek also points out, while in principle we’d like organisations to be doing more CSR-type goody goodiness, we don’t really care one way or the other (only 10% of respondents to a Vodafone survey said they were “very interested” in hearing about a firms CSR efforts).

Think about the last expensive item you bought…iPod, TV, handbag, tube ticket. You saw it, you wanted it, you bought it. At which stage did you check out the producer’s environmental credentials? Were they carbon neutral? What were working conditions in the factory like? Did you check it? Did you bollocks.

I think it was Lord Browne of BP that once said something along the lines of: “I’m more than happy for us to undertake CSR activities, along as it makes people buy more petrol from us.” Well, it looks like it doesn’t, so how long before CSR and related green initiatives are sunk like a disused oil rig?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fads are great aren't they, in one minute out the next... Not so much of a fad however, but possibly the one subject that has been constant over the last few years is health. Now whilst I think it's great that people like Jamie Oliver are trying to get our children eating more healthy it doesn't mean the rest of us have to be constantly reminded of the issues surrounding unhealthy eating and people telling me what is good, or bad, or what I can and can't eat. Which is why I was so pleased this week to see Burger King stick two fingers up and launch the super size me Double Whopper, immediately targeted by health campaigners as being irresponsible. They are a fast food burger chain and McDonalds has proved this week that despite them offering healthy alternatives, it has either driven customers away, or customers do not want it. On Burger King's part I think this is great (and i'm not someone who has them a lot) and am pleased that they are thinking about their core business instead of doing something for the sake of doing it.

Ben said...

Reckon you are missing the point on this. We have, for better or worse (my view better) created a self perpetuating marketing loop. Many larger companies are 'leaping on the bandwagon' as you put it and in turn demanding that their suppliers do the same. This makes it less about hugging trees and more about good business sense.

....the world's leading.... said...

Someone's going to appear here in a bit and say that your comment's a thinly-veiled piece of promo for Burger King...but no matter! I too loved the launch of the Double Whopper and particularly (despite it being American) the "I AM MAN" TV ad (watch it here - www.burgerking.co.uk). Genius! I'm going to get me one of those...with fries.

Coming soon: TWL, in association with Burger King. Because a little bit of what you fancy does you good.

You know the real reason McDonalds put healthy stuff on the menu, don't you? It was because its researchers found out that a lot of families weren't visiting the Golden Arches due to one dissenting voice in the family unit...chuck a couple of salads and a wrap on the menu and you get rid of that excuse, and suddenly you've got four more people through the door, three of which are stuffing all beef patties and Ronald's special sauce down their gullets. Brilliant!

....the world's leading.... said...

Ben...isn't that just the PR industry bending over again for its clients? So your big client decides to go carbon neutral and (becuase it can) demands that all its suppliers do the same...so small companies have to go to efforts and expense just to keep in the client's good books. Good business sense isn't about taking it up the backside just to retain your clients, is it?

But how much does it really matter? I could be wrong, but despite what PRWeek claims (or at least Deborah Saw of Citigate Dewe Rogerson) I'm not sure many companies are specifying carbon neutrality from agencies when putting their business out to pitch. Hell, PRWeek even pointed out that the Carbon Trust's own agency, Fishburn Hedge's, isn't carbon neutral.

Anonymous said...

Do you not think that reason most companies jump on the bandwagon (green issues/CSR) is to make sure they receive less negative press and that when they do receive negative press can spin out their lines about how they are doing this in the community, or only used recycled paper? Just a thought.....

Anonymous said...

Wonder if this is going to make any difference to all of those PR luvvies who hype their green yummy mummy lifestyles and simultaneously declare "I don't do public transport"

Ben said...

In terms of 'does it matter?' I rather think it does...especially when you translate it to the broader business world rather than just PR. I personally won't buy air frighted food, bike is my transport of choice and i do my best not to purchase goods that i know have been manufactured in sweat shop conditions.

I really like the Carbon Trust's approach to the whole carbon neutral topic - its all about creating business benefits and hopeful savings from doing so (and no I don't work for Fishburn before you ask).

If we think of companies that have really managed to achieve this in a business context we need look no further than M&S who have tapped into the consciousness of the 'yummy mummy' brigade by pushing through a traceability policy.

If PR is all about reputations, then surely this is an opportunity to really prove to our clients that they can improve their image by tapping into the public consciousness.