Sunday, November 6, 2011

Corporate environmentalism is a hard to take serious

The actions of big companies are really starting to get annoying. They just blatantly put their own interests above the citizen consumer. Sometimes I forget this basic fact and get a rude reminder.

Today's reminder is my PSEG bill. Every paper bill comes with an additional "paper" reminder to switch to electronic billing to save trees. "Go green" they extort. Save old growth forests. They even print the notice in green ink. Give me a break.

The only one really benefiting is company, which is saving a huge about of money on paper and printing costs. Very little is passed on to the paper company or any environmental group. You think they would lower the price charged to customers for paperless billing and split the cost, but no.

It's the same when hotel's asked us to save the environment by re-using our sheets and towels. Do they lower the price for people who are "green". Hell no, the money goes straight to their bottom line.

Another example is the many companies with environmental programs. These programs are done either to comply with a government regulation, public relations or to save energy. The environment is really secondary. But smart companies have figured out that: "since we spend so much money on the environment, we should get something out of the deal." They are really caring about the environment for the wrong reasons. When you take a close look, the efforts seem fake and un-authentic.

Some companies are active in environmental issues. But again only when it is in their best interests. The classic examples are the outdoor sports companies that import almost everything from China. I am thinking of REI sports, NIKE, New Balance, EMS all of which puts on an environmentally friendly face on their company but ships all their goods from China (40' container = $2500 Shanghai to Long beach, CA). These companies need to look at their total environmental footprint. They should look at weather the environment or money is their core shareholder value.

Our final example is the large number of cups and bags printed with 100% post consumer waste and asking us to recycle. These token effort cheapen the real work of being environmentally friendly and let us off guilt free.

If we really want to help the environment, then we should drive less, use less electricity, fly less, recycle almost everything, use less plastic, turn the heat down, and pay more for oil and carbon fuels.

All really tough stuff to do. But the sad part is a lot of us know what to do.

Here is a related article on Corporate Environmental Rankings in Newsweek.

Here is a site I really like called greenwashing index. Here.

Interbrand, a "brand strategy" and marketing company, has a list of environmentally friendly brands here. The fact that this a "brand" assessment shows self interest is everywhere.

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