Maybe it’s a general feeling in the air… maybe it’s a universal force that has decided to crack down on the waste of hot CO2 emissions — the biggest culprit?
It’s called how to say a whole lot, without saying anything at all. Seth Godin has a great short little post on this very issue today — I’ve taken the liberty to replace his example, with empty, meaningless language from the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. His post:
And this is the problem with just about every lame speech, every overlooked memo, every worthless bit of boilerplate foisted on the world: you write and write and talk and talk and bullet and bullet but no, you’re not really saying anything.
It took me two minutes to find a million examples. Here’s one, [“The shared challenge is to address sometimes conflicting social, economic, and, and environmental imperatives in a manner that captures the economic opportunities that are emerging for forest products of the highest environmental quality.”]
Write nothing instead. It’s shorter.
Most people work hard to find artful ways to say very little. Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?
Funnily enough, if you visit the Greenpeace USA website there is an entire campaign dedicated to “Stop Greenwashing“.
Every day, Americans are bombarded with advertising about environmentally friendly goods and services. But how many really are green, and how many are just pretending?
Yeah, Greenpeace, I couldn’t agree more. And how does Greenpeace define this issue?:
These days, green is the new black. Corporations are falling all over themselves to demonstrate that they are environmentally conscious. The average citizen is finding it more and more difficult to tell the difference between those companies genuinely dedicated to making a difference and those that are using a green curtain to conceal dark motives.
Uh, huh. And better yet Greenpeace has four criteria for their “Stop Greenwash” campaign: Dirty Business, Ad Bluster, Political Spin, It’s the Law Stupid.
Touting an environmental program or product, while the corporation’s product or core business is inherently polluting or unsustainable. For example, if a company brags about its boutique green R&D projects but the majority of spending and investment reinforces old, unsustainable, polluting practices.
Hmmm, could this maybe be like many of the signatories to this “historic” “world-leading” Agreement. This has been raised by other critics to this Agreement. For example, go visit Environment Canada’s website: National Pollutant Release Inventory for the Pulp and Paper industry. I went to, for example, ID number 1 on the list, which is one Alberta Pacific’s (signatory to Agreement) mills in Alberta.
What is it releasing? Well…in 2008:
- 171 kg of Arsenic
- 282 tonnes of Volatile Organic Compounds.(things like formaldehyde, acetone, chlorofluorocarbons — great things for living critters to process).
- 763 tonnes of sulphur dioxide.
Logging in the Boreal Forest, and particularly this agreement are about: “maintaining essential fibre supply for uninterrupted mill operations” (CBF Agreement website). That fibre supply is meant to keep pulp and paper mills going. Producing pulp and paper at its very nature — is a polluting business.
Thus, Greenpeace, is this Agreement not “allowing companies to brag about [green logging practices but keep the] majority of spending and investment reinforcing old, unsustainable, polluting practices” ?
Sure a couple of caribou might be happier out there in the hinterland — but what about the people that are left breathing, absorbing, and circulating the long time pollutants released from the pulp and paper mills from your partner signatories?
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Using targeted advertising and public relations campaigns to exaggerate an environmental achievement in order to divert attention away from environmental problems or if it spends more money advertising an environmental achievement than actually doing it. For example, if a company were to do a million dollar ad campaign about a clean up that cost less.
Hmmm… so Pew & Ivey Foundations; how much has negotiating, brokering, and funding this “Agreement” cost to this point in time, and over the next three years?
And Greenpeace, what about the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of all the jet flights involved?
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Advertising or speaking about corporate “green” commitments while lobbying against pending or current environmental laws and regulations. For example, if advertising or public statements are used to emphasize corporate environmental responsibility in the midst of legislative pressure or legal action.
Ummm, Greenpeace, I’m guessing you’re familiar with aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada… only a “few” outstanding legal actions there. And how many of the logging company signatories have outstanding legal actions surrounding their logging practices and/or pulp and paper production?
Are these companies going to share their current lobbying efforts in all of the Provincial capitals and in Ottawa — surrounding logging practices, effluent and toxins releases, and other matters? What about caps on carbon emissions, or sulphur dioxide, or formaldehyde… like the elevated levels in the Prince George, BC area?
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It’s the Law Stupid
Advertising or branding a product with environmental achievements that are already required or mandated by existing laws. For example, if an industry or company has been forced to change a product, clean up its pollution or protect an endangered species, then uses PR campaigns to make such action look proactive or voluntary.
So when I did a quick search online I found that several (if not all) Provincial governments are already enacting “ecosystem-based management” as a core principle in forestry and other resource industries, for example:
Your B.C. Government is applying ecosystem-based management to protect key elements of old growth forests, such as representative ecosystems, freshwater ecosystems and critical grizzly bear habitat. (Province of BC website: entire site dedicated to ecosystem-based management)
To maintain ecosystem health the Conservation Strategy recommends “that the Government of Alberta and forest land users adopt and implement ecosystem-based forest management as quickly as practicable.
To provide direction for developing long-term forest management plans that are consistent with Saskatchewan’s commitment to both ecosystem-based and sustainable forest management.
A pilot project on the east side of Lake Winnipeg was conducted as a first step to implementing Manitoba’s Forest Plan Towards Ecosystems Based Management. The forest plan is a long-term framework to create ecosystems-based forest management.
The Ministry of Natural Resources manages wildlife to ensure it is healthy today and available for future generations to enjoy. Ontario’s wildlife managers know that individual species are part of complex ecosystems. While management decisions are often directed at certain species, these decisions are made in the context of the entire ecosystem. This is an ecosystem-based approach to wildlife management.
Identification of ecosystem management zones (EMZ) for multiple resource use, accounting for approximately 70% of the available productive forest. In the EMZs, ecosystem-based management with the goal of increasing the supply of goods and services derived from various forest resources (e.g. timber, wildlife, leisure and tourism, etc.) with a view to achieving integrated management. (Government of Quebec document Forests: building a future for Quebec)
(make sure you read all of these with the voice of a cheesy radio announcer… it’s more fun that way).
So, who really is advertising a product or brand (e.g. Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement) when several of the ‘celebrated’ principles of this agreement are already required or mandated by Provincial forestry laws?
Maybe the nine enviro signatories to this agreement should return to that thing… that place… that cliche that everyone likes to use…ummm….uhhh…. oh right: the drawing board.
Ecosystem-based management? Read yesterday’s post and other posts on “Bumpf” on this website. The term “ecosystem-based management” now has about as much meaning as the old Ford slogan “Quality is Job 1″…
Good luck on this dirty business, ad bluster, political spin, already in law, stupid — campaign.
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The most ridiculous aspect of this whole exercise — as communicated by one of the executive leaders of one of the “enviro” signatories:
…it is important to put the CBFA in proper context. It is an aspirational agreement, based on voluntary commitments between participants and a number of goals which will require a great deal of goodwill and hard work to achieve. It is not legally binding on anyone, even those participating in the agreement. It doesn’t compel anyone to do anything against their own interests… [my emphasis]
Oh yeah, I know that whenever I, or someone apparently representing me, spends two years negotiating an agreement — it makes sense that the agreement be “aspirational” and “voluntary” and “not legally binding”. What a great use of resources…
Back to the words of Godin:
Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?