Greenwash: To improve the public image of a corporation by funding environmental initiatives and public relations.
Here and now, EcoGeek asks an uncomfortable question: Is greenwashing a bad thing? When BP changed their name to Beyond Petroleum and began to spend twice as much money than any other energy company on renewables should we call them greenwashers and disparage their progress, or should we thank them. There is no doubt that public relations spurred BP in its rebranding. And, yes, the company still does awful dirty things (especially in Alaska) but we at EcoGeek are strong believers in the principle of multiple causes.
To say BP overhauled their brand, their mission and restructured their entire corporation solely for public relations is far too simple-minded. Greenwashing has multiple causes. Among them are public relations, long-term and short-term economics and concern for the environment. That's right, I said it, Concern for the environment. As much as the corporate world seems cash-crazed and heartless, there are still people running these things. And, occasionally, people care.
Wal-Mart just went through a green-up with pep-talks from Al Gore and audits from the Rocky Mountain Institute. This is the kind of thing that will make some folks hop up and down and scream "Greenwashers!" But, the truth is, when Wal-Mart puts compact fluorescent lightbulbs on sale, the world notices. They're doing it because it's making them money, it's saving them money, it's increasing brand loyalty and, maybe, because the Waltons come from a long line of traditional (hook and bullet) conservationists.
When call Wal-Mart and BP greenwashers, we punish them for doing the right things. When they're guilty, which they often are, we need to rub their faces in it. But when they change the way their companies operate and, thus, change the world, we have to say thanks. We have to shake their hands and print their press releases because, otherwise, they'll have one less reason to green-up. And we want them to have as many reasons as possible.
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