Skip to main content

Cross-posted from dearmrpresident365.

Dear Mr. President,

Twice in the last two days I've encountered the term "greenwashing," a concept with which I was previously unfamiliar. Greenwashing, the practice of a company promoting false or exaggerated environmental claims in order to increase profits, can also be applied to other causes exploited for corporate game; KFC has recently been accused of pinkwashing, while (Red)washing charges have been leveled at Gap and Apple.  My own employer is often accused of such practices, which is the context in which I first learned this term.

I'm struggling with this. I don't like the idea of exploiting consumer idealism for profit; my last employer did this on a regular basis, on a much smaller scale. We'd often be told to organize book drives for local charities, in order to increase the number of books (or toys) our customers purchased. However, we would not accept donations that customers brought in or purchased elsewhere. Every time I'd head complaints about this, however, I'd have to ask, do the children receiving these donations care if the company sending them had ulterior motives? Also, a struggling company is always going to try to convince customers to spend more; if they can't appeal to anything but a customer's charitable instincts, doesn't that do more good than finding a way to convince them to spend more on themselves?

When it comes to campaigns like product (Red), detractors claim that marketing the trendiness or sex appeal of social causes does more to increase the profits for the corporations, than it does for the charities they partner with. This criticism seems foolish; Bono's entire pitch for corporations participating in (Red) is based on the idea that participating in the fight against AIDS can help businesses. If these companies aren't donating enough of their profits for the satisfaction of some critics, boycotting these products isn't likely to encourage them to donate more. I think that any money generated by such campaigns is better than no money at all; it's impossible to gauge how much awareness this creates, as well. Will a consumer who has spent a little more for a product that donates to a social cause feel that they've done enough, and stop donating, or feel good, and donate more in order to continue feeling good? What is the harm in encouraging our consumption to be directed in ways that are, even marginally, mitigating to the damage our way of life does to the earth and the developing world?

Of course, there are other examples of harmful practices that are cloaked in claims of corporate responsibility. KFC's partnership to help breast cancer research, for example, encourages behavior that probably leads to breast cancer, (and is, inarguably, unhealthy.) BP's "Beyond Petroleum" ad campaign was deceitful, at best, even before the oil spill. And corporations aren't the only ones guilty of this; Israel's 60-year anniversary spawned an ad campaign to encourage tourism with the unconscionably insensitive slogan "No one belongs here more than  you."  When advertising is so disingenuous that it actively encourages purchases or behavior that is outright harmful to the buyer or to others, especially when it is done in the name of charity, conservation or any good cause, I think it crosses the line.

What would you say, Mr. President? Would you rather Americans bought fair-trade, shade-grown coffee from Starbucks and product (red) shirts from Gap, or that we saved our money, purchased less, and donated to these causes directly? Do we have to bring down corporations for their harmful practices, or pressure them, through our spending, to change their ways? Is a good deed less "good" if it is done for selfish reasons?

Respectfully yours,


Originally posted to Augurgirl on Mon May 24, 2010 at 11:14 PM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site