Tag Archives: Greenwash

Lurpak Go Home

Annoying advert

These days I cannot cycle across London without giant advertizing  boards getting up in my grill, hawking Lurpak butter. The posters shamelessly try to link a mass butter product with the complex and rich well-being benefits of cooking. Be happy, buy Lurpak and cook.

The one problem with this cheery narrative is that Lurpak butter  is shipped across a sea to get here releasing unnecessary and dangerous green house gasses into our unbalanced atmosphere. Why are we creating this risk when we have great local butter, produced skillfully within these lands? The only butter I will buy is local butter. So Lurpak get your big, dangerous, stupid adverts out of my face and stick to selling your Danish butter to the Danes.

Another annoying advert

This is just getting boring

Breaking News: International Sex Scandal at COP 16

Shocking news just in: nations of the world are sending their wankiest people to Cancun after word got out that it is just going to be a giant international circle-jerk. Last year leaders of the free world gathered in Copenhagen for COP 15 but decided, at the last-minute, not to bother with a global treaty to protect: the natural world we depend on, our children or their future descendents. So this year… the gloves are off!

In a desperate last-minute bid for alien intervention to save us from the evil alliance of perverted-banker-greed and slimey-politician-scum good citizens of the world (http://earth.350.org/)  are coming together to create giant symbols to grab the attention of passing alien vessels. Maybe a more advanced civilization can point out that nature needs the bailout out not a pathological economy founded on consuming our planet.

350 eARTh Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic

350 eARTh - Solar Eagle, Los Angeles

350 eARTh Mexico City

350 eARTh - Delta del Ebro, Spain

The biggest no–brainer ever

 

Death by fossil fuel

All the eyes of the world are turned to the beaches of the most dominant nation of our times. The world is watching closely as this pivotal culture wrestles with this unprecedented environmental catastrophe. Will Obama use this as his movement to make a clean break and fundamentally restructure the energy infrastructure in the same way that 9/11 was used as the catalyst to restructure US foreign policy? Will regulation be changed in such a way that big business can no longer dictate the terms of its own scrutiny?  Will BP finally be seen for the serial offender and gross violator of nature that it really is… yada yada.

Obama looking as serious as possible

A Nigerian man stands in front of the flare that burned him (Source: http://www.chrishondros.com)

But wait a second… is this really an unprecedented environmental catastrophe? Or is it really that a far bigger fuss is made when the USA and its sacrosanct way of life is threatened? Just across the Atlantic a far larger spill has been ravaging the coastal ecosystem, poisoning the people and devastating a way of living for over two decades. Nobody is watching and nobody cares. Presumably this is because this is not an aspirational culture. It is not a holiday destination and could it also be because the oil is harder to see on the people’s skin? This is Africa and the people being poisoned are Nigerian.

A ruptured pipeline burns in a Lagos suburb after an explosion in 2008 which killed at least 100 people. Photograph: George Esiri/Reuters

The companies operating (Shell, Agip, ExxonMobil) may be different but the catastrophe is exactly the same. This is the inanity of Obama rounding on BP and calling it ‘British Petroleum’. It doesn’t matter which company it is or which country it is head office is based in. This is the same dirty shit. This is massive corporations that have grown too big to control doing what they were set up to do. Converting natural capital into cash as fast as humanly possible to satisfy the false god made manifest by the demons at Harvard Business School that have for years spread their sick sermon of shareholder return over people and the planet. These tormented cogs in an ungodly machine have sold their souls along with the planet and now we reap the vengeance as hell is brought down to our earthly paradise.

Kids play football in front of a flare (Source: http://www.chrishondros.com)

The Nigerian coastline has had to endure 1.5m tons of oil. More oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, What isn’t spilt is shipped to… you’ve guessed it! Our favourite Empire… the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports. The burden of its role as furnace stokers of the bloated, inefficient and distended US machine is almost too much to bear. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations.

A devastated land

In this unregulated, pioneer land western companies bribe the government and suffocate dissent allowing them to cut endless corners and operate as cheaply as possible. By their sick algebra the most profitable means of extracting the black gold is simply to burn the accompanying gas (a scarce and valuable resource) off in flares (definition below). In Nigeria there are flares that have been burning continuously since 1972.  You don’t need a degree in atmospheric or environmental science to know that deep down this is just wrong.

All this goes to show without a shadow of a doubt that we do not face a choice. The questions have already answered and it is a no-brainer. Two roads bifurcate in front of us. One leads to a sustainable future in which we shift rapidly away from fossil fuels; live more locally; work fewer hours; shift our attentions from consumption to creativity; from competition to cooperation and provide space for the natural world to recover and evolve. This way of life is not mysterious. It is not fanciful. It is not utopian. It is practical and people are already doing it. Transition Towns show how to implement an ‘energy decent plan’ and check this new report from the Centre from Alternative Technology and NEF outlines a zero-carbon vision of the UK within 20 years.

The other road leads straight to hell. People of earth… the choice is yours.

Deepwater Horizon in flames off the coast of Louisiana (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Steadfast TV)

Gas flare definition (source: wikipedia)

A gas flare, alternatively known as a flare stack, is an elevated vertical conveyance found accompanying the presence of oil and gas wells, rigs, refineries, chemical plants, natural gas plants, and landfills. They are used to eliminate waste gas which is otherwise not feasible to use or transport. They also act as safety systems for non-waste gas and is released via pressure relief valve when needed to ease the strain on equipment. They protect gas processing equipments from being overpressured. Also in case of an emergency situation, the flare system helps burn out the total reserve gas.[1][2][3]

Extensive flaring makes Nigeria glow bright in the dark of Africa

Flaring and venting of natural gas from oil & gas wells is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Its contribution to greenhouse gases has declined by three-quarters in absolute terms since a peak in the 1970s of approximately 110 million metric tons/year and now accounts for 0.5% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.[4] The World Bank estimates that over 150 billion cubic metres of natural gas are flared or vented annually, an amount worth approximately 30.6 billion dollars, equivalent to 25 percent of the United States’ gas consumption or 30 percent of the European Union’s gas consumption per year.[5] This flaring is highly concentrated: 10 countries account for 75% of emissions, and twenty for 90%. The largest flaring operations occur in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The leading contributors to gas flaring are (in declining order): Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Algeria, Mexico, Venezuela, Indonesia, and the United States.[6] In spite of a ruling by the Federal High Court of Nigeria (that forbade flaring) in 2005, 43% of the gas retrieval was still being flared in 2006. It will be prohibited by law as of 2008. [citation needed]Russia has announced it will stop the practice of gas flaring as stated by deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday September 19, 2007.[7] This step was, at least in part, a response to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that concluded Russia’s previous numbers may have been underestimated. The report, which used night time light pollution satellite imagery to estimate flaring, put the estimate for Russia at 50 billion cubic meters while the official numbers are 15 or 20 billion cubic meters. The number for Nigeria is 23 billion cubic meters.[8]

This is not a chimney

A Cooling Tower

A Chimney

It looks like a chimney… but it’s not! At a fossil fuel burning power station the chimney looks like this:

So what are these enormous concrete monstrosities? These belching behemoths are cooling towers. In the UK’s creaking, outdated power stations coal is burnt to heat water to steam. The steam is sent through turbines at high speed generating electricity. Once through the turbine a huge amount of energy remains in the hot water. For some reason the geniuses who designed these power plants decided that instead of using this heat for something useful like… er… heating… they would call it ‘waste heat’ and fart it into the sky. Some power stations also fart the heat into rivers killing fish. Great move guys!

Cooling Towers at sunset

The really stupid thing is that this electricity is then transmitted along wires to houses where, yes, you’re not going to believe this; it is used to generate heat in electrical heating devices. This process is massively inefficient. More than 75% of the carbon in those lumps of coal is released into the atmosphere for no good reason at all.

This insanity goes someway to explain why countries like Denmark and Sweden are so much more efficient then the UK. When I was in Copenhagen for COP 15 it was exciting to see a small power station within the city limits. This power station only had a chimney. It didn’t need cooling towers because all the ‘waste’ heat was being piped into the city to keep the homes snug. There are no boilers in homes over there (so no need for a boiler scrappage scheme); just large tanks storing the plentiful hot water. Using the hot water produced from generating electricity to heat neighbourhoods is known as district heating or combined heat and power (CHP). Most exciting of all was the giant company name emblazoned on the side of the building… DONG energy. This is clearly the way to warm a city!

Dong Energy in Copenhagen: no cooling towers

It is almost certainly not a coincidence that the countries that lead the world in energy efficiency are also the countries with the highest levels of equality. Efficiency and equality are two noble steeds drawing civilization forth to a better future.

The flip side to the gross inefficiency that lies at the heart of our green and pleasant land is that enormous efficiency savings and therefore emission reductions are readily available. All the government has to do is legislate to pass an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) to ensure our electricity supply is subject to similar efficiency rules as everything else in our lives (fridges, cars, homes). Simple, you might think. Well it is, but unfortunately, politicians tend to be the snivelling dishonest type. In their quest to service the needs of big business they fail again to serve their true constituency… the people.

The big 6 energy companies in the UK have a great time enjoying both a deregulated market and historic and ongoing megasubsidies (£1676 million a year since 1990). You would think all this money might be spent on innovation, new technologies or improving service. Unfortunately as with the deregulated rail network we get increasing prices and worse service. Deregulation was supposed to give the consumer more choice but the myth of the free market flounders yet again. The ‘Big Six’ meet regularly behind closed doors racking up profits by keeping domestic bills broadly ‘in line’ with one another, restricting energy supplies to competitors and demanding laborious accreditation and credit requirements for new companies. As MP Alan Simpson points out deregulation has delivered an energy cartel but not energy security.

The Direct Approach

The Big Six are: Scottish and Southern Energy, Scottish Power, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK and npower. The members of this exclusive club are now fat, powerful and greedy. They resist any regulation to reduce emissions whilst ripping off the consumer during a cold spell. Energy companies’ profit margins have increased for the fifth quarter in a row, while wholesale costs continue to fall. No doubt their CEOs are enjoying winter in the Caribbean on their yachts while your gran shivers at home wearing her entire wardrobe with a tea cosy on her head.

Yeah right

Instead of moving us to a new energy model the government is putting its’ efforts into an approach The Big Six approve of. It’s called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This involves capturing pollution at the chimney and pumping it underground. Despite the fact that this makes power stations 20% less efficient and despite the fact that its effectiveness is yet to be proved the government is throwing a £9.5 billion subsidy at it in the building of four new coal-fired power stations. Describing this as throwing good money after bad is the understatement of the millennium.  This ‘solution’ is the same old bullshit with a new hat on.  It’s still big, it’s still dirty it’s still inefficient… and guess what?… you’re still paying for it! Families will  have to pay a new levy on electricity bills for at least the next 20 years in order to fund this dubious technology that keeps us bound to burning fossil fuels for years to come. The government continues to rein back the noble steeds backing instead the old inefficient knacker ridden by the big fat cats.

Instead of tackling the pollution at its source the government is focusing its energy down stream on the consumer despite the fact that by this point most of the enegy has been wasted already. In this Act on CO2 advert the government skilfully uses fear and the love of our children to try to create behaviour change.

However, there isn’t much point telling people to unplug their mobile phone chargers when the companies doing the charging have a carte blanche to tip us into apocalyptic meltdown and the electricity being delivered to your house is dirtier than an oil spill in the Persian Gulf. Yes, the future is scary, in large part because our leaders are cowardly and are not making the bold joined up move to a low carbon future we so desperately need.

The government should commit to building no more old-school power stations. Instead of enormous power stations in the countryside let’s see smaller power stations around cities burning waste, secondary bio fuels and other fuels and making use of all the heat generated by connecting up to district heating networks. All new homes built should be on brown field sites joined to such a grid.

If the government doesn’t join up it’s messaging to electricity users with that to generators it risks losing any credibility on climate change when we need leadership from government most. Right now this would be a disaster and would undermine a lot of the good work that Act on CO2 has done on the consumer side.  We need to prioritize our actions in such a way that those that reap the greatest reductions in emissions are enacted first. Of course, the biggest polluters must be looked at first and hardest. By wimping out of regulating Europe’s biggest polluters what message is the government sending to us?

The usual suspects?

The repeated failure of our government to take appropriate action and reign in the power companies gives concerned citizens only one course of action. As Al Gore, Sir David King and a UK jury have made clear civil disobedience is now urgently required. Is it is time to break the law for a higher cause?

Hasta la vista baby!

 

For brands, green = transparent

St Petersburg

Climate change awareness has crossed a tipping point. This discussion has shifted from ‘is it going to happen?’ to ‘what will the impacts be and how can we best respond?’ Enlightened business leaders understand that reducing their environmental impacts shouldn’t be an additional cost, tacked on to their operations but an integral part of their business strategy. The reasons are manifold; reducing emissions improves business efficiency; builds brand loyalty (consumer and investor) and motivates employees. All of which increase the bottom line. Putting money into environmental performance is no longer a cost; it is an investment.

Green Dollar?As consumer, investor and legislatory pressure build the return on investment of reducing impacts increases. This is an opportunity few companies can afford to miss. For a company to position itself as green it must be able to back up claims with evidence. Just reducing emissions by 20% isn’t good enough anymore; that’s standard practice in a warming world. Consumers want to have confidence that brands have a bullet proof sustainable and ethical approach.

Transforming a company so that it is socially and environmentally acceptable requires vision, strong leadership, innovation and good management. For companies without these skills ‘green washing’ can be a seductive option. Green washing describes the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. It is easily detectable when it is clear that a company has spent more money on eco communications then eco implementation. Familiar examples are chemical homecare products with ‘natural’ branding or oil companies whose advertising focuses on renewable energy whilst their underlying business model remains the same (or worse).

Green washing is not a successful strategy for companies to pursue. Firstly, it puts off making changes that will be necessary at some point. This delay gives competitors a head start in innovation and effective differentiation as an environmental choice. Secondly, it risks damaging consumer and investor faith in the brand should the disparity between green claims and performance become known. Once broken, trust is hard to rebuild and people are already cynical; four in five people believe that many companies pretend to be ethical just to sell more products.  Any claims must be genuine and provable. Ethical dialema

It is a sounder strategy for a company to invest in environmental performance rather then exaggerated green claims. Today, consumers, employees and stakeholders are increasingly engaged in ongoing, 2-way relationships with brands. For example, the evolution of the internet has meant that popular brand websites listen as well as talk. Indeed for many leading brands user driven content makes up an increasing component of their sites. For example the interactive sections of these websites of Howies, Timberland and lush. The more ethical a company the more comfortable it will be entering into a dialogue with its customers.

Web 1.0 saw the development of content. For brands this was a new communication channel with which to talk to consumers. Web 2.0 saw the development of web platform’s on which users can participate, upload exchange, share and generate content. For brands this was an opportunity to open a dialogue.  Web 3.0 sees the devolution of content management shift further towards users. Increasingly all consumers will continuously rate content meaning that the internet is shaped by what people value. Successful brands will increasingly be co created by consumers.

Business on a networked planet is different. It is becoming harder for companies to operate behind closed doors and with people providing real-time feedback on performance a misstep can be costly. One just needs to Google a brand name to find out what has been posted about the brand by satisfied or unsatisfied consumers. With access to more information then ever at the click of a mouse a company dumping toxic waste in Africa (e.g. Trafigura) or destroying pristine rainforest in Indonesia (e.g. Fonterra) or attempting to “ethnically cleanse two of the world’s last remaining uncontacted tribes” in the Amazon  (e.g. Perenco) can be globally shamed in minutes. Transparency has become the golden rule for successful operations. Deforestation

For businesses to create value without eroding natural systems the best approach is to embark upon an honest journey to sustainability with consumers and investors on board. Transparency, interdependency and interconnectedness are defining characteristics of both the evolving internet and the coming ecological age. So shitty companies run by blood-sucking scumbags who want to slice up what’s left of the biosphere and sell it at the highest price beware… your days are numbered. Dr. Evil