Category Archives: Corporate Social Responsiblity

GMOs + CAFOs attemp a makeover

Photo by Graham Boyle

Check out the GMO corn-fish car built by members of Washington’s intrepid artist/activist collective DC51. These local talents supply the visuals for a wide variety of environmental and human rights marches here in the nation’s capital. Usually, they silkscreen posters, banners and the occasional limited edition T-shirt. This repurposed sedan takes art-for-the-revolution to a new level. But the car is not just cute; It’s meant call attention to concerns about farmed fish raised on GMO corn.  It’s also road worthy. The corn-fish navigated the interstate highway system last month to attend a New York City protest of genetically modified organisms such as lab-altered corn and soybeans used not just to feed the fishes but in so many of the foods we find in the supermarket.

My new blog post on the E Magazine site discusses current efforts to makeover GMOs and frankenfish, among other parts of our industrial food system. here’s an excerpt:

October is proving a busy month for the country’s old guard food industries. After a decade of books and documentaries exposing the more unsavory aspects of how our food is produced, Big Ag and consumer brand companies are striking back with campaigns aimed at quelling the country’s growing disaffection with CAFO-raised beef, fake “fruit” snacks and sugary cereals.

In Washington, D.C., in recent weeks, members of the food and advertising industries urged Congress to dump a planned update to federal nutritional guidelines on foods marketed to kids. The draft rules, announced last April
 by the Interagency Working Group, made up of representatives from the Food and drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are aimed at combating child obesity.

Read the rest of this post on the E site.

Some of the “many hearts” of Oct. 6 Protest

Many hearts + Signs at Oct. 6 protest

 

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Who gains when Enviros + Corps do Business?

While researching this post on how corporations and political parties “shape” public opinion, I stumbled upon this ringing endorsement of the communications strategy company Maslansky Luntz + Partners:

“It’s one thing to have a vendor, it’s another to have a partner. And from the executive staff to the whole team, they’re really committed to us and what we’re trying to do,” Laura Bowling, SVP, Strategic Marketing + Global Communications, Conservation International

Beyond the slightly smarmy logrolling, anybody else catch what’s so stunning about a veep at one of the world’s largest environmental groups heaping praise this particular marketing firm?

Climate change is driving many amphibians toward extinction. Click on photo to learn more.

That would be Maslansky LUNTZ, as in Republican strategist Frank Luntz, author of the infamous 2002 memo outlining how Republicans could obstruct the enactment of climate legislation without appearing unsympathetic to environmental issues. He counseled them to raise doubts about climate science. Looking back nearly a decade later, that advice has proven its effectiveness.

It has, however, forever linked Luntz + company to climate change denial, which in turn raises certain questions about whether a firm he founded could really be committed to Conservation International’s mission. By now, you may also be asking yourself why an environmental organization would hire the firm owned by a chief architect of climate change denial?

This may seem counterintuitive but environmentalists work with corporations (and their marketing firms) all the time these days. Corporations don’t just bankroll many of the largest environmental groups, Fortune 500 executives sit on their boards and run these organizations. And there’s loads of cross over between the business and nonprofit worlds. Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy is a former Goldman Sachs executive. He’s the latest in a long line of corporate bigwigs to helm that organization.

Bowling also had a 20-year corporate career before joining CI. Might that be why she either didn’t know she was – or didn’t mind – teaming up with marketers of climate change denial? According to her bio, she worked for both agencies and corporations including Procter & Gamble, Ogilvy & Mather, The Walt Disney Company, and Vivendi/Universal.

One thing does surprise me though: It’s been a couple of years since Bowling left CI and returned to the private sector. You’d think a crack communications firm like Maslansky Luntz + Partners would be on top of that stuff and keep their site updated.

Big Ag + Us

After coasting for decades on the popularity of all that is “fast” or frozen, the food industry was caught off guard a decade ago by the unsavory revelations in the bestselling book “Fast Food Nation.” It maintained deer-in-the-headlights stance through an onslaught of books and documentaries extolling Big AGs many failings.

All that muckraking nurtured today’s vibrant farmers markets movement and locavor initiatives, and started a  transformative national conversation about where our food comes from and how it’s made. None of this benefitted big food companies, however.

Now the industry is hoping to change to subject. According to news stories this week, a recently formed umbrella group with a folksy-sounding name is taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, with public relations campaign meant to reassert industry’s influence over public opinion …  or as executives at the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance told the New York Times, they hope to “reshape the dialogue”.

“There is a feeling across the board in agriculture that Americans have concerns about the food supply, and those are best addressed by farmers,” Chris Galen, a founding member of the alliance said to the Times.

The only thing is the “farmers” represented by the group include agribusiness giants such as Monsanto and DuPont. According to the story, members of smaller, organic and natural farming operations and food processors are skeptical that the $11 million campaign aims to do more than restore credibility to industrial agriculture.

Maybe you think that no amount of PR spin could make you forget that the cows that end up on the dinner menu are fed ground-up chicken and pig parts that, in turn, were fattened on such delicacies as brain, bones and spinal cords.

Then, again, you might be wrong. These sorts of PR campaigns have succeeded before in making public opinion on hot button issues and may very well get us to forget that we abhor CAFOs or Frankenfish.

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Check out my new website, articles

Dear Readers,

I finally got around to setting up a website, www.christinemacdonald.info. Please come visit for news and information about my book and my latest journalistic work. Right now, you’ll find links to do new packages of stories on corporate sustainability published this month in E Magazine and Miller-McCune Magazine.

Should Enviro Leaders Make More Than 99% of Us?

To prepare for my talk at the De-growth Vancouver conference, I updated this chart showing the salaries and benefits of some of the world’s top environmentalists. They each earn so much that they fall into a very exclusive tax bracket — the top one percent of U.S. taxpayers. Let me say that again: They earn more than 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers!

On Friday afternoon, I’ll be talking about the corporate funding from oil and gas, mining, logging, and consumer goods companies that helps fund these generous pay scales and how dependence on corporate cash threatens the groups’ credibility and weakens the environmental movement.

CI Official Caught Offering to “Green” Arms Dealer’s Rep

The U.K. website, The Ecologist, has posted a video exposing a Conservation International official offering her group’s public relations services to a big arms dealer. According to the Ecologist story, the undercover video was shot by producers at the online magazine, Don’t Panic. They posed as Lockheed Martin executives in a meeting with a person they describe as a senior CI official. The phony corporate executives dangled a hefty donation in exchange for helping the weapons maker link its brand name with saving endangered species.

The sting is the latest in a wave of recent corporate impersonations, an activist genre pioneered by The Yes Men that usually involves spoof websites, fake corporate executives and meetings in swank surroundings. From conservative filmmaker James OKeefe, who embarrassed National Public Radio earlier this year by posing as a potential donors from the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Men’s new Yes Lab, impersonations are fashionable among guerilla activists and vidoemakers.

Of course, it’s no secret that CI and its chief rivals such as The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund get lots of funding from polluting corporations — even arms dealers. These corporate ties were a major part of my 2008 book, “Green, Inc.,” which the video producers allude to in passing.

In fact, it’s not that surprising that CI was eager to sign up Lockheed as a corporate sponsor; The Conservancy has already taken money form the arms giant. CI has funding ties to B-2 bomber maker, Northrup Grumman, and Northrup’s President and CEO, Wes Bush, sits on CI’s board of directors.

The nature of corporate power over environmental groups

Robert Greene, author of “The 48 Rules of Power” and I discuss why environmental groups get little out of their dealings with corporate polluters on the “Tierra Verde” radio show today. We taped the half-hour discussion last night. Greene had some interesting insights into the “soft power” approach corporations have used over the last three decades to co-opt the movement. The show airs today at 1 pm PST (4 pm EST) on KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley, Calif.

Second Grade Projects are Cooler Today

 

When I was in second grade, kickball was just about all the excitement – nothing like Cole Rasenberger’s second grade experience.

Art + Corporate Sponsorship II

Yesterday I wrote about the trouble with relying on corporate sponsors — be it to produce artwork or carry out environmental work. Here’s a link to a 2 minute video of the video installation, “Present Interval / Intervalo del Tiempo” that I discuss in that earlier post.
Enjoy!

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