Shell and Exxon slip up, Vodafone gets dirty and the Daily Mail shows it’s still in the dark ages

Shell and Exxon’s confused start to 2009

Another January rolls by, and while Greenwasher tries to conserve what little cash he has – mostly having one less pint at lunch in the pub – the new year gifts are rolling into hacks’ offices across London.

One editor reports having received two calendars on the same day, and sent them to Greenwasher with a rather amusing note. They are from oil companies Exxon and Shell.

Exxon’s calendar is consistent with the firm’s “nick Chevron’s ad message now that we don’t deny climate change any more” strategy. It’s sober, dull, engineer-like, and talks much about the energy challenge that Exxon cares so much about.

The message is rather confused. One minute the calendar talks about energy demand and a cleaner world, the next it starts quoting its own engineers boasting about how they now drill for oil in much deeper water to keep meeting the energy challenge.

Shell’s calendar is a classic communications cock-up though, and much funnier. At the size of a small door, users will need rawlplugs to hang it up. The dates on it are so small you almost cannot see the days and months of the year, since so much of it is given over to pictures of Shell’s oil products being used in motorsport.

Nice one Shell! Another own goal, after being our Greenwasher of the year in 2008 for trying to insist that tar sands development in Canada was making a contribution to a sustainable environmental future.

Phew! Carmakers buy tyres

Readers will be glad to know that Dunlop Motorsport is managing to do OK in the UK’s now full-blown recession. The company has issued an “everything is fine” press release boasting about how it has an order book crammed full of orders for high-performance racing tyres.

What a relief! And so important to send press releases like this to environmental journalists of course.

The missive from Dunlop points out: “Many of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers fit Dunlop tyres as standard, which include premium sports cars such as Alfa Romeo, AMG, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and TVR.”

Great news for the planet, and absorbing for the environmental media to be told so convincingly: “Despite the economic uncertainty that is gripping both the manufacturing and motor industries in the Midlands, one Birmingham company continues to work flat out to meet orders. The hand-finished special racing tyres manufactured by Dunlop continue to be shipped around the globe as they have done since 1888.”

At least someone is doing their bit, eh? Dunlop might have at least added a bit of greenwash about how more efficient tyres are better for fuel consumption. Tsk tsk.

Phone sex from Vodafone, apparently

A friend texts in. “Just got a text from Vodafone”, he says, and relays the message.

“So that you can enjoy mobile internet we are changing your profile so you can see all content, including 18 rated sites. To stop, text BAR to 97886 by 27 January.”

This is rather surprising. Vodafone is far and away the best of rather a bad lot in the UK mobile sector on corporate responsibility. Several top people have left in recent times, though. Still, this is not what many would expect from the company, which is, as far as these things are known, a pretty responsible company usually.

Vodafone has been rather gifted its huge lead in ethics in many ways. O2 has stumbled around for years not doing much, and Orange has been even worse, with small signs of progress recently. As for 3, well, let’s not even go there.

Are things so bad that even Vodafone is chasing the porn pound?

Mail reverts to type

Last year the Daily Mail newspaper shocked many with a highly-charged, and effective, environmental campaign to ban free plastic bags from the UK high street. The Banish the Bags campaign resulted in a number of supermarkets agreeing to phase out free plastic carriers. Spotting a bandwagon, prime minister Gordon Brown said he would consider charging a green levy on retailers that failed to make progress on reducing the number of bags they gave to shoppers.

But just when Greenwasher thought the Mail might be ready to deliver the message of greener living to Middle England, it disappoints again. Last month the Associated Press-owned title started giving away 25,000 energy-sapping, 100-watt, incandescent light bulbs to readers in protest at an incoming ban on the bulbs because of their negative environmental impacts.

Let’s just think about what this means. According to the Mail, banning plastic bags because of the damage they do to the planet is good; but banning incandescent light bulbs because of the damage they do the planet is … bad? Yes, according to the warped worldview of the Mail. And the reason: the light bulb ban came from Europe. Given the choice between supporting the environment and bashing Brussels, the euro-sceptic Mail could not resist.

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