WWF caves to Tesco on fishing, how PR works and Malta’s leap onto the gravy train

Hook, line and stinker

WWF is confused these days. Does it campaign, or does it collaborate with business? The strategy seems to be to do both. This frequently works, but it can backfire spectacularly. So it is that the smelliest campaign fish for quite a while has now risen to the public surface. WWF created a cartoon character “Stinky Fish” in January to warn consumers just how serious the fishing crisis is.

The Marine Stewardship Council, a body set up to certify ethical fishing and raise awareness about sustainability, roundly endorsed the idea, at first. Then the retailers reeled it in. Tesco and Young’s were among those gutting the idea in public, claiming, somewhat justifiably, that it would put people off all fish, ethical or not.

“Stinkygate” as some wags soon named it, was over in a flash. The MSC pulled all mention of it after its boss got a personal tongue-lashing from Tesco’s fish honcho. WWF has since cancelled the idea. “Stakeholder engagement” with your corporate partners it seems, can go both ways. Stinky may now be renamed “Super fish” by WWF. Don’t give up your day jobs for ad land just yet chaps.

Plane silly

The UK Business Council for Sustainable Development recently “invited” a plane-load of companies to fly out to Austria to see a community that has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 90 per cent.

But not to worry, energy efficiency was top priority. The invitation pointed out: “Please note there has been a slight change to the trip; we will now be flying from Manchester Airport rather than Birmingham International Airport”. So that’s all right then. A snip at just £600 a head for two nights in a hotel and a minibus tour.

Wheely awful

Bad puns are a stock in trade for the likes of Greenwasher. But this column feels its human rights have been breached by a recent piece of PR guff masquerading as an environmental initiative from those usually smart folks at Stonyfield Farm, the organic yoghurt maker, now owned by Danone.

Stony’s PR people, amusingly called Frank PR (arf), decided to issue a press release modestly titled: “What a wheel-y good idea!” So what’s the no doubt fascinating pitch then? It turns out Stony is giving away some free bikes on packets of yoghurt (small bikes or big packs I hear you ask) and wants to be recognised for it.

Greenwasher is off to grab a 12 pack. But, hang on, a grand total of three bikes are to be given away! Hooray, one more sustainability “initiative” that costs more to promote than to see through. The overly caffeinated press release even contains a series of tips for editors on the benefits of cycling, and helpfully points out that “cycling five miles to work and back a day saves you X tonnes CO2 (sic) over one year”. Let’s not get technical, yeah. And still worse, the press release tries to turn the phrase “on yer bike” into a marketing line for its fifth-rate scheme. On yer bike indeed, Frank PR.

NB: Greenwasher does not wish to sound bitter, vitriolic and ever so slightly twisted by exposure to appalling PR, but he is, so that’s how it comes across.

Opportunity rumbles

Following the recent UK earthquake near Market Rasen in rural Lincolnshire, Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the world's largest catastrophe risk modeller, quickly issued a press release to media. Oddly, the company is now “enhancing its suite of models in the UK this year with the release of an earthquake loss model”. Tasteful timing for a new product launch.

How to make a Maltese cross: take his Euro enviro subsidies away

Southern Europe is not known for green government leadership. But the tiny island nation of Malta now wants to jump quickly on the bandwagon, just as long as someone else is paying.

Malta loves EU money. Some €855 million of it is earmarked for the country in 2007-13, and what better way to keep it flowing than to spend it on environmental initiatives? By 2013, 300 million of Malta’s EU euros will have been spent on greening the tiny island. An offshore wind farm and solar energy systems for households are planned. Cars with higher emissions levels will also cost a lot more to import, and each household will be handed out five energy-saving light bulbs a year for two years.

Finally, the stunning northern island of Gozo will be designated an “eco-island” (they’ve never really built that much on it anyway, so might as well) and become a “model for sustainable development”.

All very impressive words and calculated both to help keep the early flows of EU cash pouring into Malta’s central coffers and win re-election for Lawrence Gonzi, the current prime minister, who is up for re-election next month.

Greenwasher wonders how much of this would be happening without the EU’s influence, though.

Got a story, or something approaching one? Contact greenwasher@ethicalcorp.com

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