Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brazil's ad council targets greenwashers

The biggest winner of Brazil's Greenwashing Award (note: I just made this award up myself) over the last five years is without a doubt Petrobras -- the company was playing up its green credentials while selling diesel that had a sulfur content almost 20 times the maximum permitted in Europe. Now it's only allowed to sell that diesel in rural areas.

Brazil's ad council as of August is requiring anyone making claims about sustainability will have to demonstrate says Robert Smeraldi of the NGO Amigos da Terra or Friends of the Earth in an Op-Ed piece published today

The first point is to demonstrate the products attributes via a third party. It's no longer possible to simply label a product "Eco-something" with independently verifiable criteria to demonstrate this.
The second is to focus on the "global impact of products and services" of the company, in other words it will not longer be possible to promote a product with energy-saving packaging whose principal ingredient comes from illegal deforestation. The third is that companies can no longer say "this doesn't have anything illegal in it," it has to show some clear aditional benefit to society.
I kinda like this issue, mostly because greenwashing is often so pathetic that its funny. But I get to wondering who can really be called a greenwasher under this scheme, which is focused mostly on companies. The city of Sao Paulo, for example, established some absurdly ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions, which it hasn't met. False advertising? Did anyone believe this was going to happen?
The government of Rio strikes me as another one that could go in this pile. It never tires of playing up its green credentials. Granted it has done some interesting things, it but can't seem to solve this stubborn landfill problem, and a good chunk of its future revenues are going to come from offshore oil production that is happening in waters even deeper than where this whole mess took place.
Petrobras was also recently included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for a sixth year in a row. It doesn't step selling its ultra-polluting diesel fuel until next year at the earliest.
It's just hard to know with these things. It really is.

1 comment:

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