It would seem that in these times of heightened environmental consciousness, companies with questionable environmental track records would be concerned with EPA regulations. But it appears the corporate sector is paying less attention to non-threatening government regulators and instead adopting an array of tactics and attack strategies aimed at environmental and citizen groups.
Some of the more recent anti-environmental innovations include multimillion dollar SLAPP suits, the harassment and surveillance (including electronic) of activists, the infiltration of environmental groups by “agent provocateurs,” and the creation of dummy ecology groups to ferret out whistleblowers. Another disturbing trend is the proliferation of groups such as “The Oregon Committee for Recycling,” an industry front group whose purpose was to lobby against a recycling initiative on the state ballot. Or “Californians for Food Safety,” which was created by the Western Agricultural Chemical Association, producers of pesticides, who successfully opposed the state’s Big Green proposition in 1990.
Perhaps the greatest coup was pulled off by Arkansas’ Vertac Inc., a superfund polluter, whose “Jacksonville People With Pride Cleanup Coalition” successfully applied for an EPA grant — until they were exposed by suspicious Jacksonville environmentalists.
This new corporate mind-set may be best exemplified, however, by a copy of a “Crisis Management Plan” commissioned by the Clorox Corporation which was recently leaked to Greenpeace. The plan was prepared by Ketchum Communications, one of the nation’s largest advertising and public relations firms. While Greenpeace has an international program aimed at abolishing the use of chlorine in the pulp and paper industry, they have not called for a ban on domestic use of bleach. However, the Ketchum plan was apparently prompted by fears that Greenpeace would eventually target household use of chlorine bleach and call for its elimination.
Part of the Ketchum strategy to counteract the chlorine industry’s poor reputation was to outline “worst case scenarios.” Among its many strategies, Ketchum suggests ways to discredit the findings of studies linking chlorine use to cancer, should the findings ever become public. The firm also recommends that Clorox “cast doubts on the methodology and findings,” of potentially damaging scientific reports which haven’t even been written yet.
Ketchum also recommends labeling Greenpeace as violent self-serving “eco-terrorists;” attempting to sue newspaper columnists who advocate the use of non-toxic bleaches and cleaners for the home; “immunizing” government officials; dispatching “independent” scientists on media tours; and recruiting “scientific ambassadors” to tout the Clorox cause and call for further study.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHERS: ROBYN O’CONNOR AND DANNY BREMSON
SOURCE: E MAGAZINE, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881
DATE: Nov/Dec 1991 TITLE: “Stop the Greens” AUTHOR: Eve Pell
SOURCE: GREENPEACE NEWS, 1436 U St., NW, Washington, DC 20009, DATE: 5/10/91
TITLE: “Clorox Company’s Public Relations ‘Crisis Management Plan”‘
COMMENTS: Investigative journalist Eve Pell noted that while business efforts to comply with environmental regulations and to market “green” products have received a lot of coverage, “no one in the major mass media, to our knowledge, has reported that, nationwide, American corporations are retaliating against the environmental movement with a wide assortment of dirty tricks. Not only was there inadequate coverage in the mainstream press, there was no coverage of this topic at all.”
Wider coverage of this issue would let consumers and voters know that some of the businesses that purport to protect ancient forests and furry animals are engaged in efforts to mislead the public and undermine the work of environmental activists, Pell added. ‘They would understand why corporate environmental image-building campaigns — like Chevron’s ‘People Do’ series about the oil company’s alleged construction of dens for kit foxes — are all too often deceptive and fraudulent. As informed citizens, they would more accurately evaluate issues that come before them, which could include whether to buy or to boycott certain products, to vote for or against legislative proposals and candidates, or to support environmental organizations.”
“Perhaps most important,” Pell noted, “the public would be less easily taken in by industry efforts to mislead. They might view with more skepticism such groups as the deceptively named Oregon Committee for Recycling, an industry front group that actually opposed a recycling initiative in that state.” Pell suggests that the corporations and industries that buy the good opinion of the American public with image-building advertising are the ones that benefit most from the limited coverage given this issue. “If lawmakers, regulators and consumers do not know that certain companies are out to undermine the work of environmental groups, those companies may appear to be good corporate citizens and therefore less likely to be questioned or criticized.”
Pell concludes that the national news media have not dealt adequately with the extent and depth of the corporate anti-environmental campaign.