The decision by Lord Peter Melchett, former Greenpeace executive
director and scourge of the GM lobby, to join the world of PR
consultancy has elicited a predictable, if somewhat unimaginative,
response from the media.
Understandably, the press were quick to pick up on the fact that
Burson-Marsteller, Lord Melchett's new employer, numbers Monsanto - the
world's most conspicuous lobbyist on behalf of GM technology - among its
What they failed to point out was that, while B-M represents Monsanto in
the US and Germany, the UK office does not work directly on the account,
and nor will Lord Melchett.
Instead, the ex-Greenpeace campaigner will play a key role in terms of
helping B-M's clients to understand the environmental agenda and to open
up and engage in constructive dialogue with NGOs. His arrival heralds
the expansion of the agency's CSR unit, but by bringing such a wealth of
experience in-house, B-M staff across the board should gain a greater
understanding of corporate responsibility.
All of which should come as no surprise to Lord Melchett's ex-colleagues
at Greenpeace. One of the organisation's greatest achievements has been
to engage in real dialogue with forward-thinking corporates such as BP,
helping to foster greater emphasis on CSR within the wider business
B-M has, in turn, a tradition of bringing key 'stakeholder' expertise
into the consultancy. In fact, the hiring of Des Wilson, former
campaigner for NGOs such as Friends of the Earth in the early 1990s, led
to similar cries of outrage. Melchett might do well to borrow Wilson's
reported response: 'My friends will understand - fuck my enemies.'