Is the environment dead in the water as an issue? It seems piteous to suggest this is so, when there are so many environmental advocates - and when our very survival is potentially at stake - but there is significant evidence to suggest that environmental PR is struggling to keep its head above water.
Is the environment dead in the water as an issue? It seems piteous
to suggest this is so, when there are so many environmental advocates -
and when our very survival is potentially at stake - but there is
significant evidence to suggest that environmental PR is struggling to
keep its head above water.
As our article (’Why Has Environmental PR faded?’ p26) explains ,
environmental advocacy is partly a victim of its own success over the
past 10 years, as industries have cleaned up some of the worst excesses
of big business practice.
At the same time, it has also come across a more savvy preparedness on
the corporate side, which has used lobbying, public affairs and other PR
activity including primary research and cause-related marketing (as well
as strategic activity) to blunt and blindside environmental
It is also tempting to question the apathy of the media. ’Green’ has
lost its greenness; it’s an old story, with journalists more interested
in the booming dot-com economy, and CEOs the new celebrities of media
But the biggest cause is the ambivalence of the public. When oil prices
were high, car engines got smaller, the public championed efficient
Now with oil prices low, people are driving around in cars with engines
the size of trucks.
A survey by Gallup for CNN/USA Today found that only 29% of the
population believes protection of the environment will get better in the
next four years, while 52% think it will stay the same. And only 34% of
people worry a great deal about the greenhouse effect, compared with 68%
about the pollution of drinking water.
To counter this ambivalence, on October 6 three environmentalist groups
- the National Environmental Trust, the Union of Concerned Scientists
and the Physicians for Social Responsibility - announced they were
spending dollars 8 million on a TV and newspaper advertising campaign,
as well as dollars 3 million on grassroots efforts.
Using advertising dollars to raise the green profile is a sign of the
times. But is it surprising when the Global Climate Information Project,
a coalition of business, industry and labor groups in opposition to the
Kyoto Treaty (the United Nations global warming treaty which has still
not been signed by the US) spent a reported dollars 30 million on
advertising and PR efforts prior to the Kyoto summit?
Of course, it must be repeated that big business is paying more
attention to its environmental impact. Some companies, perhaps more
enlightened, are now talking about a ’triple bottom line,’ which
includes environmental performance.
But is all the work done, as the public appears to believe? Can the
public really be satisfied with the fact that it consumes more than
twice as much paper and produces more than twice as much trash per
person as any other first world economy? That car pollution is getting
worse? That the ozone hole gets bigger every year?
Sadly, as every PR pro knows, if the court of public opinion does not
consider an issue to be hot, little progress can be expected. One
wonders what it will take to ignite the flame again.