Thursday, July 27, 2006

It's not easy pretending to be Green



What is it about doing “look how green we are” corporate ads that drives companies to make up ridiculous terms for what they’re doing?

First GE came up with “ecomagination,” which, given the company’s history with PCBs in the Hudson River, must mean “our imaginary ecological commitment.” Or maybe it means “it takes a hell of an imagination to call our coal-mining technology ecologically sensitive.”

Now Honda is jumping in with “enviromentology.” So silly—and so unnecessary, because Honda has been a leader in fuel efficiency and cleaner emissions for decades.

Curiously, the copy leads off with some belligerent noise about preferring to let the company’s actions speak for themselves rather than just writing about it. But, ummm, you are writing about it.

Here’s a thought: rather than “enviromentology” and “ecomagination,” why not just call it what it is: trying to do the right thing.

I say “trying” because the dominant color when it comes to balancing a company’s roles as profit engine and corporate citizen is not green. It’s gray. The trade-offs are complicated and the win-wins are infrequent. And I say this as a spotted-owl-kissing, dam-blowing, Nature Conservancy-giving greenie.

That’s why I respect BP’s take on environmental issues and responsibilities. It’s full of nuance and shades of gray (even when they highlight the buzzwords in yellow), and notably short on easy answers. I think they’re trying, and that—not an overactive ecomagination—is what counts.

1 comment:

davidmjohnson said...

Hi Stephen. As one of 10-15 people working at the time on the GE "greener technology project" who all suggested the same "ecomagination" wrap up line (totally logical given the GE "imagination at work" tagline), I questioned, like you, the need for naming the effort at all. Not sure today what benefits the moniker gives. But the overall idea of technology that's greener than what we've got today is a real move forward. And, for the record, GE doesn't make any mining equipment. What they are involved with is something in power generation called IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle). It promises to drastically reduce the amount of CO2 (nearly eliminates it) produced when making energy from coal. Given that one quarter of the CO2 produced in the world today comes from the coal
the world persists in mining and burning,
it could be real step forward in the fight against
global warming. But, I agree with you, that doesn't so much need a tagline as it does action.