The Professional PR Practitioner and Greenwashing

The Australian government is cracking down on unsubstantiated environmentally-friendly claims.  Yesterday, it wrapped Goodyear over its marketing of the Eagle LS2000.  A lot of the problem seems to come down to the claim made through media activity.

I used to work for a major teaching hospital in Dublin.  In the midst of Ireland’s ongoing health crisis and problems with A&E departments (it’s still continues although sadly I don’t see how it’s shocking news anymore).  The hospital had a mandate to inform the public accurately (and within its legal limits) of developments at the hospital.  Most of my role was fighting fires surrounding issues and often journalists would accuse me of misrepresenting the truth if it disagreed with the angle they were pursuing.  My role as a PR practitioner was to accurately inform the journalist of the situation, cross checking several sources within the hospital – nurses, doctors and management. 

It taught me invaluable lessons which I still adopt now.  It is vital that as PR practioners we advise our clients professionally and avoid the temptation of misrepresenting the truth in pursuit of securing column inches for clients.  We are not spin doctors; we are experts in understanding the media, what to communicate through it and how best to achieve that.  We are gatekeepers of information to the public(s).

This example of greenwashing points to the importance of taking our role seriously and understanding the importance of accurate information dissemination on behalf of our clients. 

It’s all too tempting to jump on trends, and to produce and position a product as environmentally-friendly.  Considering the noise around world environment day in Korea, I worry about Korean companies falling into this trap too. 

CSR is not about logos and vacuous statements.  It’s about fundamental business practices.  In turn, these business practices can be communicated positively.  The process shouldn’t be the other way round.

Rant over…

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