Monday, March 30, 2009

GDF Suez: Responsible Corporate Citizen

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1--PARIS: GDF Suez, owner of the coal-burning Mount Tom power station in Holyoke, Massachusetts, today announced a radical plan to tackle global warming. The company has adopted a new policy requiring that all GDF Suez smoke stacks will be green -- literally.

"Nobody can accuse us of standing still in the face of the climate crisis," declared Gerard Mestrallet, CEO of the European power giant. "If anybody doubts our commitment to green energy, they can check out Mount Tom. From now on, every molecule of the one million tons of CO2 that Mount Tom emits annually will pass through an undeniably green chimney."

Political leaders were swift to welcome to the announcement.

"I'm proud that Massachusetts is in the forefront of the green energy revolution," said local Senator Stan Rosenberg. "This is yet more evidence of our leadership role."

The senator unveiled plans to pick up the GDF Suez idea and run with it by expanding the green-painting program across the commonwealth. "In the next legislative session I will be filing a bill that would mandate green paint on all coal-burning power stations in Massachusetts," said Senator Rosenberg, "by 2050."

Governor Deval Patrick also chimed in with praise for the GDF Suez action. "Yes it's your broken climate, and it's your broken energy policy, " said the Governor, "but there's no getting around the fact that Mount Tom is now a very pretty shade of green. It was all my idea, by the way."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brown: The New Green

If you read the March edition of the magazine Ode you will find a brief interview with Nick Rosen, who complains that manufacturers, marketers, and advertisers have hijacked the word green. "They have made 'green' into a fashion item. Now everything is green."

As for a remedy to the corporate co-option of green, what does Rosen suggest, with his tongue (I assume) in his cheek? Simple. Adopt a new color, brown, which the advertising industry would never want to hijack because of its earthy connotations.

Rosen has a point. In the language of trademark law, the green brand has become both diluted and tarnished. It is no longer a helpful indicator of a product's or service's origins, ethos, or bona fides. To misquote Richard Nixon, we are all greens now. Even BP is green (do you like their new logo?) notwithstanding being up to its corporate neck in the Alberta oil sands, an extraction project that some real Greens have dubbed the biggest environmental crime in history.

Surrendering the word green to BP and its ilk and starting over with brown would be one way to deal with the problem, I suppose, but it is far from the only way. An alternative to such abject pusillanimity is for Greens to vigorously police the word green the way a business would protect its trademark, sending cease-and-desist letters to companies that claim to be green but really aren't. This idea has the one, but important, disadvantage of being utterly impractical for reasons that are too numerous to go into.

Another alternative to surrender is to fight back, not with legally baseless threats of trademark-infringement litigation, but through what Anne Elizabeth Moore calls mocketing.

I recommend the book Unmarketable, by the way. In the interests of full disclosure I must reveal that (a) I have no connection to Anne Elizabeth Moore or to the New Press, other than having read and enjoyed Unmarketable, and (b) I receive absolutely no commissions, fees, kickbacks, or even free merchandise for plugging the book.

So, on the subject of Green resistance through the medium of mocketing, I leave you with this thought. April 1st, also known as Fossil Fools Day, is just around the corner. Any suggestions?