Sunday, 24 February 2008

Vattenfall and Shell in the lead with empty Climate PR undermining necessary actions

Last year climate change moved from a fringe issue to mainstream. These days politicians and business leaders are falling over themselves to talk about the need for a resource efficient low carbon future. I wonder if this new found enthusiasm partly can be explained by the realization that a strong PR message combined with destructive actions not only is possible, but also brings companies to the centre stage of influence and allow them a voice in media.

Governments like the Swedish and German have invited Vattenfall and both have appointed the CEO as a climate advisor. The result is that a company that talks about action to reduce CO2 at the same time as they lead the lock-in of Europe in dependence on coal power is rewarded and put in a position where they influence government policy. This is dangerous as serious companies realize that the government is not interested in real actions that deliver results.

Vattenfall might actually be so bad that they would become number one if a “Hypocrisy index” was created were the distance between word and action could be measured. (this is not to say that Vattenfall lack good ideas, see earlier blog for example of how interesting things happen within Vattenfall).

Other companies are trying a different path. They are trying to turn the environmental rhetoric around and try to make destruction something innovative that we should be proud of. Shell is probably the leader in this field. After Brent Spar and the Ogoni Shell, together with BP, took the lead in ethical discussions and investment in sustainable energy production. I have no idea why, but now Shell seem to do everything they can to position themselves as leaders in destroying the planet and ensure that the infrastructure for the addiction to oil will be with us for decades to come.

So right now I would put the following as the worst/most dangerous PR climate campaigns:

1. Vattenfall: “Empty words just add carbon dioxide” Yes, agree. Especially if the words come from a CEO that have used tax payers money (Vattenfall was compensated when the government closed one nuclear power plant for Sydkraft, now E.ON. and gave them part in a plant from Vattenfall and gave Vattenfall compensation for this) and high energy prices to invest in dirty coal power. Vattenfall is now responsible for more CO2 emissions that Sweden as a whole, to be celebrated as a leader then is something that

2. Shell: “Difficult, Yes. Impossible, No” I guess this refers to how the PR people replied when they were asked if they could make people believe that oil sand was part of the sustainable energy future. That they run this ad in Scientific American is amazing, especially when they manage to have it in the same issue as “The Sea-Level Threat from Sliding Ice Sheets”. My optimistic side think that the people how picked the spot wanted Shell to wake up and realize that they cannot redefine the truth with simple PR.

3. Ford/Volvo: “Life is better lived together”
Yes, but it is impossible if a lifestyle and technology that will make the poor people and future generations suffer is promoted to expencive PR campaigns.

I would like to add a third company to the list as the launch for the new destructive car use a slogan based on an idea of caring for each other. Interesting enough the launch of this car was so out of sync with reality and what people want that the FT of Sweden (Dagens Industri) asked if Volvo understood what the market was asking for.

With an image like Volvo they help fuel cynicism and here is the kind of respond they get. If this is the customer they want Volvo will have a hard time explaining why they should exist in the 21st Century.