Update: Fleishman To Go Carbon Neutral by 2008
September 21, 2007
Wow. We’ve been talking a lot about environmental pr issues lately. And we think that’s a good thing. Earlier this week, we reported that Fleishman Hillard will be going carbon neutral. PRNewser today caught up with Malin Jennings, chair of FH’s global sustainability communications practice about the what they’ve been up to, seperating green pr hype from the real thing and banning bottled water!
Everyone’s “going green” these days, how do you separate marketing hype from the real thing?
In the past, companies referred to themselves as green if they planted a few indigenous trees or built a pocket park. Today, small, random tactics like that aren’t called green, they’re called greenwash. The “real thing” means adopting sustainability policies. It involves corporate strategies that reduce raw material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, insuring that in meeting their needs today, companies in no way limit the options of future generations to meet theirs.
Can you give us some examples of any clients the new Sustainability Communications practice is working with or would like to work with?
One of our clients, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, is one of the most environmentally responsible companies in the U.S. Enterprise, North America’s largest car rental company, is incorporating sustainability initiatives into its business strategy. 47% of their cars are high fuel efficiency and the company is expanding its hybrid fleet, which is already one of the largest in the industry. In addition, Enterprise is fueling as many of its 41,000 Flexfuel vehicles with E85 and creating a partnership to increase the available E85 fueling stations.
Obviously, communicating sustainability to audiences in the US, Europe and Asia will require vastly different programs and messages. What key differences do you see?
Here’s a surprise. Even though Europe’s corporate climate response is at least five years ahead of North America’s, the sustainability messages for both continents are identical. We discovered this by having messaging teams in the U.S. and Europe work on sustainability messages independently. Then we compared them. There was virtually no conceptual difference. The reason, we now realize, is that the underlying principles are the same worldwide: we need to learn to live within the earth’s resource limits and doing so can be good for the economy, ecology and society.
Regarding Fleishman’s carbon neutral plan, can you give us some specifics on how you plan to reduce your carbon footprint and energy consumption?
Our European offices are already carbon neutral. The rest of the company will achieve that status in 2008 through greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and offsets. Each office within our worldwide network will determine the best way for it to meet a corporate annual GHG reduction goal. A lot of reductions will come from cut-backs in consumption — printing double-sided paper, using compact fluorescent lighting, banning bottled water. But we’ll also look for company-wide solutions. That might mean creating a fiber optic network so that we can replace many of our trips with videoconferences. It might involve direct investment in renewable energy projects. But whether they are through technological advances or behavior changes, sustainability and carbon reduction are becoming part of our corporate culture.
Tell us about your experience with CarbonFund.org.
CarbonFund.org is the first organization to “democratize” carbon offsetting. When it began three years ago, the average price of carbon was $25-30 per metric ton. The prices were so high that you practically had to be a rock star to afford them. CarbonFund.org broke through that price barrier and sold offsets for a fraction of the price, around $5.50 per metric ton or less. CarbonFund.org was able to offer low prices like that, because it is a non-profit and because founder Eric Carlson wanted to make offsets accessible to the average consumer.
The biggest challenge faced by offsetters like CarbonFund.org is cynicism. Some greenies and reporters assume that consumers buy offsets instead of cutting back their carbon emissions. The word that appears most often in these cynical stories is “guilt.” But their unfounded assumption that offset purchases are motivated by guilt and excess ignores some very simple facts. For example, it’s hard to believe that someone who cares enough about the environment to buy offsets would live a life of carbon gluttony. Any company or individual buying offsets is aware of the GHG problem and awareness is the first step toward behavior change. In addition, offsetting is voluntary. Why take money out of your own pocket if you don’t have to? People buy offsets because they care about the earth’s increasingly serious environmental problems. CarbonFund.org invests offset money in two kinds of certified projects: energy efficiency and renewable energy. What cynics rarely mention is that offsetters like CarbonFund.org are financing renewable energy infrastructures, helping to make the price of solar, wind, biomass and other clean sources of power competitive with fossil fuels.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Sustainability communications is probably the fastest growing practice area in public affairs and public relations today. Sustainable and carbon free living and working have the potential to change the world’s economy, societies and hopefully, if we remain steadfast and committed, the environment.