A corporation which paints itself as a defender of wildlife and one concerned about endangered species and the natural world ought to do more than express those values in images, advertisements, and sponsorships: they need to use their immense power to speak out and act for a better world.
Alas, gentle readers, I have been otherwise occupied for overlong. We just launched a new push against Canon cameras to speak out against whaling in Japan, and it has taken some long nights and intense days to get it out the door.
As with the Green my Apple campaign, and the Iceland Whales Pledge, this is a new kind of campaign for Greenpeace. And while it may be surprising, Greenpeace like any institution, can find new things scary. I doubt this one would have gotten off the ground if it had gone through our monumentally conservative planning process. Instead, it came about in one of those tremendous, serendipitous blasts of creativity that I so damn wish could learn to play nice with process, but never do.
It happened on a phone call with the Esperanza in the Southern Ocean. A discussion about public engagement. We had been so impressed by the action of one of our supporters in New Zealand, who had taken it upon herself to write to Toyota to say she wasnÂ´t replacing her Prius, because it was Japanese.
Now we donÂ´t support boycotts on Japanese products, but we get this stuff from supporters all the time, who just run their own rogue actions. Well this one hit paydirt. Not only did she get a statement from Toyota New Zealand stating that the company didnÂ´t support whaling for commercial or scientific purposes, she brought it to the newspapers. Toyota Japan immediately got all heavy on their Kiwi partners.
So there we are, saying what can we learn from this, how can we replicate this? How can we generate pressure in Japan from the business community to address whaling as a bottom line laibility that contributes nothing to Japanese society, and which in fact costs taxpayers billions of yen every year to fund science which nobody wants and whalemeat which nobody eats. In short, how do we cause a fracas for a Japanese corporation with the power to do something about whaling.
We liked the Toyota example, but rejected cars. Our climate campaign is going after cars for other reasons. So we scratch our heads for a while via satellite, and Dave Walsh, rocking on the Antarctic waters, glances at the camera on his desk. What about Canon?
Oh yeah. All that Wildlife As Canon Sees it stuff. Whales selling cameras.
Well it just so happens that Junichi in Japan is on the call, and knows that the CEO of Canon is only the single most powerful CEO in the entire country at the moment and the chair of the Japanese Business Federation. He has the ear of the Prime Minister, and a responsibility to look after all Japanese business interests.
So we wrote to them, and simply asked that they speak out against shooting endangered species with a harpoon, when a camera and other harmless methods can generate all the research you need to know.
Yet despite being one of the best know “Wildlife Brands,” despite being the oldest corporate sponsor of World Wide Fund for Nature in Europe, despite all those ads in National Geographic talking about endangered species, they wouldnÂ´t sign a simple statement condemning the sham of scientific whaling by the Japanese Fisheries Agency.
Not good enough.
I love the prospects that this campaign opens up for corporate campaigning. YouÂ´ve noticed, of course, how many corporations these days are dressing themselves in Green. WeÂ´ve noticed at Greenpeace, thatÂ´s for sure. ThereÂ´s an awful lot of multinational corporations who are trying to look like us, sound like us, express their concern for the environment in glossy ads in which the only thing missing is our logo.
Well what if we hold them to that? Take it at face value. Challenge them to actually DO what we DO rather than just put our colours on their websites and our pictures in their annual report? And that means not only do they need to clean up their own practices, like any good corporate citizen, but they need to become active about the practices of others. They need to speak out against things that are inconsistent with those values which they are advertising themselves as having. In short, they need to take action to make those nice green sound bites come true.
McDonalds shocked us when they became forest activists in response to one of our campaigns against Amazon deforestation. They didnÂ´t just back away from a soy supplier who was cutting down rainforest to plant soy, they sat down at the table with the producer, other buyers, and ourselves to try to work out a way to end the practice altogether. They wield vast power, of course, and that kind of initiative is hard to ignore. One smart campaign judo move had put a sumo wrestler on our team.
Corporations being goaded into advocacy is an exciting prospect. Canon has no direct relationship to whaling, but there’s a public expectation, that they’ve built themselves, that they would take a stand against killing endangered species. And by doing so, they could have an immense impact. In the same way Greenpeace challenges individuals to take action for a green and peaceful future, we’re challenging a corporate citizen to do the same.
So come on, Mitarai-san, — get on the right side of this one quickly, and Save those whales.
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