#DeTox: Unfinished business

Don’t both­er read­ing this blog. Just watch this video. Share it. Send it. Like it. Com­ment on it. Get it on as many screens as pos­si­ble.

And now that you’ve done that:

Back in the 70s and 80s, Green­peace ran cam­paigns to dri­ve tox­ic pro­duc­tion out of Europe and North Amer­i­ca. In those days, we pushed for gov­ern­ment leg­is­la­tion and intra-gov­ern­men­tal agree­ments to stop things like the dump­ing of tita­ni­um diox­ide in the North Sea, fac­to­ries that turned rivers red or blue depend­ing on what dye process was run­ning, and pipes that sim­ply ran waste­water into what­ev­er water­way was handy, con­tents often unknown and unmon­i­tored by any gov­ern­ment agen­cy.

This was a nasty piece of work. Allied Chem­i­cal in New Jer­sey had found a loop­hole and was dis­pers­ing waste through a freak­ing SPRINKLER SYSTEM to avoid pro­hi­bi­tions on land buri­al and river dis­pos­al. Their solu­tion effec­tive­ly did both, but was entire­ly legal. Under arrest from left to right: Lisa Bun­in, JR Yea­ger, Marc Gottschalk, Bri­an Fitzger­ald, Kel­ly Rigg

Thing was, while we suc­ceed­ed in clear­ing up rivers across our home­lands, we drove an awful lot of those process­es and fac­to­ries to Chi­na, India, and Mex­i­co. Unfin­ished busi­ness! Team #Detox at Green­peace have picked up the job, how­ev­er, but with a #Peo­ple­Pow­er twist that illus­trates a pret­ty big shift in Green­peace strat­e­gy and the bat­tle­field on which we engage across the last 30 years.

The news­pa­per image above, and the tele­vi­sion news sto­ries the action gen­er­at­ed, was a win. We put an issue on the map for leg­is­la­tors in New Jer­sey, timed to Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agen­cy hear­ings about waste dis­pos­al, and put lob­by­ists into the halls of gov­ern­ment to demand stronger leg­is­la­tion and more mon­i­tor­ing. It was an action that was appro­pri­ate to both the demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem and the com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­text of the day. 

The video above has a very dif­fer­ent tar­get audi­ence in mind, and a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent pow­er analy­sis. Today, the real pow­er is with cor­po­rate pur­chas­ing poli­cies, and the pow­er to shift those poli­cies comes from cus­tomer pres­sure on the most impor­tant asset the com­pa­ny owns: its brand rep­u­ta­tion. This is the rise of Peo­ple Pow­er.

Last year, team #DeTox cor­ralled phase-out agree­ments from Nike, Adi­das, Puma, H&M, M&S, C&A and Chi­ne­se mega-brand Li-Ning. Today, Zara announced they will com­mit to elim­i­nate all dis­charge of haz­ardous chem­i­cals from its sup­ply chain and prod­ucts by 2020, with some of the worst chem­i­cals phased out by 2015. Oth­er fash­ion brands tar­get­ed by the cam­paign (and some that aren’t) are in nego­ti­a­tions now as well. 

What brings the­se com­pa­nies to the table? Talk. Talk on Face­book, Twit­ter, and in the blo­gos­phere about how much their brand cares about the things their cus­tomers care about. All of us want to buy from brands with human­i­ty, with a con­science, brands that don’t poi­son rivers or think it’s OK to treat a child in Chi­na dif­fer­ent­ly than a child in Ger­many.

Social Media has become the world’s inner mono­logue, the chat­ter inside a brain the size of a plan­et. All of us lis­ten to a coco­phany of voic­es every day in our minds; our con­science rais­es the vol­ume on some of those ques­tions and chal­lenges us to defend our choic­es and actions. In the great big glob­al brain that the inter­net has become, we can all raise the vol­ume on eth­i­cal ques­tions about how brands treat peo­ple and nature, until the organ­ism responds. 

This kind of Peo­ple-pow­ered cam­paign means I can do more today to stop haz­ardous waste with my Face­book & Twit­ter accounts, and this blog, than I did decades ago by march­ing into a field of tox­ic waste and get­ting myself arrest­ed. Crazy. 

1 thought on “#DeTox: Unfinished business”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.