Green Washing Storm Brewing Inside Sierra Club

Once upon a time I helped to orchestrate a deal between Calistoga Mineral Water and American Rivers, where I worked on the development team. So, I know firsthand what it means to bring corporate dollars to an environmental group. The basic premise is tread carefully, so as not to upset the dues-paying grassroots members of the group.
According to sources, Sierra Club may have glossed over that key point when it struck a deal with Clorox, maker of Green Works, a “green” product line of household cleansers. The agreement includes a Sierra Club endorsement on Green Works’ packaging.
Given that Sierra Club members and other environmentalists have been battling chlorine pollution for years, this fit seems unnatural at best. Sierra Club activists in Florida have been particularly outspoken about the matter and now find their “keep it clean” hands slapped by Sierra Club mucky mucks.

The Sierra Club’s national board voted March 25 to remove the leaders of the Club’s 35,000-member Florida chapter, and to suspend the Chapter for four years. It was the first time in the Club’s 116-year history that such action has been taken against a state Chapter.
The leadership of the Florida Chapter had been highly critical of the national board’s decision in mid-December 2007 to allow The Clorox Company to use the Sierra Club’s name and logo to market a new line of non-chlorinated cleaning products called “Green Works.” In return, Clorox Company will pay Sierra Club an undisclosed fee, based partly on product sales. The Clorox Company logo will appear on the products as well.
A 2004 report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund named The Clorox Company as one of the nation’s most chemically dangerous.

Florida in the house!
The Guardian has more on the story.

Joy Towles Ezell, the former Sierra conservation chairwoman in Florida, said Green Works should be named “Money Works” or “Toxic Works”.
“Clorox is the bad guy to me,” Ezell said. “Just because this new project is going to be on every store shelf and Wal-Mart in the US, I don’t think that’s a reason to put your logo on it – just to make you more popular.”
“You sell your soul when you get involved with something like that.”
Jeff Ruch, executive director of the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility adds, “It’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you, and if Clorox is now feeding them, we’d expect them to overlook Clorox’s corporate failings.”

There’s a saying (that I made up) I like to recall in moments like this. “All money is dirty. Clean it up by spending it well.”
[via Harpers]



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.