I like to keep things simple when it comes to greenwashing. I reserve this term for cases of blatant misrepresentation, lack of commitment, conflict in practice, and inconsistency. After a CSR initiative passes the greenwashing test, I examine its magnitude: what is the impact and how can it be improved? I’ll be examining Tropicana’s new “Resscue the Rainforest” campaign by first looking for signs of greenwashing before weighing its social impact.
“Rescue the Rainforest” Campaign
Tropicana, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., has teamed up with Cool Earth, an international non-governmental organization, to launch the “Rescue the Rainforest,” cause marketing campaign to protect endangered rainforests. This campaign runs through 2009 and with a goal of protecting 15,000 acres in addition to the 5,000 acres that Tropicana is already protecting.
Specially marked Tropicana products, such as Tropicana Pure Premium® and Trop50™, will carry an 11-digit code which, when entered on Tropicanarainforest.com/, will protect 100 sq feet of rainforest land for a minimum of three years. There is no limit to how many codes someone can submit and people can enter as individuals or teams. They will also be able to visually track their contribution and watch it grow with a map tool driven by Google Maps. To encourage a little friendly competition, the site prominently displays a leaderboard which displays the top five teams and individuals by square footage.
The site has also recently launched a fun flash-based game called Rainforest Rescue where you can lob oranges at loggers. Steve Puma of 3p covers it here.
Hints of Greenwashing
Tropicana kicked off 2009 by certifying their carbon footprint, which is a significant step towards a sustainable strategy.
“Tropicana will use these findings to further prioritize our efforts to reduce our overall carbon footprint,” says Neil Campbell, president of Tropicana Products North America. “We will build on our already robust sustainability initiatives to further reduce our carbon footprint in the coming years.”
Tropicana has also adopted at least three more sustainable practices since the beginning of the year. They have deployed “Green Teams” in their factories to expand existing sustainability programs and reduce energy consumption. Wooden shipping pallets were banned in favor of plastic, which reduces weight by 25 lbs and saves on fuel consumption. At the end of their lifecycles, the plastic pallets will be recycled.
Finally, Tropicana has teamed up with Waste Management, the largest residential recycler, to launch a new recycling initiative with the goal of increasing carton recycling.
“Tropicana is dedicated to minimizing its impact on the earth and making it easier for consumers to do their part through recycling and waste reduction initiatives,” said Andrew Hartshorn, senior marketing manager, Tropicana Products, Inc.
Four new initiatives (including “Save the Rainforest”) in the first four months of 2009 is sure to make a PR splash, though it becomes increasingly difficult to locate information on Tropicana’s sustainability practices prior to 2009. While it seems that green is the new orange at Tropicana, only time will tell if they are greenwashing, or are indeed committed to sustainability.
While there are many ways to measure social impact including absolute numbers in tons of carbon protected and performance in relation to other rainforest protection intiatives, it would take a treatise to really delve into this matter.
For the sake of illustration, I’ll choose a fairly simple measure which I think is also important to take into consideration: social impact in relation to leading corporate brands. In this illustration, I’ll be comparing Tropicana’s rainforest campaign to Starbucks’s (RED) campaign. Because it’s difficult to you compare trees saved to days of medication donated, I will simply be comparing resources committed. The following calculations only serve to paint a rough picture and give you an idea for calculating social impact.
A quick calculation reveals that Tropicana is donating approximately $0.23 to Cool Earth for each coupon. The products carrying this coupon start at $1.88 for the Tropicana Pure Premium® product at Safeway. This is a surprisingly large donation (12%) for such a small ticket item. Starbucks is donating $.05 per purchase using their Starbucks card. I’m estimating the average ticket price to be around $5 which would place their donation at approximately 1%.
If we take into account the percent of consumers who will redeem the Tropicana coupon, these two numbers converge to be of the same magnitude. Again, keep in mind that these are rough estimates and a difference of even .5% is significant.
Where the “Save the Rainforest” campaign cannot compete is in PR and brand equity. Starbucks has been working with RED for over five years now and has been able to build significant equity. If Tropicana decides to discontinue their relationship with Cool Earth at the end of this campaign (year-end 2009), then they will have shown that this campaign is merely a publicity stunt and tossed into the annals of Greenwashing lore.
About Cool Earth
Cool earth does not actually own any of the land they protect; instead, they work with communities and government to fund locally-run programs. These programs focus on incentivizing the preservation and restoration of rainforests, which include employing local rangers, creating management entities and plans, creating and supporting environmentally friendly income generating activities, and providing education and awareness.
It costs Cool Earth at least $100 to protect one acre of rainforest land for a minimum of three years. One acre holds approximately 260 tons of carbon and sequesters approximately one half to one ton of carbon per year. Because these are long-term collaborative projects, it is difficult to pin a specific price to it. You can read more about the details of how Cool Earth works in their FAQ.
Current conservation programs are not sustainable, as this requires a steady flow of outside capital, which is why it such a challenge to curb deforestation.
Cool Earth understands this and maintains that some of their programs address this challenge. However, there is very little detailed information regarding these programs available to the public. Cool Earth and Tropicana could run an essay contest to solicit proposals for sustainable projects — ones that make it more profitable for a community to preserve their rainforests. Sample prizes could include funding the winning proposals and even flying the author onsite to take part in the program, or a more feasible donation in the name of the author.
Learn more about Cool Earth at http://www.coolearth.org/.
State of the Rainforest
Rainforests account for over 25% of the world’s oxygen by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen in a process called photosynthesis. In this process, rainforests are able to sequester carbon in their flora and soil, hence the name “carbon sinks.” When these rainforests are slashed and burned, used to clear tracts of land for agriculture or livestock, this sequestered carbon is re-released into the atmosphere. This not only releases carbon, but also threatens the the habitats of millions of species. Approximately 40-75% of all species on Earth are indigenous to rainforests.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), deforestation accounts for two-plus billion tons of carbon emitted per year, which represents one quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, and is approximately equal to the amount the United States emits each year. You can read more about the rainforest in this comprehensive slide deck report on scribd.com.
1. $100/acre, 43,560 sq feet/acre, 100 sq feet/coupon: $100 / 1 acre * 1 acre / 43,560 sq feet * 100 sq feet / 1 coupon = $0.23 / coupon