Greening Apple and Greenpeace Likes It

January 26, 2010

Apple and Greenpeace have had their disagreements about how environmentally friendly Apple should be.  Greenpeace has been a critic of Apple urging them to become a better company, environmentally and CSR-wise.  We call this instructive churn.  Instructive churn is when companies learn from stakeholder criticism by internalizing the criticism and making positive changes.  In essence a negative becomes a positive.  Two recent developments highlight Greenpeace and Apple being linking in instructive churn. 

Greenpeace regularly issues its “Guide to Greener Electronics.”  According to Greepeace, “The guide ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.”  The guide began publishing in 2006.  This year Apple improved and is listed in the Better category and fifth overall.  Here is the entry for Apple from the 2010 report released recently at the 2010 CES.  The CES attracts the attention of the electronics industry so the trade show offers a great opportunity to publicize the report:

“Apple continues its climb up the ranking from 11th place in v.12 to 9th in v.13 and is now in 5th place, with a score of 5.1 points, up from 4.9. Apple does best on the toxic chemicals criteria, where it scores most of its points. It scores substantially less on waste and energy. In this evaluation, Apple wins and loses some points on toxic chemicals, but gains on energy. All Apple products are now free of PVC and BFRs, with the exception of PVC-free power cords in countries where their safety certification process is still ongoing. For this Apple continues to score full marks (doubled). The tightened C1 criterion now requires companies not only to have a chemicals policy informed by the precautionary principle, but also to show support for bans on PVC vinyl plastic and brominated/chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs/BFRs) during the revision of the EU’s RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electronics). Apple gains a point for lobbying the EU institutions, but for full marks it needs to provide a public position on its support for immediate restrictions in RoHS 2.0 on organo- chlorine and bromine compounds. It also needs to clarify its stance regarding the position of the trade federation TechAmerica on further immediate restrictions and in particular PVC and BFRs. Apple loses a point for providing even less information (on its updated web-pages) about its supply chain communications than before. This criterion evaluates disclosure of information flow in the supply chain. Apple also loses a point for minimal information about its future toxic chemical phase-out plans, reducing its communication on this subject on its updated web-pages.”

Apple and others have spread the good news around the Internet.  For instance, see the story at (  The message should disseminated.  Apple has made progress addressing environment deficiencies.  The report shows positive actions being taken by Apple and praised by a critical stakeholder (Greenpeace).  As one online source noted:

 “Despite the two companies’ somewhat spotted history together, Greenpeace has awarded Apple four giant gold stars for its efforts to rid its products of brominated flame retardants (BFR) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). (BFRs and PVC have long been on Greenpeace’s hit list of environmentally unfriendly chemicals.) In fact, Apple received a large gold star—the highest rating Greenpeace gave out—in each of the four categories rated in its latest report: desktops, portables, cell phones, and displays. Of the six companies with products in all four categories, Apple was the only one to receive a large gold star in any category, and, in general, it blew away the other five. Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and LGE received only one small gold star each.”

The second piece of news is that Apple is looking to make solar power a better reality for its products.  Apple has been working with the idea since 2006 but the new patent suggests solar for you iPod and iPhone might be getting closer.  A stronger solar move would strengthen Apple’s green credentials and move it to the front of CSR in the electronics industry.

Questions to Consider

  1.  Why is the Greenpeace evaluation of Apple’s environmental record so important to Apple’s CSR efforts?
  2. How is the Internet helping to build awareness of Apple’s CSR?
  3. Could the solar story hurt Apple if the solar technology does not appear within the next year?  Why or why not?
  4. How do Greenpeace’s past criticisms of Apple make their approval of Apple even more valuable to Apple?
  5. Of what value is the fact that the ranking allow Apple to compare itself to its competitors on environmental issues?
  6. Visit Apple’s environment site.  What do you like and dislike about the site?

The End to Kleencut: Greenpeace embraces Kimberly-Clark

August 13, 2009

In 2004, Greenpeace launched a campaign called Kleercut.  The target for this action/churn was  Kimberly-Clark, a major paper-goods company.  Among the its well known products are Scott, Cottenelle, and Kleenex.  Clearly the Kleercut is a play on the Kleenex brand.  Greenpeace initiated the campaign to create a specific behavior change—to shame Kimberly-Clark into no longer using old-growth timber, some of which comes from Canada.  In August of 2009, Kimberly-Clark agreed to end using old-growth timber from Canada and to increase its use of recycled materials and environmentally responsible sources.  Both organizations heralded the agreement.

Here is a segment from Kimberly-Clark’s news release on the topic:

Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, today announced stronger fiber sourcing standards that will increase conservation of forests globally and will make the company a leader for sustainably produced tissue products. Greenpeace, which worked with Kimberly-Clark on its revised standards, announced that it will end its “Kleercut” campaign, which focused on the company and its brands.

‘We are committed to using environmentally responsible wood fiber and today’s announcement enhances our industry-leading practices in this area,” said Suhas Apte, Kimberly-Clark Vice President of Environment, Energy, Safety, Quality and Sustainability. “It is our belief that certified primary wood fiber and recycled fiber can both be used in an environmentally responsible way and can provide the product performance that customers and consumers expect from our well-known tissue brands. We commend Greenpeace for helping us develop more sustainable standards.’

Kimberly-Clark has set a goal of obtaining 100 percent of the company’s wood fiber for tissue products, including the Kleenex brand, from environmentally responsible sources. The revised standards will enhance the protection of Endangered Forests and increase the use of both Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified fiber and recycled fiber. By the end of 2011, Kimberly-Clark will ensure that 40 percent of its North American tissue fiber – representing an estimated 600,000 tonnes – is either recycled or FSC certified, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2007 levels.

‘Today, ancient forests like the Boreal Forest have won,” said Richard Brooks, Greenpeace Canada Forest Campaign Coordinator. “This new relationship between Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace will promote forest conservation, responsible forest management, and recycled fiber as far and wide as possible.’

Also by the end of 2011, Kimberly-Clark will eliminate the purchase of any fiber from the Canadian Boreal Forest that is not FSC certified. This forest is North America’s largest old growth forest, providing habitat for threatened wildlife such as woodland caribou and a sanctuary for more than one billion migratory birds. It is also the largest terrestrial storehouse of carbon on the planet, storing the equivalent of 27 years worth of global greenhouse gas emissions.”


With the policy change, Kimberly-Clark moves to a strong position on sustainability.  In fact, they could now position themselves as sustainability leader in the paper-good industry.  On a lighter note, Kimberly-Clark noted toilet paper would not be made from 100% recycled material because that would be too harsh for the US market.  (Americans like the soft toilet paper).

Notice the campaign began in 2004 so it ran for nearly five years before there was a change.  A centerpiece of the campaign was a web site,  The web site contained information about the issue and ways people could become involved.  The involvement included action packs for creating your own campaign.  The action packs contain background information on the issue and plenty of public relations advice.  Section included how to get media attention, how to stage street theater, and preparing for media interviews.  Entries included titles such as Kimberly-Clark Declared Greenwasher by Ethical Corporation Magazine and Greenpeace Report: Kimberly-Clark’s Failed Policies Devastate Forest, “A new Greenpeace report reveals that Kimberly-Clark devastated Ontario’s Kenogami Forest while promoting itself as a leader in environmental and social responsibility.”


The home page for Kleercut site now explains the agreement and ends this message: “Please join us in thanking Kimberly-Clark for supporting conservation of the Boreal Forest by sending its CEO a congratulations email.” 

Questions to Consider

  1.  How does this case illustrate utility of stakeholder churn and the exercise of power by activists?
  2. What role did public relations play in creating power for Greenpeace and placing pressure on Kimberly-Clark to change?
  3. How does this case illustrate the Excellence dialectic for corporations and activists (Chapter 5)?
  4. Why might it have taken over four years to reach an agreement?
  5. Why is it important that the announcement was made jointly by Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace?
  6. From Greenpeace’s perspective, how would you measure success in this campaign (Chapter 4)?
  7. How will the action help Kimberly-Clark with its CSR and its reputation?
  8. How might this action influence other companies in the paper-goods business?
  9. How did each side “win” with the policy change?
  10. How does the case illustrate globalization’s effect on public relations?

Globalization: Shoes and the Rain Forest

August 4, 2009

So do the shoes you buy affect the rain forest and global warming?  The answer is yes to both points.  Leather from Brazil can be sourced from cattle that graze on deforested rain forest land.  The destruction of the rain forest contributes to the problem of global warming.  Yes, we are identifying global warming and real and a problem.  Leather is used to make shoes.  If the leather in your shoes comes from deforested land in Brazil, you are contributing to global warming.  Welcome to globalization, a key subject of Chapter 14.  Manufacturers source raw materials from around the world.   Put another way, supply chains stretch around the world.  Who manufacturers use in their supply chain does matter.  Suppliers vary in their treatment of worker rights, indigenous people, sustainability, and impact on the environment.  Nike’s linger “sweat shop” stigma is a case in point.  Corporations need to make informed decisions about suppliers.

Nike is taking action to be at the forefront of global warming and leather.   Nike plans to have suppliers provide proof their materials do not come from illegally created pastures.  Here is part of the Nike news release:

” Nike has had extensive conversations with its leather suppliers to gain the most accurate picture possible of our leather sourcing footprint. Nike can say with a high level of certainty that leather used in Nike products is not sourced within the Amazon basin.

However, recognizing that there is no current leather traceability system to track the origins of leather with 100 coming year. In addition, we have also signed Greenpeace’s ‘Commit or Cancel’ principles which call for a moratorium on deforestation.

Beyond traceability, Nike would also call for the establishment of an enforceable certification system for all industries involved in the Brazilian meat and leather supply chain. Nike values collaboration and continued dialogue on important issues in order to implement change for a more sustainable future.

To this end Nike will continue to work with the industry’s Leather Working Group, Greenpeace and other stakeholders to address this issue across the supply chain. Moving forward, we will also require all suppliers of leather for Nike product to join the Leather Working Group by December 2009.”

Nike is connecting itself with protecting the planet from global warming and Greenpeace.  As the news release notes: “Nike and Greenpeace share a common interest in addressing the causes of climate change.”   For additional information on the subject, see Nike’s Amazon Leather Policy at


Greenpeace has provided support for Nike at its web site.  Here is the last section of their comments on Nike’s new policy:  “The demand for leather means more Amazon rainforest cleared to graze cattle – leather that can end up in popular brands like Timberland, Adidas, Reebok, and Clarks. Nike has stepped up and taken the necessary action to eliminate Amazon destruction from its supply chain. Take action now >> Thank Nike for setting a good example of protecting the Amazon and the climate.

Unfortunately, the other shoe companies linked to Amazon deforestation in our report continue to offer nothing but excuses. With rival Nike having made a commitment to protect the Amazon, it’s time for these companies to step up and do the right thing.”


Notice Greenpeace is providing a link to have people thank Nike as well as praising Nike for being a leader on this issue.

Questions to Consider

  1.  How can Nike use its Amazon Leather Policy to bolster its reputation?
  2. What other policies/practices does Nike have about sourcing products that relate to CSR and reputation building?
  3. How does this case fit with the legitimacy procurement model in Chapter 13?
  4. How does this case illustrate identifying and preventing expectation gaps?
  5. How does this case illustrate the effects of globalization on public relations (Chapter 14)?
  6. How could Nike use online channels (Chapter 7) to promote this CSR effort beyond just posting to its web site?
  7. What role might activists (Chapter 5) have played in shaping this policy?

HP, Greenpeace, and Aggressive PR

July 30, 2009

You probably are or have used an Hewlett Packard (HP) printer, maybe even a computer.  We should note up front that HP has taken actions to become more environmentally friendly.  The computer industry can generate toxic materials and use them in machines.  On page 261 of our book, Chapter 13 on Corporate Social Responsibility, we note HP efforts to recycle computer and computer-related equipment as efforts to reduce waste.  However, constituents can still pressure for change even as a corporations is changing.  That pressure is designed to keep the change process moving and to shape the direction of that change process.  Check out page 86 and other discussions of the Excellence Dialectic for more on that process.  To learn more about HP’s environmental efforts, visit HP Eco Solutions at

On July 28, 2009, Greenpeace painted the words “Hazardous Products” on the roof of HP headquarters in Palo Alto, CA.  There is a link to a piture near the end of this case.  A message recorded by actor William Shatner (Captain Kirk or Denny Crain depending on your tv viewing) was sent to HP as well.  According to Greenpeace, here is the reason for the action:  “Earlier this year, HP postponed its 2007 commitment to phase out dangerous substances such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic from its computer products (excluding their server and printer lines) from 2009 to 2011.”   Greenpeace views the failure to change as unacceptable.

Greenpeace created a publicity stunt—an event designed to attract media coverage.  Though not traditional, the rood painting is a form of public relations.  In addition to media relations (traditional and online), the action can be tied to reputation management and corporate social responsibility.  It also illustrate various aspects of activist PR.

HP’s response:  “The unconstructive antics at HP’s headquarters today did nothing to advance the goals that all who care about the environment share.”

As You Sow is another activist group that wants to see the end to BFRs.  Here is a part of their news release about the event:

“Publicly chastening companies has in the past been effective in calling attention to issues such as toxic chemical use, Conrad MacKerron, director of the corporate social responsibility program at As You Sow, said in a telephone interview. “But in the long run, in terms of the actual change, it depends on whether they are making good faith efforts to change things,” he said, adding there could be credible reasons for why they are unable to adapt quickly, such as lack of suitable alternatives. Regarding efforts to recycle electronic waste, MacKerron said there are concerns on both sides of the lifecycle — from production to deconstruction and disposal — and it will take a fair amount of time to clean up an entire sector of business. “The IT industry has been more responsive to stakeholder concerns in a similar amount of time, compared to when we were pressing apparel companies for using sweatshop labor a decade ago,” he said. Indeed, the sector has made efforts to clean up their businesses. For example, Dell sells laptops with mercury-free LED backlighting and offers free computer recycling worldwide. Lenovo sells a PC monitor that is free of arsenic and mercury, as well as monitors that contain 25 percent post-consumer content recycled plastics. In addition, HP plans to release a BFR/PVC free notebook in September, and says that by fall of 2010, all “new commercial products” released will also be free of these chemicals. Between 1987 and 2007, HP recycled one billion pounds of electronic products. At this point in time, the situation has presented a market opportunity for Apple to promote its PVC and BFR-free products over its competitors’ wares. Perhaps competition could be just as powerful of a motivator as public shame to push its rivals to find solutions fast.”

You can read the complete release at


 Link to picture of the roof:



Questions to Consider

  1.  Does the Greenpeace effort hurt or help efforts to change HP’s behavior?
  2. Chapter 5 on activism talks about different PR actions taken by activists?  How would you categorize Greenpeace’s efforts here?
  3. How does As You Sow’s PR efforts differ from Greenpeace in this case?  Which do you think is more effective and why?
  4. How can As You Sow and Greenpeace be used to illustrate the idea of moving the middle (p. 101)?
  5. How does HP’s environment efforts and communication about those efforts increase their concerned about the negative publicity about  BFRs?
  6. What ethical concerns do you see with Greenpeace’s aggressive PR.

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