It’s one thing for a French energy company to hijack the Union Jack for greenwash purposes but to take the ad campaign (or something very much like it) of a genuine green electricity company, Ecotricity, has really inflamed green minded consumers.
EDF’s sponsored Green Britain Day is taking place on Friday, July 10th and has been positioned as “a community aimed at harnessing the power of collective action”. Seems they have created another community aimed at harnessing the power of collective action – true greens are organisisng a boycott and calling it the EDF ‘Greenwash Britain Day’ and are urging politicians, musicians, sportsmen and the public not to be taken in and to ‘unplug EDF’.
Those in the green space have already started a campaign against EDF (Electricite de France), check out GREEN BRITAIN DAY group on Facebook, and are urging people to complain to the ASA about EDF’s claims.
When I saw the posters, a green Union Jack, I was a bit shocked. The original green Union Jack ad was created by Robin Smith of Host Universal (a specialist ethical agency) for Dale Vince’s Ecotricity back in 2007 and is well known in green circles, though obvious not by creatives at EDF’s agency. Had Ecotricity given it to EDF or had EDF just nicked it? Seems the latter, though they’ll blame the agency I am sure. If so I’d ask for the fee back and maybe EDF would be ethical enough to pay it to Smith instead.
Of course it’s not the first time EDF have recycled someone else’s idea. Their TV ad made from recycled ads was actually a copy of St Luke’s Ecover ad, which was ironically created by Smith’s wife Kiki Kendrick. Wow, that’s a double hit. So watch out everyone who has ever done any award winning eco-ethical ads, EDF may well be eyeing it up for the next campaign. Think I’ll copyright my environmental Asthma glue poster as fast as I can.
The Green Britain Day involves many partners including the Eden Project and the legendary musician Paul Weller, who will be playing a gig there. In principle the idea is great, engaging people to make a difference, no one can argue with that. It’s the corporation’s motives behind it and it’s marketing that is causing concern.
EDF claim to be the first sustainability partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Vincent de Rivaz, Chief Executive of EDF, said:?“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing us. As an energy company, EDF Energy has a responsibility to be at the heart of the solution to climate change….” Nice speech.
EDF Energy also claim to be the largest producer of low-carbon electricity in the UK. Well of course they are because they are 85% Nuclear energy, hence their claims that by 2020 they plan to be totally carbon neutral (nuclear is carbon neutral). Nuclear has certainly split the green lobby, some back it others reject it. However, as it’s carbon neutral it’s been a gift for greenwash.
EDF states the obvious, “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing us and EDF Energy believes that we can only tackle the issues we face by ensuring that all of us act together now.” True but in the world of eco-ethical marketing do they you define acting together as taking other people’s ideas?
EDF’s marketing to the British public is designed to make them think they are a company that has real green values, this has annoyed the green community.
To support their sponsorship of the 1012 Olympic Games and Green Britain Day EDF have even set up a .org website (makes it look more caring) and are using the term ‘Team Great Britain’ – err, but EDF are French? Is this some kind of invasion? They even have added ‘the big idea’ to the URL, who ever said the French can be arrogant?
To put you in the picture, there are only really three genuine green energy companies in the UK, Good Energy, Ecotricity and GreenEnergy UK (who have the greenest tariff of all of them). The next best is Scottish & Southern who operate a lot of hydro electric power stations. So if you want to be even slightly green there’s your choice. After that the rest are large corporations with one mission, make profit. And let us not forget British Gas, who despite making many green claims conveniently forgets that gas is as unsustainable as you can get.
All the big energy companies are required by the government to supply a degree of green source energy and it is this small percentage that they are using to spin to try and make themselves look green. One energy company I have spoken with (one of the big boys) admitted to me that they found it really hard to sell a green tariff as consumers don’t trust them and if they had the choice they’d drop it. Big surprise.
Now I’m all for embracing big corporates into changing the world, after all McDonalds, Starbucks and a few are making a significant difference, especially in the are of Fairtrade and ethically sourced coffee. Even Wal-Mart have turned over a new leaf. As for oil companies and energy companies… well they have a long way to go to convince the green minded consumer they have changed their ways.
The big issue comes down to the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit. If Profit is at the heart of your ethos, and it is for energy companies, people and planet will always take a second place.
The new guide for green marketers, Ethical Marketing & the New Consumer is published at the end of July by Wiley’s (pre orderable on Amazon) and I’d recommend that EDF and many others read it. It’ll enlighten them as to why they are wasting their money on their current greenwash campaigns and how they could become more ethical and actually spend their money more wisely.
In the short term I’d advise them to consult the people they appropriate ideas off as they run one of the UK’s specialist ethical agencies (Host), as hiring an ethical specialists (instead of big agencies) would start to make people believe they are genuine.
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