The attempt to provide a ‘green’ and caring persona for a corporation is a public relations strategy aimed at promising reform and heading off demands for more substantial and fundamental changes. A PR expert advised in Public Relations Journal:
There really are no solid solutions to many environmental problems other than ceasing to partake in the activity that causes the environmental hazard. Therefore, the key to devising successful solution ideas, is to show that your client cares about the environmental issue at hand.
The Council on Economic Priorities studied the environmental claims of a large number of corporations and found that “many of them are using ‘green’ public relations programs as a pro-environmental smokescreen while they continue to pollute.” Examples they gave in 1992 included Dow Chemical, which “received favorable publicity for a $3 million wetlands protection program, while downstream from its factories birds were turning up with dioxin-related deformities” and Mobil, which claimed “so-called biodegradable plastic bags would not disintegrate in landfills and that their use should not be encouraged. Then they went ahead and introduced biodegradable plastics with an enormous advertising campaign.”
3M is perhaps one of the most successful companies when it comes to attaining a green image. Although it is the 13th worst US corporation when it comes to emissions of toxic chemicals into the environment, the name 3M is almost synonymous with the idea of pollution prevention through its much publicised 3P (Pollution Prevention Pays) scheme. Indeed 3M’s 3P program, implemented in the 1970s by two engineers and an ‘environmental communications specialist,’ has saved $500 million for a very small monetary expenditure, earned a Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America, brought much welcome media publicity and helped “soften regulatory attitudes toward the industry”.