[GRRN] Earth Day Fever Reaches Businesses

Bill Sheehan (zerowaste@grrn.org)
Mon, 26 Apr 1999 09:56:19 -0400

Earth Day Fever Reaches Businesses

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hoping to turn the nation's annual
environmental celebration to their advantage, corporations are
sponsoring children's poster contests, newspaper ads and
recycling programs around the theme ``Thank business on Earth

Environmentalists ridicule the campaign as ``greenscamming.''
But corporate officials, tired of being on the defensive each
Earth Day, say that U.S. businesses have spent $1 trillion over
three decades to clean up the land, water and air.

``If the other side is going to tell its story this week, this is the
opportunity for us to go on offense and tell our story,'' said J.T.
Taylor, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president for
corporate communications.

Earth Day is Thursday.

So while environmentalists float through wilderness on the
Colorado River, protest logging with a hike in West Virginia's
Blackwater Canyon, and sponsor numerous rallies and shoreline
cleanups, corporations have plans of their own.

At least 50 businesses are sponsoring Earth Day events in 35
cities, from Springfield, Mass., to Fremont, Calif., according to
the National Association of Manufacturers.

In Sheboygan, Wis., Kohler Co. and others sponsored a poster
contest for fifth-graders. Anchor Glass Container Corp. of
Henryetta, Okla., is offering coupons for groceries in glass
bottles and jars, which can be recycled. The energy giant Enron
Corp. co-sponsored an Earth Day festival in Houston.

Corporate America's strong record in cleaning up the
environment gives it credibility in opposing further rules, said
Frank Coleman, spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
which represents 170,000 businesses and 3,500 state and local

``Before we ask business to spend an additional trillion-and-a-
half dollars, business has a right to say, 'Wait a second. What are
we getting for our money at this point?''' Coleman said.

The chamber sent an opinion article to 1,000 newspapers and
business journals, faxed talking points to 8,000 business owners,
urging them to speak out locally, and crowed about the corporate
environmental record on a special Internet site.

Environmentalists who regularly battle business lobbyists over
anti-pollution legislation are not impressed.

``It's like having Frank Perdue putting out a Web site about how
much he likes chickens,'' said the Sierra Club's political director,
Daniel Weiss.

Last fall, the manufacturers' group helped defeat an effort by
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to allow lawmakers to demand a
debate and a vote on any measure that weakens environmental
protections. NAM used the key issue to help rank members in its
annual congressional scorecard.

The Chamber of Commerce remains strongly opposed to new
regulations, such as the Kyoto global warming treaty,
environmentalists noted.

``They want to take credit for the progress of the last 30 years
when, in fact, in almost every instance they were dragged
kicking and screaming to clean up their act,'' said Gene
Karpinski, executive director of the U.S. Public Interest
Research Group, a consumer and environmental advocacy group.
``This is clearly a greenscamming strategy.''

The national chamber sent out more than 1,600 ``Earth Day
Action Kits,'' mostly to companies and local chambers of
commerce, including a suggested press release complete with a
quote proclaiming that their cleanup efforts will continue so long
as governments ``don't overburden business with excessive
regulation and taxes.''

The manufacturers' association published a book highlighting 16
companies that found environmentally friendly ways to do
business. Also, a NAM survey of member businesses found that
more than 80 percent of the respondents had voluntarily changed
their processes to reduce emissions and waste at their plants.

``There was a much richer story here than simply opposing
legislation that we didn't like,'' said the association's president,
Jerry Jasinowski.

AP-NY-04-21-99 1637EDT

Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.