Updated: Dec 16, 2020
A recent Guardian article covered one charity’s Naming and Shaming of four brands for plastic pollution.
BRANDED products are in plastic pollution? Who knew??
There is wonderful research on the diminishing returns of activism, and the tipping point where it is more constructive for activists to work with, rather than against, their targets. It spells out the need for activism to spark change; but that once change is accepted, the role of the activist going forward depends on their ability to work with - and assist - the corporates they targeted.
So, why now is a charity ‘naming and blaming’ when their brethren have moved on to working with and holding accountable?
Sadly, history may hold the answer: strategy versus airtime. Just like Corporates, strategically smart NGOs, with a clear vision and mission, can adapt to market changes - making them able to transition from agent provocateur to valuable strategic partner.
Yet, the allure of public approval (and consequent flow of funding) can tempt some to exploit a delicate matter to advance their underlying ambition. Think politicians and babies.
Their late arrival to the party only serves to continue the blame conversation - drowning out substantive discussion on issues, precluding deeper understanding of the underlying problems, and perpetuating the stereotype of heroes and villains.
Three years ago, I celebrated Earth Day at Earth Week Texas. I was fortunate to be invited to the traditional (yet informal) post-event at a Texan Billionaire’s modest acreage in downtown Dallas. Imagine... people from all walks of life, with green views and blue views - in full knowledge of the problems yet revelling in the prospect of a positive future.
I left with a gift - a blue marble sphere with our world painted on it. It’s a treasured daily reminder of what is real and what is puffery.
Plastic waste photo from The Guardian