Beyond BP’s Posturing


Over at Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward rewinds to 2006 when BP embarked on their “greenwashing campaign.” The logo change, the “thinking outside the barrel,” the “mobilizing Malaysians to take action on climate change” — all in an effort to fool the public it wasn’t still a huge oil company. It should be a lesson to companies like the Detroit Three in my backyard (but it won’t be): Be passionate about what you know and folks will follow you.

An excerpt from Mangu-Ward’s February 2006 article:

For an example of a company apparently trying to single-handedly save the planet through expensive public relations alone, one needn’t look farther than the corporate darling of serious environmentalists and greenish consumers alike: BP

BP is first among many companies that have opted to do their environmental penance in the glare of the spotlight. British Petroleum (recently rechristened BP, following KFC’s model in removing unsavory words from its brand name) has been much ballyhooed for its commitment to the environment. Most of the ballyhooing is being done by BP itself.

A gas and oil company with $225 billion in revenue, BP is part of an industry that will keep environmental advocacy groups in business for as long at it exists. Yet these days BP is styling itself “Beyond Petroleum” and declaring that it’s “thinking outside the barrel.” BP’s Environmental Team has crafted an elaborate advertising campaign and rebranding effort, recently expanded to the Web. Its goal: to convince the world that a company that sucks dead dinosaurs out of the earth, turns them into gasoline, and delivers that gas to SUVs can also be environmentally friendly enough to use a green and yellow sunburst (or is it a flower?) as its logo….

The conclusion?

For the moment, the marriage of convenience between BP and environmental activists remains intact and fairly functional. But both sides recognize that they have struck a delicate balance.


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