This is from my buddy Peter Nowack – Print Leadership Blog

By PWN, on October 25th, 2010

In a presentation at Graph Expo 2010, I spoke about how greenwashing tends to fall into three categories: intentional, accidental, and just plain asinine. Fully aware that it may be a subset of both the first and third of these categories, I’d like to posit one more– “disingenuous.” Of the four, this is the most insidious, the most reckless, and the most dangerous.

Take, for example, the case of the paper merchant that touts its chain-of-custody certification, but has no certified paper to sell. The green claim is a true one, as far as it goes, but it is hollow and misleading. There is nothing “green” about a C-o-C certification. It only documents that a company has the ability to track a certified product as it moves through a given facility. Without certified product to sell, the company’s “we are XYZ-certified” boast merely seeks to make the firm appear greener than it is.

One could argue that the claim is merely premature – that the company fully intends to have certified product to sell in the future. But why make the claim now, when it is an empty boast? And why make it such a prominent part of the company’s promotion?

The answer is as obvious as a landscape-scale clearcut – it is because this company wants to use the lure of “green certification” to attract customers to products that, on their own, are lacking a green pedigree.

It’s time we stopped putting up with such shenanigans.

And speaking of disingenuity (although this has nothing to do with greenwashing), there is the case of Andrew  Langer and his “Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity.”

A project of the Institute for Liberty (which Langer directs), CAGP is, in my humble opinion, not at all about consumers – unless you count those that buy large quantities of certain high-quality, sheet-fed coated printing papers. (I’ve asked around. None of my neighbors buy that sort of thing.) Rather CAGP is all about defending big business — specifically one very big business that is losing market share and customers because those customers do not want to be affiliated with a company whose forest-conversion practices (though, arguably, legal by the standards of the Indonesian government) are deemed unacceptable by a broad range of ENGOs and other civil-society actors.

CAGP has concocted a theory that US paper companies, trade unions, environmental groups, and big box office supply retailers have joined in a secret pact to block imports of inexpensive paper from Indonesia and China. (This theory leaves out, for the moment, the US Congress which, by amending the Lacey Act to include wood and paper, may also be in on the cloak-and-dagger antics. Sheesh.)  Langer has written on multiple occasions about his concern that these actions by the “Empires of Collusion” (I’m not kidding, that’s what he calls them) will drive up the cost of school notebooks and children’s books.

Now unless I missed something, school notebooks and kids’ books are not printed on the kind of  high-end, sheet-fed coated paper that has been the focus of a trade action filed by three US paper companies, some environmental groups, and the steelworkers union – the same folks that Langer and his project claim are the “Empires of Collusion.” So dragging kids and the financial interests of their parents into what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to sway opinion in advance of an International Trade Commission decision about another type of paper entirely seems, at best, disingenuous.

One has to ask, “why would Mr. Langer care”? And, “why now”? Where was he during all the months that this trade action was pending, and when preliminary rulings were being made? And where was he during the past five or so years when the company he so vociferously champions was in the cross-hairs of environmental groups from all over the world. Is his sudden enlightenment due to some kind of “road to Damascus” epiphany, or merely due to some influx of cash from a never-to-be-disclosed source? That he is engaged now seems all too coincidental, and his assertion to me in a phone call that his interest was piqued because it was, “back to school season” just rings hollow. But that is the smoke that is being blown.

That said, this may all be just a tempest in a teapot. On October 22, the International Trade Commission, by a unanimous vote, determined that “U.S. industry is threatened with material injury by reason of imports of certain coated paper suitable for high-quality print graphics using sheet-fed presses from China and Indonesia that the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) has determined are subsidized and sold in the United States at less than fair value.” Which means that Commerce will “issue antidumping and countervailing duty orders on imports of these products from China and Indonesia.”

Game over.

Now perhaps CAGP and Mr. Langer can give it a rest.



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