The Climate Week Conundrum

9th February 2011 by

Last week we had a phone call inviting us to enter the Climate Week Awards. Climate Week is a new national event to get individuals, schools and businesses taking action on climate change. So far, so good. But closer inspection reveals that Climate Week is sponsored by RBS, the infamous publicly owned bank sometimes also known as the ‘Oil Bank of Scotland’ (see Platform’s report on RBS’s financing of oil and gas industries). So it would appear that while RBS are funding Climate Week, they’re also funding climate change.

Other dubious sponsors of Climate Week include Tesco and EDF Energy. Tesco now controls over 30% of the grocery market in the UK. In 2010, the supermarket chain announced profits of £3.4bn. Growing evidence indicates that Tesco’s success is partly based on trading practices that are having serious consequences for suppliers, farmers and workers worldwide, local shops and the environment.

EDF Energy produce almost one-quarter of the nation’s electricity from nuclear, coal and gas power stations, as well as combined heat and power plants and wind farms. 25% of their electricity is produced through burning coal and only 7% comes renewables (less than the UK’s target to get 10% of all electricity generation from renewable sources by 2010).

So what to do? We are taking a multi-pronged approach:

  • Otesha will not be entering any Climate Week Awards. We have a corporate screening policy that prevents us from accepting donations fromcorporations whose practices or reputation might, in the opinion of staff or management committee, diminish the credibility of Otesha UK; corporations that actively promote environmental citizenship without actively adjusting corporate practices to respond to those needs; corporations that through advertising methods actively participate in green washing‘. Although any Award we might receive would not be financial, we consider an ‘in kind’ donation of publicity or any other support to also be subject to the same criteria.
  • We are writing an open letter to Climate Week, Climate Week’s judges, sponsors and supporting organisations explaining our decision and our concerns.
  • Whilst we have concerns about the funding of Climate Week we are completely supportive of the aims of Climate Week. We are inviting schools to partner with Otesha to mark Climate Week with hands-on sustainability workshops on Fairtrade, bike maintenance, recycled fashion, the media and consumerism, growing food and energy use in the school.

We know that lots of other organisations have been considering the same Climate Week condundrum, and we’d be interested to know what other people think.

10 Responses to “The Climate Week Conundrum”

  1. Louise Hazan says:

    Well done Otesha for not buying into the corporate greenwash. People & Planet and other groups are gathering support from a range of organisations for coordinate action to expose RBS’ hypocrisy.

    There’s a Facebook event here to get the latest:

    And more info about their long-running campaign to clean up RBS and more details on countering RBS’ Climate Week greenwash attempts here:

  2. Kerry says:

    I think it matters where sponsorship comes from as much as all the other green policies. We cant expect RBS to improve their dirty income if we go and dirty ours!

  3. Kyla says:

    I completely agree with you Otesha. We must be vigilant about where our funding comes from. How can we be taken seriously if the very corporates and nasties we work so hard to criticize and draw attention to are the same people who are giving us cash to do so. No, that completely undermines anything we say or do. What a waste of time all round. Oh and also: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’ says Einstein The Dude.

  4. Hanna says:

    Especially being Otesha you’ve done the right thing by NOT crowling up their a… Because that’s what it would be. Your teaching me to live differently and if you accepted this I would have been very dissapointed by my teacher.
    This land/planet needs people with a back to them! Well done!!

  5. Tom says:

    Great to see such a such a pragmatic, moral response. Climate Week is strait up greenwash so i’m happy to see we aren’t endorsing it. But I’m glad that we’re treating it is an opportunity to push meaningful, sustainable action.

  6. […] Jo Clarke at Otesha UK decides that morals come above prizes, and won’t be entering the Climate Week Awards (brought you by RBS). […]

  7. […] increasingly common place. Otesha UK, which engages young people on environmental issues, recently posted a blog about a similar issue. You might argue that in their case, the cost of deciding not to enter an […]

  8. Jo says:

    Interesting blog by Brook Lyndhurst ‘When do the ends justify the means?’ about our Climate Week Conundrum and British Airways sponsorship of Comic Relief. Excerpt below.

    ‘…But such tensions are becoming increasingly common place. Otesha UK, which engages young people on environmental issues, recently posted a blog about a similar issue. You might argue that in their case, the cost of deciding not to enter an awards competition was less severe than Comic Relief turning down a big name sponsor, but clearly the ethical tensions were as keenly felt.

    I’m glad I didn’t have to make these calls. There is evidence that the public is becoming more sophisticated in the way they relate to the environment (as demonstrated by their rapidly broadening environmental vocabulary).

    Even if you accept that the urgent need to raise money to tackle problems now may outweigh any concerns about promoting companies that cause damage to the environment, there is a growing risk that consumers will spot these tensions, and that this could damage the way a charity is perceived. Any organisation making that trade off between immediate benefit and long-term goals needs to be alive to that threat.’

  9. Well done, Otesha for pointing out that the Climate Problem needs a much more fundamental discussion of how we operate our society rather than encourage people to “do their bit”.
    We have built our civilisation on energy and fossil fuel is a very convenient and transportable method of delivering energy to where we want to use it. People tend to think of the future as being much like the present except with the obvious mistakes corrected. It is difficult for people to accept that using something as useful and convenient as oil and gas could have been an error, so it is easier to imagine that the Earth’s systems must be able to cope with whatever we throw at them. All of the data over the past years has been increasingly pointing to the (obvious) conclusion that they cannot.
    This status quo is also encouraged by the way we account for our economic activity. People want to “make money” and are happy to destroy rain-forests (and empty oceans and pollute the atmosphere) to do so because it appears “cheaper” to do so than to preserve them. That method of accounting not only drives ordinary people making ordinary every day decisions to destroy the future but assures them that it is “rational behaviour”. Maybe it was when the system was invented and the world population was a few hundred million but it clearly is not fit for purpose as we approach 7 billion. If people could make as much, or more, money out of restoring forest, replenishing seas and taking pollution out of the air, things would start to improve quickly. Not only are we a long way off that situation but the debate of how else we could do things has hardly begun.

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