BP blah blah… arggggh

13th May 2011 by

Isn’t it nice when corporations give something back? BP, formerly known as British Petroleum (also once laughably known as ‘Beyond Petroluem’*), has a Trading Challenge Roadshow that it takes to schools.

It’s an enterprise workshop that has young people trading oil prices. The facilitator actually tells them to ‘buy low, sell high’. So good to see organisations working to instill values and healthy ambitions in young people.

There are so many things wrong with this, I barely know where to start, but here are a few of them:

–       teaching young people gambling is immoral by most people’s standards

–       teaching young people that making money is the single most important thing is morally dubious by my  standards

–       BP’s plans to invest in the horrific tar sands development (causing rare cancers, pushing indigenous people off their land, stripping ancient forest, polluting water supplies, enormous carbon emissions, stupidly energy and water intensive extraction process etc. etc.)

–       BP’s part in the disappearance of community activists in Columbia

–       BP’s oh so respectful push to resume deep water drilling in the Gulf Mexico just a year after the infamous oil spill (which continues to spill oil as I type)

–       BP’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic, one of the few untainted places left on earth

–       BP’s safety record in general

–       errrrr, climate change

* An extract from BP’s website:
‘Beyond petroleum’ sums up our brand in the most succinct and focused way possible. It’s both what we stand for and a practical description of what we do
An extract of my reaction to that:
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Climate Weak- the kerfuffle continues

28th March 2011 by

As avid followers of our blog will know, Otesha, People & Planet and Magnificent Revolution sent a joint open letter about the questionable corporate sponsorship of Climate Week.

The letter was sent out to:

– the organisers of Climate Week (who did not reply)
– the celebrities who have put their name to it (who also did not reply, although apparently it was forwarded on to Vivian Westwood’s PA)
– the sponsors (Tesco, RBS, Aviva, EDF and Kellogs, as yet no reply from any of them either)
– all of the voluntary sector organisations who’ve signed up to support Climate Week

We didn’t have many responses from the voluntary sector, but those we did have were pretty interesting. One organisation were adamant that they were not affiliated in any way with Climate Week (Climate Week’s website thinks otherwise). Another group thanked us “for speaking out”. Another asked us to consider our position on the ground that “it’s probably best to welcome even small, maybe token, steps like this (RBS’ involvement)…  after all, somebody in RBS probably argued their heads off to get even this agreed”. Someone else we contacted shared how they had thought long and hard about supporting Climate Week, “in my personal life, I encourage everyone I know to bank with alternatives to the main high street banks (they are all bad) and I don’t shop at Tescos and encourage friends and family to shop locally. However, in my professional life I need to try to reach beyond the converted and I think Climate Week is a way of doing so”. Others thanked us for simply sharing our thoughts and concerns.

We were definitely not the only people pondering the Climate Week conundrum. The transition network has been buzzing with tough questions about Climate Week. What do we gain by labeling others as ‘climate villains’ or ‘inspiring leaders’? The Hub Islington hosted a wonderfully named ‘Climate Weak’ panel discussion on the ethics of working with corporates and corporate sponsorship (summarised here).

Platform and a coalition of other NGOs released a report during Climate Week, ‘Dirty Money – Corporate greenwash and RBS coal finance’.

UKYCC, after accepting an award for Most Inspirational Young Person, issued a statement which outlined their concerns about RBSs sponsoring Climate Week whilst still being heavily involved in the destructive tar sands development project in Canada.

Then to top it all off, the Guardian revealed that Climate Week is a for-profit organisation! And that last one left me speechless. Ok, it didn’t, of course I have plenty to say about profiting from Climate Week, but it’s all so obvious that I’m not even going to bother. We all know what I would say anyway.

An open letter to Climate Week

15th March 2011 by

Dear Climate Week Supporters, Sponsors, Organisers and Judges,

We are writing to you because of your involvement with March 2011 Climate Week. This signifies a clear commitment to taking strong action on climate change, and we applaud you for this. Whilst we are completely behind the aims of Climate Week, we have concerns about Climate Week’s corporate sponsors, the Royal Bank of Scotland in particular. Some organisations who were invited to enter the Climate Week awards, including the Otesha Project and Magnificent Revolution, have been unable to do so because they feel that the association of RBS with Climate Week constitutes ‘greenwash’.

We support Climate Week’s intention to ‘shine a spotlight on the many positive steps already being taken in workplaces and communities across Britain’ and use these examples to inspire others. However we do not agree that RBS is ‘supporting the transition to a low carbon economy’.

Unfortunately any positive steps taken by RBS in their business operations and in their investment in the renewable energy sector are far outweighed by RBS’ continued investment in carbon intensive industries. Whilst sponsorship of Climate Week could constitute a welcome first step on a journey to more sustainable practice for a bank which self-identifies as ‘The Oil and Gas Bank’, there is currently no evidence to suggest that this sponsorship represents anything more significant than ‘greenwash’.  Perhaps this rebranding is a response to continued criticism from numerous NGOs and grassroots campaigns, which has led to more widespread negative publicity for the bank. However it is concrete action, not rebranding, which is required.

RBS cites its high ranking by the Carbon Disclosure Project as testimony to its environmental credentials. Unfortunately the CDP ranking does not appear to have sufficient scope to capture the entirety of carbon emissions for which a company such as RBS is responsible: only the energy usage within bank branches and offices is taken into account. Whilst every action taken to reduce carbon emissions is important, it is vital that we do not allow the championing of RBS’ weak energy saving measures to obscure the far more damaging practices financed by RBS, such as the coal, oil and gas industries. We are particularly concerned with RBS’ financing of the Canadian Tar Sands, the exploitation of this resource is trampling indigenous rights, destroying vast areas of ancient boreal forest, and has the potential to cause runaway climate change (for more information see ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/kunzig-text).

Sponsorship from companies with such weak green credentials lends legitimacy to the flawed concept that one small action is a sufficient reaction to climate change and that changing the light bulbs allows us to continue ‘business as usual’.
We urge you to reconsider your involvement with Climate Week and to raise these concerns with others involved in Climate Week.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this letter further, please contact Jo Clarke (jo@otesha.org.uk).

Your Sincerely,

The Otesha Project UK
www.otesha.org.uk

People & Planet
www.peopleandplanet.org

Magnificent Revolution
www.magnificentrevolution.org

The day they blocked the railway

9th February 2011 by

In April 2010, 13 people literally put their necks on the line blockading the railway at Ffos y Fran and halting the coal train on its way to Aberthaw power station. Ffos y Fran, in Merthyr Tydfil is the largest opencast coal mine in the UK. There has been a long campaign opposing Ffos y Fran mine by local residents and climate activists alike.

A spokesperson for the Rising Tide activists said, “Opencast mining trashes the landscape, contributes massively to climate change and threatens the health of local people. We need to leave coal in the ground, and that’s why we put our necks on the line to stop a coal train.”

“With their hands in the pockets of corporations, it’s not surprising that governments failed us at the Copenhagen climate summit. We can’t rely on their false solutions anymore. It’s up to ordinary people taking direct action to stop climate chaos. Fossil fuel extraction devastates communities and is being resisted around the world, from opencast mining in Merthyr to tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada.”

This is a beautiful little video about the day they blocked the railway.

Josie Long & Otesha meet Climate Camp

2nd September 2010 by

Ta da!! Here is our first foray into film with our patron, comedian Josie Long! Over the next few months, we will be showcasing some of the coolest and best aspects of the social and environmental justice movement here in the UK and relating it back to our daily lives.

This month, we went to Climate Camp in Edinburgh. A thousand activists camping outside RBS headquarters and protesting against their investment in fossil fuels and destructive projects like the tar sands may not seem relevant to a lot of us, but when you think that the bank is 84% owned by the UK taxpayer, it makes you wonder where your money is going.

So this month, we’re not necessarily asking you to siege your local bank branch (although, that of course, is your individual choice). We are asking you to put your money where your ethics are, pester your parents about their pension and above all, be honourable. That’s the title of Josie’s current show (nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award!), which is about trying to act in line with your beliefs, saying goodbye to complacency and just being aware that there are people out there fighting for a cleaner, greener, fairer world. Sounds pretty good to us.

You’ll have to excuse some of the poor sound and light quality in the video – it was me, Josie, a flip cam and a bike light running around in the dark! The next one will be more fancy.

Banking, bikes & bombs

5th August 2010 by

After so much anticipation it seemed they arrived quite suddenly, this swarm of Barclays branded bicycles. Every day for a week a new rack of docking stations appeared at different points on my route to work. By the weekend people were riding the things. I don’t know why, we’d been talking about London’s new cycle hire scheme for ages, but I was surprised to see people actually using it. I like the scheme, I think it’s a practical transport solution with ambitious aims (to create 40,000 extra cycle trips a day in central London), but I imagined it would take people a little longer to get into the seat of the idea.

What took even less time though, was the subvertising of the scheme. The night before the launch Anti Arms Trade activists covered the bikes with stickers proclaiming Barclays involvement in the global arms trade. There are 6,000 Barclays bikes, almost 4000 of which got stickered with messages about Barclays activities: “INVESTS IN CLUSTER BOMBS. OFFERS LOANS FOR NEW LIMBS” – “DOESN’T GIVE A **** ABOUT YOU” – “£20M INVESTMENT IN BIKES. £7300M INVESTMENT IN BOMBS” – “FUNDING DEPLETED URANIUM BIRTH DEFECTS IN IRAQ” and “INVESTS £7.3 BILLION IN THE ARMS TRADE”.

At the Press launch the following morning Barclays (who along with HSBC and RBS, also invests in the Tar Sands) chairman Magnus Agius had “nothing to say” about the stickers. It might be unfair to ruin Magnus’ big day, but it does raise the question can you do good with bad money?

The bike hire scheme is a great, progressive thing that all big cities should boast. In this era of public funding cuts it would’ve been much harder to achieve without corporate sponsorship. But no other city in the world with similar schemes has taken full sponsorship from one company. The hope is that the stickers will raise awareness of Barclays position not only as the cycle hire sponsor, but also as the largest investor in the arms trade in the world.

Pester your parents about their pensions

1st April 2010 by

Parents are tricky aren’t they? You can’t leave them alone for one minute, in case they go and invest their pension funds in huge energy-sucking, environment destroying initiatives like the tar sands.

Oh, what? They have already? Bad parents!

They deserve to be grounded, but since we can’t do that, our challenge this month is to (nicely) pester our parents about their pensions instead.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dirty Oil

16th March 2010 by

Did you know Canada supplies more oil to the U.S than the Middle East? I didn’t before the other night, when I went to the premiere screening of new film Dirty Oil. As well as thoroughly enjoying myself celeb-spotting (Neve Campbell! that CBBC presenter Josie D’Arby! Some guys so good-looking they must have been famous!) I learnt about the CRAZY world of Canada’s tar sands.

Now, I don’t want to go all good guy / bad guy on you, but the tar sands are basically evil. They are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in Canada, they are polluting the water, destroying the Boreal Forest, deforming fish and wildlife in all kinds of nasty ways, and elevating cancer rates in communities downstream, many of which are indigenous (or first nations) communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Put Your Money Where Your Ethics Are

3rd October 2009 by

This month we’re challenging you to put your money where your mouth is. Get the ethiscore on your bank and if you don’t like it, pester them to change it or change your bank. Commercial banks have been known to invest in arms, oil pipelines, tar sands oil extraction and operate in tax havens. In 2006, the carbon dioxide emissions embedded in RBS’s project finance was greater than the carbon dioxide emissions of Scotland itself- shocker !

But smile, there are other banking options out there, including Co-op (and their internet branch Smile ) and Triodos .

Statistically you’re more likely to get divorced than change your bank account, so we challenge you to prove statistics wrong. If you do feel wedded to your old bank, ask to see a copy of their ethical policy and tell them what they think about it. And if you are divorcing your bank, it’s always a good idea to tell them why you think their behaviour is so unreasonable.


Search Blog

Get Social