There’s a lot to be said for helping motorists reduce their environmental impact, but the latest press release from Kwik-Fit, promoting the UK’s first green car service, focuses on carbon offsetting ahead of the service issues it alleges will “turn your car into a greener machine.”
Go Green, which is hidden in the MoT and servicing section of the company’s website, offers to “motorists with a convenient way of neutralising their motoring carbon footprint for up to six months – by giving £10 to an independent carbon offsetting company on their behalf.”
So paying £29 on top of a normal interim service, offers a few additional checks and a tenner to plant a few trees. Does this really amount to creating a “green machine”.
There is real danger in using such sloganism around environmental issues – Go Green possibly does offer real tangible benefits, but it feels more like a sales or press agentry initiative.
Yet again we see the lazy carbon offsetting approach employed. As a motorist, you can offset carbon directly by signing up to one of these companies, do it when buying a new car (eg VW), offset through the fuel you choose (that’ll be BP’s Target Neutral scheme) and again with your car insurance (eg ibuyeco). And, let’s not forget, you can pay for it all with your Barclays Breathe offsetting credit card. Hey, you can not only be neutral, but with all the offsetting options, as a car owner you can claim to be carbon negative!!
Let’s face it people – all this carbon offsetting does not neutralise your motoring habits. There are ways you can reduce your impact through vehicle choice, driving behaviour, car sharing, and most importantly, reducing the amount you drive.
If you are interested in “climate friendly projects”, then donate a few hundred pound direct to a good cause – and cut out the middle men who are making millions from salving your conscience.
Because they – and the companies who offer these carbon offsetting schemes – are largely looking at this as a marketing opportunity.
The Marketing Manager’s Yearbook contains an article by Sean Fleming from Clarity PR who claims in respect of being carbon neutral: “where there’s a headline-grabbing issue there’s a marketing opportunity, and some organisations haven’t been slow to recognise this. By adopting the green-is-the-new-black approach you can look well informed, responsible and trustworthy. Or your actions could all too easily look like a cynical attempt to exploit the situation. Getting the balance right isn’t easy”.
He goes onto state that by becoming carbon neutral, “you can completely negate the harmful effects on the environment of a given activity”. He does caution businesses to be genuine, but as an ex-journalist turned PR he claims:
There has been a backlash in some sectors of the press, aimed at those of us in the marketing services sector choosing to adopt an environmentally aware position. The chief allegation is that we are cynically jumping on the green bandwagon in an attempt to curry favour with clients and prospects, and win more business! We don’t actually care about the environment, and as soon as the next bandwagon rolls by we’ll be on it PDQ. Or, others have claimed, our motivation is guilt – we hope to expunge our bloated consumerist lifestyles, our urban 4x4s, what have you. You have to wonder about journalists that insist on trotting out such clichéd stereotypes; do they live in neighbourhoods where the burglars all wear striped jumpers and carry sacks with “swag” written on them?
Being critical of offsetting isn’t just journalistic griping, there are serious logical objections to such initiatives. I believe most companies are using offsetting as a brand message or to stimulate business. We know this, because the marketing departments are behind the idea to offset. This isn’t environmentalism on the quiet, but “look at how green I am” promotion. As David Phillips would argue – it is about bling rather than values.