Tar vs. Blood – Fools, PR and the shifting sands of corporate social responsibility

The trendy thing to do these days for trendy companies that sell trendy products is to show their trendy customers that these companies care about more than just their bottom line, they also care about how showing that they care can affect the same.

Take climate change. An issue that is all the rage (at least is was before the global economic downturn) among consumers who have been inundated with a large and wasteful awareness campaign about it. Yes, we’ve all learned about the perils of out-of-control consumption, have been directed to consume more, but to consume products that are allegedly less harmful to humanity. So how are multinational corporations serving humanity these days?

Take the Gap, Timberland and Levi’s.

These three companies are the latest to boycott the Alberta “tarsands” because of the CO2 emissions that come from the extraction process. Here’s CP’s writeup:

Another four major U.S. companies are joining the move to either avoid or completely boycott fuel produced from Alberta’s oilsands.

The Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss have all told their transportation contractors that they will either give preference to those who avoid the oilsands or have asked them what they’re doing to eliminate those fuels.

The move adds to growing international economic pressure on the oilsands industry and the Alberta government to reduce its environmental impact.

Indeed, the Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss are shifting away from the Alberta oilsands. But is it a focus on the elimination of oil? No, we can see that the order put out has been to only avoid oil from Alberta’s oilsands projects.

In a market system, when you pull one source you must supplant with another. And indeed, that’s what’s happened here. If these companies don’t get their oil from Alberta, the supply will be increased from other sources, namely countries that breed terror and radicalized citizens that wish to see people in Western countries suffer.

It is unclear whether the Gap, Timberland and Levis have told their stores in Riyadh Saudi Arabia to boycott Alberta’s oilsands oil, but this poses an important question: does the socially conscious Saudi shopper care enough about how those Albertan oil tycoons are murdering the Earth? And if so, when will we see a boycott?

Comments

comments

  • Liz J

    Are we seeing a shift from Western values in the USA? Allowing a Mosque complex around Ground Zero on what their families and people capable of reasoned thought consider to be sacred to the memory of those who died there and now steering business to terror breeding states in the Middle East.

    The drug company Walgreens in the US is also in on this act.

    What to do? Boycott Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss for a start. Our government needs to do a little work on this one as well.

    Anyone wonder where Obama’s head is?

    What do we do?

  • Alberta Bob

    Fine. I’ll play that game too. I won’t show at these places now.

  • Mthielen

    So those companies will support the closing of stations, loss of jobs, where ever AB oil is used. Nice to know they support the blood oil and are thus financing those muslim countries in their quest to rule the world. Will those companies sell to customers who use AB oil and gas to get to their stores. What if trucking companies that use AB oil say, fine, we just wont deliver to your stores.

  • batb

    Aside from where these companies are going to buy their oil/gas products to transport their goods, what are their carbon footprints?

    I’m getting really tired of profligate, lifestyle gurus and their companies pretending to care about the earth’s resources, while they’re promiscuously plundering them. I don’t plan to buy anymore GAP crap, nor Levis. I never shop at Walgreen’s or Timberland, so they don’t figure on my radar. But if I ever come across them, I’ll make other choices.

  • johndoe124

    Interesting. I happen to be in the market for a couple of pair of jeans. I usually buy Levi’s, until today.

  • mecheng

    Oh…and it is absolutely priceless that companies that outsource their manufacturing overseas and then FLY OR BOAT THEIR PRODUCTS HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD are complaining about how the oilsands has too many emissions.

    Hasn’t the Gap been accused of using sweatshops?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CHG7OC7S2YZT3VX5EGZ43DHVYI Rob Vollman

    Stephen, you are absolutely right.

    If an American company doesn’t get their energy from the oilsands, that means they’re getting it from American coal mines, Venezuela, the Gulf, Alaska, or bringing in more from the Middle East.

    Good luck if you think any of those are a superior environmental option, or a better option to advanced social programs or human rights.

    (Meanwhile the oilsands will sell to China instead)

  • wilson

    It’s an advertising gimmick. and I’m betting it is justification for raising their prices.
    ‘you pay more, but you save the planet’

    Consumers will ultimately decide.

    The consumers of the oilsands projects, China , Korea, Taiwan etc, have an insatiable appetite.
    And if all these so called enviro friendly companies export the manufacturing of their products to cheap Asian workers,
    they are indeed using oilsands fuel…… who are they kidding?

  • wilson

    What do we do?

    We keep on keepin’ on, and stay proud.
    No amount of badgering from special interest groups is going to stop oilsands production.
    The world, particularly the US, needs a stable, reliable flow of oil.

  • Anonymous

    Heya Stephen, good to see your still pounding away here mate.

    Isn’t the GAP one of the worst companies for using foreign child labor? Do they really have the moral authority to be squealing about anyone elses abuses? To me it’s kinda like Hitler complaining about Ghengis Kahn……

  • mecheng

    My response from the Gap…they are claiming that there is no boycott and they are simply asking questions.

    Dear XXXXX,

    Thank you for your e-mail regarding tar sands. We take issues of this
    nature very seriously and appreciate you giving us the opportunity to
    address your concerns.

    Gap Inc. has not initiated a boycott. We are committed to operating our
    business in a way that is both socially and environmentally responsible.
    As part of our practice of doing business, we have asked potential
    transportation providers who want to work with Gap Inc. to provide some
    details about what they are doing – or planning to do – to eliminate
    high carbon-intensive fuels.

    We understand the complexity and sensitivity around this issue, and will
    continue to monitor its impact on our business and the communities in
    which we operate.

    Thank you again for allowing us the opportunity to address your
    concerns.

    Sincerely,

    Stephanie
    Customer Relations

  • Timwest

    Many Family, Friends and co-workers will now boycott in return and e-mailed them.

    E-mails below for other Business ………… Gap also owns Old Navy & Bananarepublic.
    ‘custserv@bananarepublic.com’
    ‘custserv@oldnavy.com’

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2010/08/27/edmonton-antii-oilsands-campaign.html#socialcomments

    Customer service at the GAP: custserv@gap.com

    http://www.gap.com/customerService/info.do?cid=7843&mlink=5058,1901277,3&clink=1901277

    ***Timberland: csrinfo@timberland.com

    ***Walgreens: Customerservice@mail2.walgreens.com

    http://www.walgreens.com/marketing/contactus/forms.jsp505Agree 0DisagreePolicy Report

  • Liz J

    Thanks for the links, Timwest, it’s incumbent upon us all to send them a message, they don’t mess with Canadians without consequences.

  • batb

    Hey, mecheng, guess what? I got the same reply! ‘Only a different GAP employee signed mine! What maroons. ‘No more GAP stuff for me. ‘No more Levis, either. I don’t need their crap.

  • Liz J

    Good sign, sending out the same reply could mean they’re getting lots of emails. It’s important to let them know we also know all their connected companies and will boycott them as well.

    Wonder if this will grow , we need more public awareness of this, picketing a few stores in the city when folks are busy buying back to school stuff at the freaking Gap.

  • mecheng

    I responded to their response by taking offence tot he term tarsands and then asking Stephanie if the Gap was happier doing business with the socially responsible Saudi government who would not allow her out in public by herself, or with the environmentally irresponsible Canadians.

  • mecheng

    Got a response from Levi’s as well…not on this computer so can’t copy it here.

    They basically denied a boycott on Alberta oil and apologized for the confusion.

    Somebody is not telling the truth.

  • Anonymous

    Mr Taylor, I’m somewhat confused that you’d waste digital ink on this subject.

    First… would your CPC base even be patronizing these companies? Their kids might be, but it’s not like their kids follow right-wing blogs…

    If these companies don’t get their oil from Alberta, the supply will be increased from other sources, namely countries that breed terror and radicalized citizens that wish to see people in Western countries suffer.

    Ah… like Mexico? Russia, UAE, China, Norway? I thought we liked them…(Ok, so you don’t actually know who the big oil exporters are.)

    A bigger question is why the west would buy ANY oil from the nasty states you really meant to highlight. But we do. Lots. Where does the CPC stand on that?

    And the most puzzling part of all – why are conservatives so adamantly opposed to “conserving” resources? The Alberta oilsands will not last forever, yet we are ripping into it, extracting and selling as fast as technically possible, with negative environmental effects. Why exactly is it anti-conservative to suggest that we should slow down, maybe make this resource last longer, and in that way not be making such a big mess of Northern Alberta?

  • Anonymous

    The vast majority of oilsands oil currently goes to the US, making us their #1 supplier .

    Plans are being made to pipe more oil and raw bitumen (tar, sorry) to the coast for the Asian market.

  • Liz J

    What’s new?

  • Liz J

    What’s new?

  • Anonymous

    The main reason Canada buys oil from these nasty states was because of PET’s wonderful legacy of the NEP.

    How many years ago was THAT? Did your Dad tell you about the nasty ole NEP?

    This in NO WAY explains why we continue to do so today. Harper’s been in power for how long? And why won’t a Conservative government… conserve?

    Finally, conservatives are more concerned with providing jobs to people. Clearly the highest correlation to general human wellbeing is industrial development. Why liberals want to oppose job creation in favor of dependance upon foreign entities who not only don’t care about the environment (Canada’s oil development is the greenest on the planet, bar none) but also don’t care much for human rights, democracy, or workers rights is just plain lunacy.

    Shovelfuls of fun in that paragraph.

    Regardless of who does it, tarsands are still a ‘dirty’ source of oil production. Have a peek at some aerial photos. If they could go a little slower, they might also be a little cleaner.

    The tarsands have made Alberta all giddy, but overall the resulting job-creation is fairly modest, considering the revenue generated. And the government didn’t have to lift a finger; the oil markets and the big multinationals made those jobs happen. (to the delight of migrant Newfoundlanders)

    The only job-creating solution in the CPC toolbox is tax cuts, and that will only go so far. What else has Harper done to genuinely create jobs? What new industries has he helped develop? Where are the programs that build strength in new sectors? Expanded education? Research centres?

    You want an example of proactive job creation? Have a peek at Ontario’s alternative power industry. I’m not his biggest fan, but McGuinty’s moves in this area have caused alot of industry action, buyouts and startups, new partnerships, and Ontario is now one of the North American hotspots for photovoltaic (solar cell) research and manufacturing. Ontario is now poised to be a world-leader in alternative-energy technology. Oil will run out; alternative energy is here to stay.

    … liberals want to oppose job creation in favor of dependance upon foreign entities who not only don’t care about the environment …but also don’t care much for human rights, democracy, or workers rights.

    … like Mexico? Russia, UAE, Norway?

    Again – Harper’s been in power long enough to change all that, if he actually gave a rats ass about that stuff. Do not look to the CPC for environmental concern, human rights, democracy, or workers rights… you will be disappointed.