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Partnering with Polluters

February 1, 2011

In this week’s MiBiz Michigan Loves Manufacturing e-blast there was news of a collaboration between Dow Chemical and the Nature Conservancy.

The e-blast news brief stated, “Dow Chemical and its foundation are committing $10 million over five years to a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, to evaluate Dow’s environmental impacts.” For those wanting more details there was a link to Environmental Leader, which identifies itself as Energy and Environmental News for Business.

The article on Environmental Leader states, “The chemical company and environmental non-profit will apply scientific knowledge to examine how Dow’s operations affect nature, and how to factor the role of nature into global business decisions, the two organizations said.

The article goes on to say that Dow and the American Chemistry Council worked to defeat an effort in Seattle to put a 20-cent price tag on plastic bags and a legislative proposal in California that would have eliminated plastic bags. This information is puzzling since it reflects to this writer an anti-environmental position, where Dow fought to keep plastic bag use the norm on the west coast.

The article then states, “The Nature Conservancy and Dow Chemical are both members of the United States Climate Action Partnership, which lobbies the government on the need for greenhouse gas reduction legislation.” However, according to Sourcewatch the US Climate Action Partnership is made up of major global polluters like Shell, GM, DuPont and Alcoa. In addition, there is no evidence that the group lobbies for greenhouse reduction, rather many of the partner groups are actually involved in opposing greenhouse-gas regulations.

In addition, the article does not raise any issues around the partnership between Dow and the Nature Conservancy. Why would a national environmental organization partner with a company that has a long track record of disregard for negative environmental and health consequences?

For some sectors of the environmental movement this partnership between a known polluter and the Nature Conservancy seems quite natural. Environmental reporter Jeffrey St. Clair notes in a recent series of stories that are critical of many of the national eco-organizations that the Nature Conservancy is “the most unapologetically pro-corporate of all environmental groups.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has a history if supporting corporate friendly policies, with the recent example of their support for a water diversion canal in California that would benefit agri-business. In May of 2010, the Washington Post wrote a story about TNC’s long-time relationship with BP, in which the organization’s CEO defended this partnership.

TNC argues that it is better to develop partnerships with huge corporate polluters than to just see them as the enemy. This kind of relationship has been financially very lucrative, but does it compromise on real environmental protection? Is the decision by Dow to hire The Nature Conservancy merely a PR move to win over public support for their claims of practicing sustainability?

These are important questions that we should all demand that news sources ask when reporting on partnerships between large corporations and environmental groups. It is not enough to assume that real sustainability will be practiced just because the groups involved make such a claim.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Spaulding permalink
    February 1, 2011 11:49 pm

    This is especially relevant in Michigan where the new governor claims his environmental credentials stem from his relationship with The Nature Conservancy.


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