Belgium's first greenwash award goes to home-grown meat campaign

23 June 2012

The first ever Belgian award for greenwashing was presented in Brussels today.

The prize is awarded to companies or organisations who present themselves as being greener than they really are. The prize was awarded during the 'Big Greenwash Circus', a conference about greenwashing which was organised by Climaxi, together with other organisations including Friends of the Earth Flanders & Brussels, Wervel, Fairfin, Corporate Europe Observatory, and 't Uilekot.

More than six hundred people took part in the poll to decide the winner, including many from the environmental movement.

The award was won by VLAM, the Flemish Centre for Agricultural and Fishery Marketing, for their sustainability campaign called "Meat from here? With pleasure! Safe, nutritious and responsible" and the TV commercial that promotes pork as "home-grown meat".

The message of the publicity campaign is clear: meat from "here" is good for the environment because it reduces food miles. The TV ad bathes in an atmosphere of relaxation and enjoyment. For strategic reasons VLAM fails to mention that for every kilogram of meat "from here" a lot more than a kilo of soya has to be imported "from somewhere else". The strapline ought to read: "Animal feed from the South? Not in my mouth!" together with a clear message that we need to considerably reduce our meat consumption to stop climate change.

Other nominees for the award included BNP Paribas, a bank which promotes itself as being responsible and sustainable, but invests in heavily polluting industries; the oil company BP, which as main sponsor of the Olympic Games is offering to make the games carbon neutral, and in the process make itself look greener than it is; the FSC sustainable wood and paper label that considers wood from huge monoculture plantations as sustainable; and the Round Table for Responsible Soy, which is the first organisation whose label includes, and so gives a green tint to, GM RoundUp Ready soya.

The first 'Big Greenwash Circus' was timed to coincide with the Rio+20 Summit. Over 100 participants took part in workshops and debates about greenwashing and possible alternatives. It was an exciting conference with national and international speakers. The organisers plan to repeat the award ceremony in the future.

The conference included a discussion between Wilfried Huissman, the director of the controversy-causing German documentary film 'The Silence of the Panda' about the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the international WWF spokesperson Phil Dickie.

The participants stressed the need for an environmental movement which acts in solidarity with the oppressed worldwide, the labour movement, organisations from the global South, and the poor, and which is independent from industry. It was felt that there can be no global change on climate or environmental issues without also tackling deregulation. A community should have the right to vote on legislation and to make decisions about things which affect their lives. Relying on markets to solve our environmental problems has failed to achieve any positive results in the last 20 years. Climaxi underlines that the pathetic results in Rio are the consequence of this market-orientated thinking. The so-called 'green economy' is the latest false solution that has been put forward as a way to sell the destruction of the planet rather than to stop it.

Belgium (Flanders and Brussels), Belgium (Wallonia and Brussels)