Greenpeace Calls Coca-Cola's Environmental Promo Products 'Greenwashing'
Critics are calling out Coca-Cola and climate activism event COP27 in Egypt for a branded partnership that it deems is counterintuitive to the meeting's mission, and meant to "greenwash" Coca-Cola's reputation for being a major source of plastic waste.
As part of the event, Coca-Cola created branded COP27 products, like an ice cube tray that makes polar bear-shaped ice, an ocean plastic bin, Crocs and more, according to LBB.
Climate activism organizations like Greenpeace and the eco-focused social media platform Wherefrom say that Coca-Cola is attempting to launder its reputation as a business that hasn't always adopted new environmental norms with products that ostensibly help with climate change awareness, and that COP27 organizers dropped the ball by allowing Coca-Cola to be the brand on otherwise OK products.
"Coca-Cola produces 120 billion throwaway plastic bottles a year – and 99$ of plastics are made from fossil fuels, worsening both the plastic and climate crisis," Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign director John However said in a statement. "This partnership undermines the very objective of the event it seeks to sponsor."
In response, Coca-Cola outlined how it feels it is combatting the climate challenge, according to The Guardian:
“We share the goal of eliminating waste from the ocean and appreciate efforts to raise awareness about this challenge. We are prepared to do our part and have set ambitious goals for our business, starting with helping to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one we sell – regardless of where it comes from – by 2030.
“In 2020 we signed a joint statement urging United Nations member states to adopt a global treaty to tackle the plastic waste issue through a holistic, circular economy approach … Our support for Cop27 is in line with our science-based target to reduce absolute carbon emissions 25% by 2030, and our ambition for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
The issue for the promotional products itself is that they are now wrapped up in the controversy, regardless of how pure the intentions. A product designed to help people collect waste from the ocean, or simply to become more aware of climate issue, is good.
Bottom line: Coca-Cola and COP27 have an optics problem, and it tarnishes the effectiveness of the promotional products. Will people want to hold onto products from an event they feel conflicted about? Will they want to use a product to fight pollution with a company's name on it that they feel isn't representative of the work?
This taps into the larger idea of brand visibility and the cliche "all press is good press." Not all logo visibility is good logo visibility. Regardless of where you fall on the issue, the fact is that Coca-Cola and the event organizers are now involved in drama, which is the last thing you want your branded merchandise to be associated with.
The event organizers at COP27 likely could have used another company as the product sponsor. Instead, they're facing a PR battle and might even be left with unused promotional items, which doesn't exactly help the cause of limiting waste, does it?