Ethical Performance
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Beware futile gestures, says campaigner

May 2010

A prominent British environmental activist has warned companies to be wary of ‘green hopefuls’ who encourage them to make eye-catching but essentially futile corporate gestures.

Alistair McIntosh, visiting professor of human ecology at Strathclyde University in the UK, told delegates at last month’s CR Reporting Awards event in London that too many businesses are distracted by vocal and idealistic green lobbyists pushing for headline-grabbing but superficial changes.

He said: ‘I get fed up in the environmental movement with the green hopefuls – many of whom are hippies with an inheritance – who persuade companies to do this and do that but very often [suggest] little more than putting a windmill on a roof.’  

McIntosh, a member of the cement company Lafarge’s sustainability stakeholder panel, added: ‘So often in the corporate world you get pulled into those kinds of things, with the consequence that your measures turn out be mere greenwash. Is a wind turbine on the top of your skyscraper headquarters really going to make a difference?
‘I’m more interested in the idea of green truth, of going for things that really matter. There is often a gap between the green vision and reality, and companies should beware of that.’

At the CR Reporting Awards, Vodafone was named 2009’s best sustainability reporter, taking the title for the second consecutive year. The awards, which are decided exclusively by report readers voting at, commended Walt Disney in the best first-time report category, and Hewlett-Packard for its carbon disclosure. BP and the Co-operative Group were runners-up in the best overall report section.

University of Strathclyde | Global | Sustainability

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