Greenpeace campaigns: unserious, unreasonable, unbelievable

On the surface it is easy to regard campaigns by the global environmental activist group Greenpeace as amusingly irreverent or, as PR Week, the trade magazine for public relations professionals, described one such recent attack against the toymaker Mattel, “compelling.” But if any news outlets would ever take a hard, scrutinizing look inside Greenpeace’s media relations tactics, they’d find a method rife with irresponsible harassment, inaccurate claims, and wildly unrealistic demands.

It turns out, for instance, that the broadside against Mattel was based entirely on Greenpeace’s misrepresentation of lab results that the activists claimed “show that packaging used by leading toy brands regularly contains Indonesian rainforest fibre.” But following that Greenpeace declaration and the fawning media coverage that resulted, the very lab that Greenpeace had enlisted denounced them as frauds. “We have not and are unable to identify country of origin of the samples,” the CEO of Integrated Paper Services, Bruce R. Shafer, said publicly. “We are unable to comment on the credibility of the statements Greenpeace has made regarding country of origin.”

The company that sourced the paper materials to Mattel, Asia Pulp & Paper, went even further, pointing out that some 95 percent of the packaging materials came from recycled paper and that the remaining 5 percent is sourced from environmentally certified forests around the world. So, not only was the paper environmentally upstanding, Greenpeace’s PR effort was, as AP&P put it, “completely unsubstantiated and false.”

A similar sort of attack by Greenpeace is currently underway against America’s most well-known canned tuna brands, each members of our trade association. Greenpeace is demanding, bizarrely, that all tuna be caught one at a time with a fishing pole. Seriously. Greenpeace has no answer for what this would cost consumers or the fuel, boats, and labor needed to pursue this antiquated method, one that could never hope to meet global demand.

And although Greenpeace insists it wants a “serious dialogue” on tuna sustainability, here are just some of the outlandish tactics they have been using:

● Posting online videos of violent and sexualized caricatures of the tuna companies’ cartoon mascots, all of which can be readily viewed by children.

● Manipulating unwitting people on street corners to place harassing, scripted phone calls to company switchboards.

● Dressing up a staffer in a plushy shark costume to accost parents and children in supermarket parking lots to tell them that “Nemo” may be killed.

● Encouraging their Facebook followers to place scripted robocalls to tuna companies, many of which include accusations of “rape,” “thievery,” “piracy” and assorted other threats.

Apparently that’s what passes for clever PR thinking at Greenpeace these days. But these are hardly exceptions. Recent campaigns of theirs against other companies have depicted popular children’s characters decapitating a tiger with a chainsaw, shooting a caged polar bear in the head, or having costumed children blown up from space by a “Volkswagen Death Star.”