Imagine what would have happened if someone would have done an “Imported from Detroit” persiflage as blatant as the one above. A horde of screeching lawyers waving court orders and threats of unspecified punitive damages would have descended on the authors. What did Volkswagen do? Volkswagen invited the creators of the movie to Wolfsburg for a chat over coffee and PowerPoints.
Greenpeace says Volkswagen is not doing enough to save the planet. Volkswagen on the other hand thinks the company is the epitome of environmental responsibility. Greenpeace wanted to discuss Volkswagen’s environmental record. The environmentalists received an invitation to Wolfsburg to see themselves. After they left, the attacks escalated, Volkswagen’s plant in Wolfsburg was picketed and the video went viral. And that’s just the beginning of a sordid story that has the pungent smell of a different kind of green …
“We had invited them to talk about what we do for the environment,” says Ines Roessler, spokesperson for environmental matters in Wolfsburg. “They came, we had a nice talk. They liked what they saw and they were impressed by the data we gave them.”
For instance, Volkswagen pointed out that the Volkswagen Group has 116 models which emit less that 120 g CO2 / km. 20 are below 100g. A new EU edict requires a fleet average of 130 g CO2 / km by 2015. Greenpeace could have read that in Volkswagen’s 2010 Sustainability Report, which is available on-line.
Volkswagen had a dual water system (grey water for industrial use and flushing the toilet, clean water for drinking and brushing your teeth), and embarked on huge recycling campaigns in the middle of last century, when green still was a signal to floor the accelerator. Volkswagen was one of the first automakers to switch to water based paints to reduce VOC emissions. Before Greenpeace was founded, Volkswagen started its own Environmental Department, the world’s first automaker to do so. Why Greenpeace insists on singling out Volkswagen as an environmental serial killer is anybody’s guess. As our CAFÉ coverage has shown, there are other companies and cars with a carbon footprint bigger than bigfoot.
All this fell on deaf ears. Instead, after the amicable exchange of opinions, Greenpeace pulled out all stops and hit the company under the belt in a sensitive spot: At a demonstration in London, the company was depicted as bunch of stormtroopers.
“We were a little disappointed by this course of action,” says a very diplomatic Roessler.
In the meantime, Greenpeace tries to drum up support. It insinuates that Volkswagen is behind the disappearance of the video from YouTube.
Who’s kidding whom?
Greenpeace asks its supporters to “call on Volkswagen to clean up their act and support internet freedoms by sharing this film with your friends on Facebook.”
Volkswagen, through Roessler, emphatically denies having anything to do with any removal. Actually, it was, copyright rears its lawyerly head, Lucasfilm that had taken action.
As further proof for the dangers of global warming, Greenpeace now treads on extremely thin ice. In its blog, Greenpeace says: “That’s why today we’ve gone a step further and setup our own video hosting – a ‘GreenpeaceTube’ if you like.”
Baloney. Greenpeace set up a site called “VWdarkside.com”, adorned with VW logos and a look and feel that would elicit long writs from trademark lawyers if a different company than Volkswagen would be at the receiving end. Depending on your choice of countries, sometimes the site plays a YouTube movie that allegedly had been censored by the Dark Side. Sometimes, the site’s video player is an embed of Youku. Youku is the Chinese rip-off interpretation of YouTube.
“GreenpeaceTube” is a free spot on a server that is reported as being in Chaoyang, Guangdong Province, China.
Greenpeace decided to run its campaign from China, a country that usually gets blasted for having a questionable environmental record. Internet freedoms? Greenpeace infects the internet with its viral video spread from a country whose firewall is more famous than the Great Wall. The video is sent from a site which only exists because YouTube is banned in China.
When it comes to China, Greenpeace’s own environmental record becomes a bit murky. When Chinese rivers were poisoned, Greenpeace did not picket the Chinese polluters. Instead, it riled against deeper pocket customers of the poisoners. “The environmental pressure group has also linked hazardous textile plants in the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas to Lacoste, H&M and half a dozen other international fashion brands,” writes The Guardian. Lacoste is more likely to worry about the green sheen of its alligator. A Youngor in Ningbo would not be impressed by a Greenpeace.
It more and more seems that the focus of Greenpeace has shifted to another kind of green. Ron Arnold’s Green Tracking Library says that Greenpeace has been “hijacked from its original mission by extremists who have turned it into a shakedown group.” A Google search for “greenpeace AND blackmail” produces 2,640,000 hits.
This leaves us – how did Frau Roessler put it – “a bit disappointed by this course of action.”