Greenwashing and the Beauty of Capitalism

As we said we would, here goes on “Greenwashing”…

What is it?

Greenwashing (a compound word modeled on “whitewash”) is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.

Contra Ayn Rand, successful businessmen are not consciously philosophical, at all. They have an inexplicable, unteachable practical knack, and usually, have no knowledge, nor interest in what money or what it stands for, or “represents”. The intuitions and language of businessmen are often wrong, you knowing the truth doesn’t mean you will make any (more) money at all, and teaching successful businessmen what’s up to increase profits is a complete failure of ROT (Return On Time).

“Ideals”? As Adam Smith wrote, every business meetup turns to collusion. Rand’s calling businessmen a persecuted “minority” is hilarious, not to mention those Rothbard called “Big Business”.

Business is all about giving the people what they want.

Well, what do they want?

  1. Free.
  2. Perfect.
  3. Now.

It’s the name of a business book, which hardly anyone has read.

They want certain buying experiences (shopping as therapy), to be lied to about how sausages are made, to feel rectitude (in accordance with their current values), to receive honor as “valued customers”, to avoid losing face (by overpaying or later noticing defects in purchases), and so on.

So when business caters to our all-too-human religious frailty, we have the chicken and egg problem. Does increasing supply of smartphones to Yeshiva students increase or hasten Tarbus Ra’ah? Are low culture purveyors actively worsening culture on the margins or merely catching freefalling paper money from gusts of air? The demand is already there, so why not cash in? And there’s still another question: Would the “unseen” alternative entrepreneurs be better in these respects or worse? Again, if the demand (read: Yetzer Hara) is there, a Nisayon can neither help nor hurt.

And if that’s all wrong, where does it end? With actual Lifnei Iver, or earlier?

Media is a business, too, by the way.

Businessmen didn’t make anyone believe in anti-property “environmentalist” woo. They may themselves agree or disagree with it (they don’t understand it, nor care about it much, as it happens!). But they do firmly intend to make money off of the actual consumers, before, after, or during whatever beliefs, crazes, or notions are present, regardless, be it imperialism, Mussar, Rabbi X, tobacco, communism, book X, tulips, crosswords, religion X, whatever. Isms are just altered demand, product differentiation, and the costs of doing business.

If and when (and where!) the backlash against racism/socialism/environmentalism/militarism/protectionism/etc. comes, you can be sure those businesses who reverse the trend will be rewarded, again. Which they know. So they will. Greenwashing is just one illustration.

I’ll use shortened excerpts from Wikipedia on Greenwashing to spur thought (footnotes left out):

Evidence that an organization is greenwashing often comes from pointing out the spending differences: when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being “green” (that is, operating with consideration for the environment),than is actually spent on environmentally sound practices. Greenwashing efforts can range from changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment on a product that contains harmful chemicals to multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns portraying highly polluting energy companies as eco-friendly… While greenwashing is not new, its use has increased over recent years to meet consumer demand for environmentally friendly goods and services… Many corporate structures use greenwashing as a way to repair public perception of their brand.
Greenwashing is just marketing. Marketing itself can be fraudulent or not. Wikipedia, reflecting our age, obscures the chasm between the two:
Why do they do this? “[A] study found that 77% of people said the environmental reputation of the company affected whether they would buy their products.”
The problem is compounded by lax enforcement by regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission in the United States, the Competition Bureau in Canada, and the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice in the United Kingdom.
Right! Mathematically speaking, how does “lax enforcement” compound anything?! Doesn’t “compound” mean to multiply? Ah, they mean by moral hazard. So what else is new?
Critics of the practice suggest that the rise of greenwashing, paired with ineffective regulation, contributes to consumer skepticism of all green claims, and diminishes the power of the consumer in driving companies toward greener solutions for manufacturing processes and business operations.
Guess what? Why don’t you create competing consumer report certification (like Hechshers), instead of pushing tyrannical regulation?
Here’s a start:
Companies may pursue environmental certification to avoid greenwashing through independent verification of their green claims. For example, the Carbon Trust Standard launched in 2007 with the stated aim “to end ‘greenwash’ and highlight firms that are genuine about their commitment to the environment”.
I hope it’s private.
In addition, the political term “linguistic detoxification” describes when, through legislation or other government action, the definitions of toxicity for certain substances are changed, or the name of the substance is changed, so that fewer things fall under a particular classification as toxic. The origin of this phrase has been attributed to environmental activist and author Barry Commoner.
This is unrelated!
Now that you bring it up, however:

A small-time criminal breaks the law. A medium criminal bypasses the law. A major criminal perpetrates his crime by means of the law.

By the way, this is how the absolutely 100% pure, distilled, water bottle industry gets to add sugar, etc. to their fresh, sparkling, untouched water welling from wells in an exotic location.
Some examples:
The term greenwashing was coined by New York environmentalist Jay Westervelt in a 1986 essay regarding the hotel industry’s practice of placing placards in each room promoting reuse of towels ostensibly to “save the environment.” Westervelt noted that, in most cases, little or no effort toward reducing energy waste was being made by these institutions—as evidenced by the lack of cost reduction this practice effected. Westervelt opined that the actual objective of this “green campaign” on the part of many hoteliers was, in fact, increased profit. Westervelt thus labeled this and other outwardly environmentally conscientious acts with a greater, underlying purpose of profit increase as greenwashing.
Genius! Improve your corporate image by guilt-tripping customers into saving you money via degrees of physical personal discomfort!
Environmentalists have argued that the Bush Administration’s Clear Skies Initiative actually weakens air pollution laws.
Surprise, surprise! Let’s go pass another law to fix that law!
Many food products have packaging that evokes an environmentally friendly imagery even though there has been no attempt made at lowering the environmental impact of its production. In 2009, European McDonald’s changed the colour of their logos from yellow and red to yellow and green; a spokesman for the company explained that the change was “to clarify [their] responsibility for the preservation of natural resources.”
Love it!
Environmental accounting can easily be used to pretend that environmental impacts of a company are reduced while actual impacts increase. This has been shown, for example, in a case of corporate carbon accounting: the company celebrated reduced relative emissions while absolute emissions increased. The same company achieved reducing current emissions by “correcting” past emissions as higher (effecting a calculation that presents current emissions as relatively lower).
Whoever said bookkeeping is boring?! For many more fun examples, consult the original Wikipedia article.
And here, courtesy of Wikipedia is a great practical guide to Greenwashing:
According to the Home and Family Edition, 95% consumer products claiming to be green were discovered to commit at least one of the “Sins of Greenwashing”. The Seven Sins of Greenwashing are as follows:
  1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-off, committed by suggesting a product is “green” based on an unreasonably narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues.
  2. Sin of No Proof, committed by an environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification.
  3. Sin of Vagueness, committed by every claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer.
  4. Sin of Worshiping False Labels is committed when a claim, communicated either through words or images, gives the impression of a third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists.
  5. Sin of Irrelevance, committed by making an environmental claim that may be truthful but which is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products.
  6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils, committed by claims that may be true within the product category, but that risk distracting consumers from the greater environmental impact of the category as a whole.
  7. Sin of Fibbing, the least frequent Sin, is committed by making environmental claims that are simply false.
There is so much to say here. Let’s just comment on the second-to-last one. Either the product “category” is being bought anyway or it isn’t!
Enough for now.

The Benefits of Denizen Disarmament

You mean gun control?

That’s what it’s called today, but it’s worked well throughout history before there were “guns”.

Modern “gun control” indeed thins the herd by enabling private murderers. This “disproportionately” harms the poor, who cannot afford armed guards, and are often government wealth-redistribution “beneficiaries”. This helps lower socialism’s immense costs, same as abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, family planning, etc.

But gun control’s main benefit is increased state control over their citizens. When states are smaller and/or the citizens less amenable to control, citizens and citizen militias can help assist the state keep its tax-slaves alive. Machiavelli tries to come up with rules of when to disarm and when to actively arm subjects, see this. Switzerland, for example, still forces its men to own arms.

But in non-Althusiusian federalism or for rebellious provinces and minorities, disarmament everywhere enables (turnkey) tyranny, increases government-dependency when citizens are killed (“Take their guns away!”), safeguards against revolt (Par’oh, Eglon in Ehud’s time, Antiochus), and generally provides a useful day-to-day fake “security benefit” of the state.

Here’s a simple visual illustration, from Libertarian Prepper:

(“Yeah” is spelled with an “a”.)

Who Are You Going to Trust, Me or Your Lying Eyes?

Speaking of denying reality to violate Mitzvos, see the wonderful example of the Rambam, in Yesodei Hatorah, end of chapter 8:

לפיכך אם עמד הנביא ועשה אותות ומופתים גדולים ובקש להכחיש נבואתו של משה רבינו אין שומעין לו ואנו יודעין בבאור שאותן האותות בלט וכשוף הן לפי שנבואת משה רבינו אינה על פי האותות כדי שנערוך אותות זה לאותות זה אלא בעינינו ראינוה ובאזנינו שמענוה כמו ששמע הוא.

הא למה הדבר דומה לעדים שהעידו לאדם על דבר שראה בעיניו שאינו כמו שראה שאינו שומע להן אלא יודע בודאי שהן עדי שקר לפיכך אמרה תורה שאם בא האות והמופת לא תשמע אל דברי הנביא ההוא שהרי זה בא אליך באות ומופת להכחיש מה שראית בעיניך והואיל ואין אנו מאמינים במופת אלא מפני המצות שצונו משה היאך נקבל מאות זה שבא להכחיש נבואתו של משה שראינו וששמענו.

Translation from Chabad.org:

Therefore, if a prophet arises and attempts to dispute Moses’ prophecy by performing great signs and wonders, we should not listen to him. We know with certainty that he performed those signs through magic or sorcery. [This conclusion is reached] because the prophecy of Moses, our teacher, is not dependent on wonders so that we could compare these wonders, one against the other. Rather we saw and heard with our own eyes and ears as he did.

To what can this be compared? To witnesses who gave testimony concerning a matter to a man who had observed the situation with his own eyes. He will never listen to them and will know for certain that they are false witnesses.

Therefore, the Torah states (Deuteronomy 13:3-4) that “[Even] if [such] a sign or wonder will come, you should not listen to the words of that prophet.” He comes to you with signs and wonders to deny what you saw with your own eyes. We believe in a wonder [as evidence of a prophet’s reliability] only because of the mitzvah which Moses commanded us. Therefore, how can a wonder [cause us to] accept this [person] who comes to deny the prophecy of Moses which we saw and heard?

ימי עולם: עשרה מלכים תחת כיפת הרקיע

ילקוט שמעוני מלכים א’ י”ח – רמז רי”א:

חי ה’ אלקיך אם יש גוי וממלכה אשר לא שלח אדני שם לבקשך ואמרו אין והשביע את הממלכה ואת הגוי כי לא ימצאכה.

שנו רבותינו, שלשה מלכו בכיפה, אחאב בן עמרי, ונבוכדנאצר ואחשורוש. אחאב דכתיב אם יש גוי וממלכה אשר לא שלח אדוני שם לבקשך ואמרו אין והשביע את הממלכה ואת הגוי כי לא ימצאכה ואי לאו דמלך מי מצי משבע להו. אחשורוש דכתיב מהודו ועד כוש. נבוכדנאצר דכתיב והיה הגוי והממלכה אשר לא יעבדו את נבוכדנאצר וגו’.

ותו ליכא והא איכא שלמה, שאני שלמה דמילתא אחריתי הוה ביה שמלך על העליונים ועל התחתונים שנאמר וישב שלמה על כסא ה’. והא איכא סנחריב, הא הוה ירושלים דלא כבשה. והא איכא דריוש, הא איכא שבע דלא מלך עלייהו דכתיב שפר קדם דריוש והקם על מלכותא אחשדרפניא מאה ועשרים. הא איכא כורש דכתיב כה אמר כור מלך פרס כל ממלכות הארץ נתן לי אלהים, ההוא שבוחי הוא דקא משבח נפשיה.

תניא אידך, עשרה מלכים מלכו בכיפה.

המלך הראשון זה הקב”ה, שהוא מושל בעליונים ובתחתונים.

המלך השני הוא נמרוד, שמלך מסוף העולם ועד סופו, שהיו כל הבריות יושבים במקום אחד יראים מן המבול ונמרוד היה מלך עליהם, שנאמר ותהי ראשית ממלכתו בבל.

המלך השלישי זה יוסף, שמלך מסוף העולם ועד סופו, שנאמר וכל הארץ באו מצרימה לשבור אל יוסף והיו מביאין המס שלהם ומנחתם שארבעים שנה היה משנה למלך וארביעם שנה מלך מעצמו שנאמר ויקם מלך חדש על מצרים.

המלך הרביעי הוא שלמה, שנאמר ושלמה מושל בכל הממלכות והם מביאים איש מנחתו.

המלך החמישי זה אחאב, שמלך מסוף העולם ועד סופו שנאמר חי ה’ אלהיך אם יש גוי וממלכה, והיו לפניו כל שרי אפרכיות של עולם מאתים ושלשים ושנים שנאמר ויפקוד את נערי שרי המדינות ויהיו מאתים ושלשים ושנים.

המלך הששי זה נבוכדנאצר, ולא עוד אלא שמשל אפילו על חיות השדה ועל עוף השמים ולא היו יכולים לפתוח את פיהם כי אם ברשותו שנאמר וגם חית השדה נתתתי לו לעבדו.

המלך השביעי כורש, שנאמר כה אמר כרש מלך פרס כל ממלכות הארץ וגו’. ואחשורוש מלך בחציו של עולם והלא חציו של עולם אינו אלא קי”ו איפרכיות אלא בזכותה של אסתר ניתוספו לו אחד עשר איפרכיות הדא הוא דכתיב הוא אחשורוש המולך מהודו ועד כוש שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה.

המלך השמיני זה אלכסנדרוס מוקדון, שנאמר ואני הייתי מבין והנה צפיר העזים וגו’ על הארץ אין כתיב כאן אלא בא מן המערב על פני הארץ. ולא עוד אלא שרצה לעלות לשמים ולידע מה שבשמים ולירד לתהום ולידע מה שבתהומות ולילך ולידע מה שבקצות הארץ, והחצה הקב”ה מלכותו לארבע רוחות השמים שנאמר ובעמדו תשבר מלכותו.

המלך התשיעי זה מלך המשיח, שנאמר וירד מים עד ים.

המלך העשירי חוזרת המלוכה לבעליה. מי שהיה מלך ראשון הוא יהיה מלך אחרון, שנאמר אני ראשון ואני אחרון, ואומר והיה ה’ למלך על כל הארץ.