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Your Message Just Got Muddy

If you don't send out public relations information on your sustainability activities, no one will know. But then, if your PR is pre-empted by some too-early-for-April-Fool's-Day prank. will your message still be heard? I think so, but there may be a credibility issue.

I'm so thankful I didn't pick up the press release that Rainforest Action Network, Amazon Watch, and the Yes Men reportedly released, acting as if they were Chevron Corp. The environmental groups added a few more statements to the oil company's new "We Agree" campaign, such as "Oil Companies Should Clean Up their Messes."

No one likes being duped and some in the media were, but I won't mention names. I have been aware of this ongoing case for some time, but it is quite complex: More than 30 years ago, Texaco built oil waste pits in the Amazon jungle. Chevron bought Texaco 10 years ago and paid $40 million toward cleanup but is now facing a multi-billion lawsuit in Ecuador. There seems to be disagreement about the size of the problem, both geographically and monetarily.

Next, the environmentalists "responded to the fake ads" and revealed themselves with another press release: "…a group of environmentalists cyber-posing as Chevron officials illegally spoofed Chevron's just-launched 'We Agree' advertising campaign, confusing reporters. While such a campaign does exist, its official URL is The advertisements released [Oct. 18], at, were an elaborate subterfuge and must not be mistaken as real," they said.

The pranksters are still hitting hard at For the record, Chevron Corp.'s website is This link brings you directly to the new campaign.

Yesterday, I saw one of Chevron's new commercials. Half of the screen displayed a worker voicing common complaints about big oil while the other showed a Chevron employee responding and generally agreeing with the complainant. The lawsuit aside, I tend to want to give Chevron a chance to make good on its sustainability efforts now and in the future. But green lip service really doesn't have much street cred. In his blog, R.P. Siegel refers to the company having an accountability deficit disorder. I'm sure this isn't a rare condition, in general.

I think Chevron needs to do something totally unexpected now, something big ─ like maybe engage its detractors or send a remediation crew south. And then you'll see some coverage on EPonline that is sustainable.

Posted by L.K. Williams on Oct 25, 2010 at 11:32 AM


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