Commentary & Analysis
Toshiba – Greenwashing Company of the Year
By Andrew Tribute
Published: June 15, 2012
We often get some rather stupid approaches by companies trying to put out marketing messages to enhance their position in the eyes of potential consumers. Sometimes these approaches show just how stupid marketing people can be and in fact show just how little they know of the real situation in the market. I have to say however that I have seldom and probably never, seen such a stupid marketing message as that promoted by Toshiba in its proposal of a National No-Print Day for October 23, 2012. Toshiba’s nationwide campaign purports to encourage, educate, and challenge individuals and companies to commit to one day of “no printing” and to raise awareness of the impact printing has on our planet. Toshiba claims that our industry has failed to make the link between printing waste and its negative impacts on our landfills, natural resources and the environment. Obviously some bright young marketer, no doubt with a highly polished MBA qualification, has seen that Toshiba can leverage the perceived environmental limitations of print to try to enhance the position of Toshiba in the market by showing how environmentally excellent the company is in its operations.
The first of heard of this was when I saw a message from the Printing Industries of America. In this message PIA’s CEO Michael Makin stated of Toshiba’s claims “this is patently untrue. Our industry has long led the way utilizing sustainable processes. The primary raw material for printing is paper, which comes from trees, which are a renewable resource—so renewable that today, our country has 20 percent more trees than it did on the first Earth Day which was held more than 40 years ago.”
I decided to look into the Toshiba proposal and found the web site for National No-Print Day. My first thought was that this must have been an April 1 joke as it was so stupid. I have to ask did anyone in a senior position at Toshiba sanction this total load of garbage and ridiculous claims. Toshiba is a representative of the electronics industry that is a very poor performer when it comes to sustainability. One must ask which is more sustainable, paper or electronic devices like monitors, hard drives and the like that almost always end up as land fill. I would like to ask Toshiba how they plan to operate on National No-Print Day. Will all Toshiba staff not read any newspaper magazine or book all that day? Will they stop reading any of the marketing reports that their inspired marketing staff generate or purchase? Will they stop eating any food that comes in any form of printed packaging? Will they only work in their offices on solid wood or metal desks rather than desks where the surface is a printed laminate? Print is something a little more than the paper they print often unnecessarily on their Toshiba printers and copiers?
Printing and paper and their position in the environment are totally misunderstood by most people despite the major efforts that have been made to demonstrate the industries’ environmental credentials. These are industries that have one of the best green records of any industry. Michael Makin states in his message the following – “Printing is the only medium with a one-time carbon footprint — all other media require energy every time they are viewed. Electronic devices, which Toshiba produces, for example, require the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, as well as the use of plastics, hydrocarbon solvents, and other non-renewable resources. Moreover 50–80 percent of electronic waste collected for recycling is shipped overseas and is often unsafely dismantled. For Toshiba to call for such a ban on printing is hypocritical to say the least.”
To show how hypocritical this is I quote a message on Toshiba’s National No-Print Day by the Executive Director of the Print Council, Benjamin Cooper. “Toshiba plans to plant 1.5 million trees by 2025, however that the goal would represent about one third of the average daily planting of trees that currently takes place in the U.S. Planting 1.5 million trees sounds like a laudable goal and it is but it represents an insignificant addition to the anticipated 20 billion trees that will be planted by the forest products industry during that same 13 year stretch,”
I think that Toshiba is shooting itself in the foot with this stupid campaign that is conceived without any real understanding of the situation. It certainly makes me put Toshiba in a list of organizations that I feel does not merit my consideration if I am planning purchases of products the company manufactures. Greenwashing is a form of negative marketing. If you have something worthwhile to promote, then market responsibly with positive rather than negative messaging. To market by trying to promote green credentials is excellent if you have a strong message, but greenwashing is making unfounded and usually incorrect claims. Toshiba’s National No-Print Day is about as bad a greenwashing approach as I have seen.
Michael Makin suggests that we should be promoting October 23 as National No-Toshiba Day. I suggest something more significant. Let PIA and others promote the National Greenwashing Awards and lets give the award for 2012 to Toshiba Inc.