Greenpeace gets in people’s faces—especially the faces of polluters, politicians, illegal whalers, and others whose actions damage the environment. The environmental group is well known for such stunts as intercepting whaling vessels and scaling high-profile targets such as smokestacks and Mount Rushmore to hang banners. It also publicly shames corporations: Its Kleercut campaign targeted Kleenex maker Kimberly-Clark for using virgin timber in its tissues, paper towels, and toilet paper, and in June the group issued a report, “Slaughtering the Amazon,” that called out shoe makers including Nike and Timberland for using leather from cattle farms that are cutting into the Amazon rainforest.
If you think that such tactics are old hat and too confrontational to do any real good, think again: Kimberly-Clark, Nike, and Timberland have all responded to Greenpeace’s prodding in recent weeks and in fact are now working with the group to reform their ways. These successes are a good reminder that it often takes both a stick and a carrot to effect real change.
Is there some good old-fashioned ass-covering going on here? Surely. Any corporation with sense knows that bad PR can hinder profits—especially if, like Timberland, you loudly trumpet your environmental credentials as a selling point and are outed for being less than green. But there are also many other factors at play: Perhaps the company has internal pressures that keep it from greening up its act. Perhaps it was not aware—as Timberland and Nike claimed—that its supply chain was suspect. And perhaps it simply hadn’t felt enough heat from consumers until Greenpeace turned it up to an uncomfortable level.
Greenpeace has gotten pretty good at making the transition from foe to friend, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t kind of awkward. The group put out this hilarious video to capture the next phase of its relationship with Kimberly-Clark: