Localwashing: How corporate America is co-opting “local”

  • Localwashing

    image by Anastasia Vasilakis / www.anastasiavasilakis.com

  • Localwashing

HSBC, one of the biggest banks on the planet, has taken to calling itself “the world’s local bank.” Starbucks is removing its name from at least three of its Seattle outlets, the first of which just reopened as “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea.” Winn-Dixie, a 500-outlet supermarket chain, recently launched a new ad campaign under the tagline “Local flavor since 1956.” The International Council of Shopping Centers, a consortium of mall owners and developers, has poured millions of dollars into television ads urging people to “Shop Local”—at their nearest mall.

This new variation on corporate greenwashing—localwashing—is, like the buy-local movement itself, most advanced in the context of food. Hellmann’s, the mayonnaise brand owned by the processed-food giant Unilever, is test-driving a new “Eat Real, Eat Local” initiative in Canada. Frito-Lay’s television commercials use farmers as pitchmen to position the company’s potato chips as local food, while the poultry giant Foster Farms is labeling its packages of chicken “locally grown.”

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble has launched a video blog site under the banner “All bookselling is local.” The site, which features “local book news” and recommendations from employees of stores in such evocative-sounding locales as Surprise, Arizona, seems designed to disguise what Barnes & Noble is—a highly centralized corporation where decisions about what books to stock are made by a handful of buyers—and to present the chain instead as a collection of independent­-minded booksellers.

Shopping malls, chambers of commerce, and economic development agencies from Orlando to Spokane also are appropriating the phrase “buy local” to urge consumers to patronize nearby malls and chain stores. In March, leaders of a new Buy Local campaign in Fresno, California, assembled in front of the Fashion Fair Mall for a kickoff press conference. Flanked by stores like Anthropologie and The Cheesecake Factory, officials from the Economic Development Corporation of Fresno County explained that choosing to “buy local” helps the region’s economy and cited a study that found that for every $100 spent locally, $45 stays in the community.

But the study, conducted by the firm Civic Economics, found that to be true only if the money was spent at a locally owned business. Shop at a chain store, the analysis found, and only $13 of that $100 stays in the community. Nevertheless, the $45-stays-local statistic was repeated on a TV news story later that day, without clarification, while commercials for the new campaign explained, “buying local means any store in your community: mom-and-pop shops, national chains, big-box stores—you name it.”


12/26/2013 1:19:30 AM


11/9/2009 2:00:42 PM

HHHMMM... Just like so many other "issues" in today's media-driven society, the marketing aims at the brain-dead, non-thinkers who sit in front of TV hours each day. Just as with Global "warming", "green" technology, and so many other issues, there are more than 1 side, there is so much "behind" any 1 of these issues. When we, as a society, stop questioning, stop investigating, stop studying then rely upon media to present information to us, then we're going to be nothing but sheeple, being led around by our the rings in our noses & the nooses around our necks - no longer a free society, no longer allowed to even HAVE choices to make. Wake up, America, wake up, before it's too late! Think... Study... Investigate... Learn... Question!!!

Facebook Instagram Twitter