A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the bus posters I’d seen for a campaign called Stop Burning Our Trees. Among the campaign actions is a petition to ban the burning of virgin wood for electricity generation, and the petition has been promoted through a series of stunts around London. Since the campaign culminates today with a gathering of MPs at the Houses of Parliament, I though it was worth mentioning again.
The campaign caught my attention because the website said absolutely nothing about who was behind the campaign. It looks like something an environmental agency would run, like a Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth project, but there was no information anywhere – no logo, no research, no donate button, nobody taking credit for what is obviously a well funded initiative. Strange.
So readers did a little digging, and thanks to all those that chipped in. As far as we can tell, the people behind the Stop Burning Our Trees campaign are the Wood Panel Industries Federation, a consortium of wood panel manufacturers, working with London PR agency Beattie Communications.
I’ve got no problem with the WPIF or the companies within it, but I have three problems with this particular project. First, I object to an industry lobbying project dressing up like an environmental campaign. While the website talks about carbon emissions and protecting trees, the Federation is presumably more concerned that an increase in the use of biomass will push up prices of virgin wood for their industry. Surely this is exploiting the environmental concerns of those that see the posters?
Secondly, the campaign doesn’t back up its claims. The website is full of figures and facts, and never cites any sources. Where’s the research? You might be right, but how do I know?
Thirdly, there’s an apparently wilful lack of transparency here. The stopburningourtrees.org url appears to have been registered by the marketing manager of Kronospan, the world’s biggest manufacturer of wood panels and laminate flooring. Kronospan’s motto is ‘wood perfected’. Since Kronospan were apparently involved in setting up the site, why is there a blog called ‘Wood Perfected‘ written as if the author had just stumbled across the campaign? – see explanation below.
Now, the campaign might be right – perhaps we shouldn’t be burning trees for fuel – but in the interests of an honest debate about it, can we all put our cards on the table and say who’s sponsoring what? An ‘about us’ page and some named sources is all it would have taken.
If anyone from the campaign or the PR company wants to comment, you’re welcome to clarify any of the points above. If you can show me the research, I still might even sign the petition.