Some cashed-up companies, organizations, and individuals are known to go out of their way to discredit sustainability actively. These actions go far beyond simple greenwashing and enter the territory of greenscamming.
Greenscamming is a concerted effort to capitalize on sustainability by bringing about its downfall. Any information, science, or people getting in the way of achieving a particular end goal are hostile combatants.
The poster child is the fossil fuel industry. For years, they have called into question the validity of climate change and climate science. Only recently have we discovered just how deep this conspiracy goes. ExxonMobil has for decades invested squillions into denying links between fossil fuels and climate change. This, even though executives were well aware of the impact their business had on the environment back in the 1980s. ExxonMobil had gone so far as to launch a media campaign aimed at high school science teachers, emphasizing "uncertainties" in climate science. Fossil fuel companies also continue to fund anti-climate lobbying groups. One, in particular, has run a decades-long smear campaign against a single lawyer who dared take them on.
Peeling back the layers even further, we find examples of greenscamming and astroturfing popping up worldwide.
For example, ExxonMobil has been behind funding over 100 climate-denying astroturfing organizations. Notable families, like the Walton’s and Koch Brothers, are also known to invest millions into scam groups. A 2013 investigation found the Walton’s gave $6.3 million to a Los Angeles group called Parent Revolution. While its “…stated goal is to empower poor parents to transform their low-performing neighbourhood schools into successful ones…” in reality, the group is a front for “…private charter school operators and their wealthy allies in the [ultra-conservative] Education Reform movement who support weakening and ultimately abolishing the teachers’ unions.”
Unless one does research, there is really no indication on the surface of how nefarious these groups are. Look at some of these names compared to what they actually do.
👉 The European Institute for Climate and Energy is a media outlet publishing fake climate news.
👉 The non-profit Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change are staunch believers global warming will benefit humanity.
👉 Since 1989, the National Wetlands Coalition has worked to thwart US wetland protection policies and water down the Endangered Species Act.
All of these groups aim to raise doubt. In George Monbiot’s book, “Heat,” he quotes a leaked memo from a tobacco company. In it, they explain well the motivation of greenscammers. “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” One doesn’t have to look too far to find establishing controversy is a lucrative business these days.