The irony of the "green" movement of US companies is that many of the firms that spend the most money and public relations effort trying to show the government, the public, and their shareholders that they are trying to improve the environment are also among the most prolific polluters in the country. Pollution does not mean that the companies are doing anything illegal. Instead, it simply refers to natural consequence of the companies' industrial efforts which result in contamination to the air, soil or water by the discharge of substances that are toxic to the environment.
24/7 Wall St. has put together a list of the Top Ten Greenwashers in America. There may be some large companies that are greater polluters than these firms. There may be other corporations that do more to promote their pro-environment credentials. But those can be counted on two hands.
1) General Electric (GE)
In May 2005 GE announced its $90 million "Ecomagination" advertising campaign. According to Jeff Immelt, the company's CEO, "Ecomagination is GE's commitment to address challenges such as the need for cleaner, more efficient sources of energy, reduced emissions and abundant sources of clean water." The company said that revenue from 70 Ecomagination products and services would be $17 billion in 2008. Since its inception, Ecomagination has provided GE with countless opportunities to reflect its corporate concern over the environment. Arguably the whole effort is greenwashing.
2) American Electric Power (AEP)
According to the company, American Electric Power's 2008 Sustainability Report is a "comprehensive report offering a frank discussion" about their environmental performance and their strategies for sustainability. Michael G. Morris, the chairman, president, and CEO, says that sustainability is "Transparency and accountability, along with a close working relationship with our stakeholders, will grow our business, serve our shareholders' interest and create a better world for our children and grandchildren."
3) ExxonMobil (XOM)
Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the country's largest oil spill. As a result of the disaster, the ship spilled approximately 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound, Alaska. Since that time, ExxonMobil has spent millions of dollars in an attempt to regain the public's trust. In an effort to continue to improve the way the company is perceived, it has begun to aggressively market its green initiatives.
4) DuPont (DU)
In 2008 Dupont launched a marketing campaign called "Open Science." According to the company's website, "DuPont Open Science uses the power of collaboration to do extraordinary things. Explore how DuPont and its partners are helping the United States cultivates, taps new energies, and makes industries safer and eco-friendly." The site goes on to encourage the reader to "Explore how DuPont and its partners are tackling the issues of our age: food shortages, dwindling petroleum, and global warming."
5) Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
Biofuel, ethanol and biodiesel, have quickly become the darlings of the green economy. They are heralded as renewable energy sources that some say can either reduce or entirely replace reliance on petroleum to fuel internal combustion engines. According to the company's site, "a world in need of clean, renewable fuels to meet growing energy demand and achieve greater energy security is turning to agriculture for answers." As one of the largest diversified agribusinesses in the world, the company maintains that it has the necessary scale and expertise to be a leader in the production of biofuels. Its mission is "to unlock the potential of nature to improve the quality of life."