We get a lot of press releases from companies big and small touting their green initiatives. I usually dismiss the ones from major corporations like Disney and Barbie as greenwashing, but I still pass them on to our writers. After much prodding and persuading from my online friends, I usually take up the issue myself, as I just can’t help myself. Disney….it’s your turn.
Disney has just issued the company’s first ever comprehensive corporate responsibility (CR) report. For a company that was founded in the 1920s and is the largest media and entertainment corporation in the world, this report is a long time overdue!
The long term environmental goals outlined in the report are:
- Zero waste
- Zero net direct greenhouse gas emissions from fuels
- Reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions from electricity consumption
- Net positive impact on ecosystems
- Minimize water use
- Minimize product footprint
- Inform, empower and activate positive action for the environment
These are great goals, but what do they mean? When such goals are accompanied by statements like, “While Disney has always been a leader in environmental stewardship, we are taking ambitious steps to help preserve our planet for future generations,” said Disney Senior Executive Vice President and CFO Thomas O. Staggs, the red flag starts waving! If Disney is such a leader in environmental stewardship, how come this is their first CR report ever? The Orlando Sentinel reports:
For example, Disney’s two cruise ships in 2006 generated nearly 270,000 tons of “carbon-dioxide equivalents,” a measure of the various gases thought to contribute to climate change. The two ships, which sail out of Port Canaveral, accounted for 48 percent of Disney’s companywide emissions of 566,000 tons for the year.
Yep, long record of environmental stewardship for sure! What about the six figures of energy consumed and garbage generated at Disney theme parks annually?
Disney World just released its first Corporate Responsibility Report but leaves us wondering — “Why doesn’t it include a comprehensive section on the reduction of hazardous cleaning chemicals”? The report does make strong commitments towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water conservation, which we feel is extremely important for all businesses.
Top 5 Reasons Disney World Can Do Better
1. Discuss eliminating toxic chemicals holistically and embrace the precautionary principle in its over arching goals;
2. Guests and potential guests should be able to easily access cleaning product information online and through written materials within Disney’s property;
3. List and set goals to eliminate hazardous chemicals of concern such as reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors;
4. Provide concrete timelines, regular chemical assessments, and benchmarks that will lead to safer parks and resorts; and
5. Show preference to independent third party certified products.
Granted, Disney did purchase 8,500 acres of the Everglades’ headwaters to create The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve in 1993, but in the large scheme of things, does this mitigate the overconsumerism associated with Disney brands? Does it undo the abandoned cruise ship destination Treasure Island in the Abaco Islands, where the company left hazardous materials, electrical transformers, and fuel tanks, as well as introduced invasive alien species of plants and insects that threaten the natural flora and fauna of the island?
I guess my greenwashing skepticism stems from the fact I cannot connect what I have seen at Disneyland itself and what I have read in the CR report. Yes, I succumbed to the pressure of parenting and the effort to provide my children with a “normal” childhood by visiting Disneyland once. I was shocked at the entry free of $69.00 and disgusted by the walk down Main Street stores selling overpriced Disney paraphenalia as you enter and exit the park. I tried a veggie burger that was disgusting, and I had to buy a $40 pair of sweatpants for my son when he had an accident (this was the cheapest pair of pants in the park!). As I watched little girls adorned in princess costumes, I felt like I was in Vegas. At Disneyland, it is all about money. There was nothing that spoke to me about environmental stewardship. Even the recycled toilet to tap water served at the park was not advertised (I wonder why?).
Disney, I hope you really will go green. I don’t want to hear any more excuses or promises:
During the coming year, we’ll begin the process of estimating the magnitude of the footprint resulting from product-related activities. In coming years, Disney intends to engage suppliers and licensees in a collaborative drive to reduce the environmental footprint of Disney merchandise.
The sheer volume of products and intermediate parties, as well as the absence of firmly established protocols for determining the environmental impact of products in an unambiguous manner for all possible combinations of materials, are daunting issues associated with this goal.
Make it happen, then maybe I can visit your park again without experiencing eco-guilt. Remove the overconsumerism associated with your brand; we don’t need a cup, t-shirt, stuffed animal, etc. for every character from every movie. Corporate responsibility goes beyond issuing a report and sending press releases to bloggers. Stop selling junk, stop using chemicals, only use recyclables, put a solar bank in the parking lot of all theme parks that could provide shelter for cars, create more green spaces in the parks, serve organic food, offer free park admission to people that ride mass transit, stop violating human rights in factories that produce your goods, etc. Disney, you have a long way to go before being green!
Image: LDCross on Flickr under a Creative Commons License