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Chipotle’s Scarecrow: genuine social responsibility or marketing ploy?

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Earlier this month, restaurant chain Chipotle released a short animated video as part of the advertising campaign for its new game, available on Apple devices, called The Scarecrow. The film is about the industrialisation of food production and features farm animals being reared in small spaces and treated with hormones.

While the video is unquestionably clever and beautifully put together, and has received praise from the New York Times and fans on Facebook, it has attracted criticism from farmers and some news outlets.

News website Salon claimed, for instance, said that Chipotle’s video advocated a switch to a vegetarian diet, despite serving a large number of meat dishes in its restaurants. The reason behind this criticism is that the video contrasts cruelty to animals by a large corporation with smaller scale, idyllic, natural methods.

This criticism is interesting, but a bit inconsistent. Farming animals is certainly more problematic than growing vegetables because of the social, environmental and ethical costs involved. As the Salon journalist notes, no matter how animals are reared, it is still unsustainable to eat meat at current consumption levels, given the huge amounts of resources required for production.

It must also be acknowledged that most of the cereals and crops that are grown are not for human consumption, but are instead used to feed cattle.

An interesting point is raised by James Hambling of the Atlantic. He suggested that Chipotle was almost setting itself aside from big business, by implying that it wasn’t a multi-million fast food company with 1,500 restaurants and annual revenue of $800m in 2012 (and whose food, we should add, has been said to be excessively high in calories and fats in the past, worse than a Big Mac).

For one, the scarecrow, when confronted with the financial obstacles to farm-to-table business models, will find it hard to compete with companies like Chipotle“, Hambling writes.

I mean only to raise this question, but what is Chipotle claiming about itself here?

With more than 1,500 locations across the US, the UK, Canada, France and Germany, and global revenues in excess of $2.7 billion in 2012, Chipotle is one of the most popular Mexican grills in the world.

In the early 2000s, the company decided to change its food sourcing strategy drastically, aiming to buy more organic and hormone-free animal products. It produced a  Food with Integrity statement, in which it explained how and why it had decided to switch to “more sustainable meat”.

However, while welcome, this shift towards sustainability perhaps falls a little short. Chipotle says it uses “naturally raised” meat, but doesn’t do so 100% of the time. The term “naturally raised” is in itself controversial and blurred. Animals that are raised on good plant-based diets, without hormones, could quite easily be raised in farms that keep them indoors, meaning they’re unable to express their natural behaviour and raising legitimate welfare questions.

The short film has upset the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation (NFBF), which claimed that Chipotle had created misconception about farming practices in an attempt to scare consumers with “the myth of factory farming”.

An interesting statement, considering that around 70% of animals are estimated to be raised in this way, which makes it look like all but a ‘myth’.

Farm Bureau president Steve Nelson said that the video presented farmers as people merely interested in profits

Chipotle spokeswoman Danielle Winslow replied to the Journal Star, saying, “The film simply invites viewers to question where we are heading as a society, and to think more about where our food comes from and how it is prepared.

“The Scarecrow film is a symbolic cautionary tale that depicts a future world where all food is processed and the ingredients come only from industrialised sources.

Despite raising important issues to do with sustainable farming and the treatment of animals, the question remains as to whether Chipotle’s video was a genuine attempt to raise awareness or merely clever marketing ploy (is this Funny or Die parody more accurate, perhaps?).

If the answer is the former, then the company should improve its efforts to become fully, not just partially, sustainable. If it is the latter, we have to sadly acknowledge that even clear sustainability intentions, it may still care more about the bottom line than it does about positive and sustainable change for the good of the planet and its people.

UPDATE: Blue & Green Tomorrow received the following comment from Edd Colbert of the Feeding the 5000 campaign:

The video certainly shows two extremes of potential future food sources. Whilst I can understand why the NFBF would suggest the video feeds misconceptions about how food is grown, I would argue that this is no worse than the vast majority of agribusiness marketing that still misinforms and deludes consumers about where there food comes from (the use of beautiful pastures and red barns in agri-marketing are prime examples of this – imagine if businesses instead showed huge dry feedlots with no grass on the box for their burger!).

I can’t personally stand up for Chipotle and defend them as a business, yet I admire them for producing some profoundly stimulating videos that alert people to the potential catastrophes ahead of us if we don’t change the way we grow, harvest, package, transport and eat food. This isn’t the first video they’ve made and I would urge you to have a look at some of their earlier stuff as well. 

The brand will obviously have received some very good publicity from this video, and equally from its criticisms. However, with the publicity there has also been the equal spreading of a very important message: our current food system is unsustainable and we need to radically alter the way in which we deal with food. This isn’t to say Chipotle are perfect – I highly doubt their veg comes from someone’s back garden as is shown in the video – but their focus on the radical grassroots reactions to the corporate control of our food chain is admirable to say the least. This, coupled with their own personal commitments, will hopefully educate some people on current global food issues.”

Further reading:

No consensus on GM food safety, scientists say

Consuming nothing to consume everything

The Pig Idea: campaign looks to pigs to tackle food waste

Study outlines possibility of sustainable livestock

Sustainability at the heart of food and agriculture

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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