corporate responsibility energy environment

Stop Burning our Trees – corporate lobbying in disguise?

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.

9 comments

  1. Should we call your website make wood history? Just because they have a vested interest in us not buring wood in powerstations does not make them wrong.

    Where is the evidence that burning trees is a good thing to do to help the environment.

      1. Ok I was a little harsh, but I don’t see why your so immediatly distrustful of this campaign.

        The RSPB raises some issues about biofuels in this paper here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/media/releases/297973-uk-bioenergy-industry-good-news-or-bad

        I have no knowledge here, but I’d guess the WPIF is not one of the richest corporate lobbying groups in the country and probably cannot afford to do independent research. Is it wrong for them to highlight this issue?

        1. I think I’ve made this pretty clear – it’s to do with the campaign more than the cause. I’d never seen an anonymous campaign before. Normally people make very sure that their creative efforts are tracked back to the organisation behind it, because a successful campaign means increased profile, membership and donations. If you’re not taking credit for the campaign, why?

          As I’ve also said, I share your concern that a ‘rush to biomass’ could be risky thing and that subsidies can easily be abused. I just think there’s a middle way between the current situation and an all-out ban of the use of virgin wood. You could remove the subsidies or limit them to micro-generation, for example. A full ban wouldn’t distinguish between sustainable use of wood and unsustainable use, and I think Stop Burning Our Trees is oversimplified and biased.

  2. Jeremy, no disguise intended with the ‘Wood Perfected’ blog and we’re really sorry for the confusion. Although we do the PR for Kronospan we’re not involved in the ‘Stop Burning Our Trees’ campaign at all (we mostly focus on the product and design side for Kronospan).

    As you said, the campaign is run by the Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF) and London PR agency Beattie Communication with input from its members, including Kronospan. You might find the WPIF’s website http://www.makewoodwork.co.uk useful and I wouldn’t hesitate to contact Beattie Communications if you’d like to speak to someone directly about the campaign.

    Please note Beattie Communications is not responsible for the ‘Wood Perfected’ blog. We just update the blog with any interesting stories about the biomass issue we come across. Although the content doesn’t always reflect the views of Kronospan we used the ‘Wood Perfected’ motto and the corporate header image so people were aware that Kronospan was involved. This should have been addressed in the ‘about’ section too and we’ll update that to list who exactly is behind the blog. That was an oversight and not a conscious decision, but still amateurish on our part.

    As I said we’re not involved in the campaign and the first we knew of what exactly was happening was your first post about seeing the posters on the buses. So, we ran and maintained a ‘we’re just discovering it too’ angle. Again, absolutely no smoke and mirrors intended because the blog author real was in the dark and not involved in the campaign.

    Sorry, we haven’t helped a complicated issue but basically people need to remember that nobody is against sustainable biomass energy or burning wood for fuel. It’s a question of when that wood should be burned and the author of ‘Wood Perfected’ believes it should be once the wood from a tree has been used, re-used and recycled.

    Please note that the above comment may not represent the views of the WPIF or Kronospan but if you would like to speak directly to a representative of Kronospan please don’t hesitate to email me.

    I hope this goes some way to lift the cloak surrounding the ‘Wood Perfected’ blog and its posts regarding the campaign, which was purely our fault.

    Stuart Hughes
    Account Director
    Oakbase PR

      1. Thanks Jeremy and we appreciate the additional note in the post to read our comment – even though it was fair comment from you in the first place!

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