Sony defends roots of its green grass car campaign

By Angela Dorizas

SYDNEY: Sony Australia today unveiled a national advertising campaign for its carbon offsetting program featuring a special grass car. In light of consumer concern over carbon offsetting and ‘greenwash’, Sony defended the credibility of its latest environmental campaign.

Sony’s campaign centres on a grass car parked outside Sony’s headquarters in North Ryde. A photograph of the car, grown with the help of model makers Studio Kite, will feature in national and metro print publications from June. This is Sony’s first environmental campaign created by Saatchi & Saatchi.

The campaign highlights Sony’s involvement in the Landcare CarbonSmart program. The project reduces the company’s carbon footprint through offsetting carbon emissions generated by corporate travel, said Sony corporate communications manager, Nina Hearne.

“Based on an independent assessment of our total carbon footprint, we made the decision to start by offsetting our corporate travel, which includes air travel and our company car fleet. This represents a significant step in the right direction,” Hearne told Current.

Carbon offsetting, however, is often associated with misleading or fraudulent green marketing, known as ‘greenwash’. In a recent Ogilvy Earth survey of corporate Australia, 53 per cent of survey participants said carbon offsetting presented the greatest chance of greenwash.

Scepticism of carbon offsetting also exists amongst consumers, said Ogilvy Earth practice leader, Peter Shmigel. He declined to comment on the Sony campaign, but highlighted problems associated with carbon offsetting in general.

“Carbon offsetting is an area companies should certainly look at, but it is also a very tricky area,” Shmigel told Current.

“There are different ways of carbon offsetting with different levels of credibility. Companies need to be careful with the carbon offsets they are purchasing.”

Companies should use carbon offsetting as a “complementary strategy” to in-house environmental initiatives, Shmigel advised. Advertising carbon offsets is “totally legitimate and acceptable,” so long as the company has viable motives and credible outcomes, he added.

According to Hearne, Sony’s carbon offsetting and advertising campaign is a credible and sustainable initiative.

“The media spend for the actual environmental campaign is minimal. The investment in offsetting carbon emissions exceeds the advertising spend,” Hearne said.

“There is nothing ‘quick fix’ about carbon offsetting. It works on the premise of tree plantations storing carbon as they grow over years and years.”

Sony has funded tree plantings to fill the equivalent of 18,000 tennis courts, said Landcare Australia chief executive officer, Brian Scarsbrick.

“Sony Australia’s corporate vehicle fleet emissions are calculated to be around 885 tonnes of carbon, and its air travel 2,184 tonnes, per year. Offsetting this equates to investing in about 600 hectares of native biodiversity plantings,” Scarsbrick said.

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