The Green America victories that made up our best year yet
Green America campaigns help tip corporations and industries toward green practices by applying pressure from: 1 individual members, 2 green businesses, 3 shareholders, 4 allied organizations, and 5 the media.
As Jeremy Rifkin notes, the economy is rapidly moving toward what he calls a “Collaborative Commons” model, where individuals are bypassing corporations to get what they need from each other, cooperatively, for significantly less money and using fewer resources. It’s one more example of the economy fundamentally shifting to a greener, community-based model.
Green America, our members, and our allies are leading the way when it comes to greening the economy. This issue of the Green American marks our 100th issue. While we’ve had some terrific victories over the years since we published our first Green American (then called Building Economic Alternatives) in 1985, we’ve been seeing more rapid results in recent years to our action campaigns, most markedly in 2014, where our campaigns enjoyed their most impactful year yet.
Mobilizing pressure from multiple angles—individual members, green business members, shareholders, allied organizations, and the media—Green America has been engineering tipping points in multiple industries, moving them closer to embodying a truly green economy that works for all.
Celebrate with us as we look at several of our most recent victories—and provide updates on what’s next for the target companies and our campaigns.
—Sam Catherman, Elizabeth O’Connell, Beth Porter,
Fran Teplitz, and Tracy Fernandez Rysavy.
1. FAIR LABOR
Hershey ahead of schedule in eliminating child labor
The Problem: In 2001, the world was shocked by media reports detailing horrific forced child labor in West African cocoa-growing communities—which are prime sources for US chocolate manufacturers. Children as you ng as five had been sold or conscripted into slavery, toiling for long hours doing hard labor on cocoa plantations instead of going to school.
Our Victory: Exactly two years ago—after sustained pressure from Green America’s Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign targeting Hershey for child labor in its cocoa supply chain—America’s largest chocolate company announced it would source only “ethically certified cocoa” by 2020.
Green America continued to challenge Hershey about this commitment, and in March 2013, it shared its plans to work with Fair Trade USA, Utz, and Rainforest Alliance for certification. The company also revealed that it would reach ten percent certification by the end of 2013 and 40-50 percent by 2016.
In January 2014, Hershey announced it was ahead of its original goal, reaching 18 percent certified cocoa.
Our Raise the Bar, Hershey Campaign mobilized:
2 Hershey “corporate irresponsibility” reports
+ over 50,000 petition signatures
+ hundreds of letters from US children
+ 3 major protests
+ 2 speeches at shareholder meetings
+ 1 letter from 41 unhappy green-business retailers
+ 1 announcement from Whole Foods that it was planning to drop Hershey products from its stores.
What’s Next? Child labor remains an urgent issue in West Africa’s cocoa sector, and one that stems from extreme poverty. The average income of West-African cocoa farmers and their dependents is well below the level of absolute poverty, according to the Cocoa Barometer. In 2015, Green America’s Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign will:
- Continue to monitor Hershey to ensure it meets or exceeds its 2016 commitment of 50 percent certified cocoa, including meeting with Hershey representatives on a quarterly basis.
- Pressure companies that have not taken steps to trace their cocoa supply to eliminate child labor, starting with Godiva.
2. FAIR LABOR
Apple bans two toxins from final assembly factories
The Problem: Workers are being exposed to deadly toxins on the job in factories that make smartphones and other electronics for US manufacturers. They’re provided with little to no
protection or safety training.
Our Victory: In August 2014, after five months of pressure from Green America’s End Smartphone Sweatshops campaign, Apple agreed to remove the toxins benzene and n-hexane—chemicals that are linked to cancer, nerve damage, and other life-threatening conditions, and are often used to clean smartphone and tablet screens—from its final-assembly factories in China.
Our End Smartphone Sweatshops Campaign Mobilized:
3 key allies (China Labor Watch,
filmmakers Lynn Zhang and Heather White)
+ 1 undercover investigation
+ 1 million documentary film views
+ 1 major protest outside Apple store
+ 40,000 petition signatures
+ 85 allied nonprofit signatories on a letter
What’s Next?: In 2015, our End Smartphone Sweatshops campaign will:
- Pressure Apple to remove all toxic chemicals from its entire supply chain.
- Samsung, too.
3. SAFE FOOD
General Mills Removes GMOs from Cheerios / Post Does the Same with Grape-Nuts
The Problem: Many processed foods include genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which have not been proven safe for human consumption and result in increased use of toxic pesticides. Breakfast cereals—Cheerios, in particular—are one of the first solid foods fed to many US toddlers.
Our Victory: In January 2014, General Mills quietly announced on its website that it had replaced GMO sugar and corn-based ingredients in Cheerios with non-GMO corn and cane sugar. That same month, the iconic yellow Cheerios box started bearing the words “not made with genetically modified ingredients.”
Post followed suit later in January, rolling out non-GMO Grape-Nuts Original.
Our GMO Inside Campaign Mobilized:
40,000 Facebook posts
+ 1 Cheerios “corporate
+ 1 YouTube video with more than
+ 25,000 e-mails to General Mills
What’s Next?: In 2015, our GMO Inside campaign will continue to pressure General Mills to remove GMOs from all of its cereals, starting with Honey Nut Cheerios.
4. SAFE FOOD
Chobani to work for GMO-free cattle feed, offer organic options
The Problem: Dairy products from cows fed GMO grain help feed the GMO machine, from requiring large amounts of untested GM corn and soy that haven’t been proven safe for human consumption to perpetuating the pesticide treadmill that results from GMO use.
Our Victory: Green America’s GMO Inside campaign set its sights on Chobani, America’s top-selling Greek yogurt, in July 2013 because it uses milk from cows fed GMOs. In October 2014, Chobani announced it would partner with Green America to improve US cattle feed, including options for non-GM and organic grains. As a first step, Chobani will launch three organic yogurt flavors in 2015.
Our GMO Inside Campaign Mobilized:
1 coalition of allies
+ thousands of Facebook messages
+ 25,000 petition signatures
+ 1 major protest
What’s Next?: In 2015, our GMO Inside campaign will:
- Continue to pressure Starbucks to switch to organic milk.
- Get GMOs out of infant food, starting with Gerber Good Start and Similac.
5. RESPONSIBLE FINANCE
Payday loans go the way of the dodo
The Problem: Many mega-banks prey on communities by engaging in predatory practices, such as offering “payday loans,” or short-term loans (averaging 12 days) with interest rates as high as a mind-blowing 225 to 300 percent.
Our Victory: In January 2014, a number of big banks targeted by Green America and others decided to phase out “deposit advance loans,” commonly known as payday loans, including Wells Fargo, Regions Financial, US Bank, and Fifth Third. Green America pressured the banks and urged the Office of the Comptroller of The Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to halt abusive payday loans.
Our Responsible Finance Campaign Mobilized:
Hundreds of letters to the OCC and FDIC from Green America, our members, and allies
+ Years of mobilization to help people “break up” with abusive mega-banks and
switch to community development banks
+ Tens of thousands of customers and community members pressuring banks to
stop abusive payday lending
What’s Next?: In 2015, our Break Up With Your Mega-Bank campaign will:
- Continue to help people break up with their mega-banks and move their accounts to community development banks and credit unions.
- Call for further policy changes to protect the public from predatory financial products and services.
6. CLIMATE ACTION
Amazon hires sustainability director
The Problem: Amazon.com is a total laggard in the tech industry for its failure
to take concrete action to address the climate crisis. Unlike other tech companies, it has failed to publish sustainability reports, failed to disclose its carbon emissions or set targets for reductions, and failed to use renewable energy to power its enormous servers.
Our Victory: Beginning in fall 2013, Green America and its members pressured Amazon to take climate change seriously, report on its emissions, and work to reduce emissions. In summer 2014, Amazon took its first step—hiring a sustainability director, a position that the company never had before.
Our Climate Action Campaign Mobilized:
Thousands of petition signatures
+ 2 shareholder resolutions asking Amazon to take action on climate change
What’s Next?: In the remainder of 2014 and in 2015, Green America’s Climate Action campaign will:
- Put pressure on Amazon to address the climate crisis through additional petitions and phone calls.
- Provide handy “Alternatives to Amazon” for holiday shopping.
- Support shareholder resolutions, including a pending resolution from Calvert Investments, calling on Amazon to disclose its emissions.
7. CLIMATE ACTION
National Geographic goes recycled
The Problem: According to the United Nations, deforestation accounts for 25 percent of global climate-change emissions caused by humans. Forests are disappearing at a rate of 20 football fields a day because of paper and pulp production, and disposable, single-use magazines are a big part of the problem. Only three percent of magazines sold in the US are printed on recycled paper.
Our Victory: In July 2014, after years of talks with Green America’s Better Paper Project, National Geographic began incorporating recycled paper into the pages of National Geographic Magazine, National Geographic Kids, and National Geographic Little Kids.
Our Better Paper Project Mobilized:
1 ally (Natural Resources Defense Council)
+ Dozens of meetings between Green
America and National Geographic
+ Over 2,500 petition signatures
+ Hundreds of photo postcards
+ Two environmental impact studies on
National Geographic’s paper use
What’s Next?: In 2015, our Better Paper Project will:
- Leverage the National Geographic success with other publishers.
- Pilot a paper-recovery program that will help reduce recycled paper expenses.