For greenwash-weary, a new advertising approach

CBS EcoMedia's new EcoAd campaign will designate a portion of the money spent on an ad campaign into community-focused environmental or renewable energy projects.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

An eco-advertising announcement by CBS EcoMedia caught my eye yesterday, right after I finished reading our SmartPlanet report on greenwash-weary consumers.  Let's be honest, we are all kind of sick of hearing about how green a specific company is and then finding out that they are merely paying lip service to certain sustainability programs.

Anyway, CBS EcoMedia has introduced something called the EcoAd, which is supposed to designate that the company behind an advertisement bearing the label is supporting some sort of community environmental project such as energy efficiency retrofits, "green" schools initiatives, solar installations or the like. CBS will help administrate that money, making sure it goes to the right place.

Before I go any further, I want to note and acknowledge that the SmartPlanet Web site is owned by CBS Interactive, which is (obviously) part of CBS. But I would be writing about this particular program whether or not it was sponsored by ABC, CNN, Hearst or [insert your favorite media company's name here]. That's because it recasts the concept of "green" advertising and green labels.

What is EcoAd all about? According to CBS EcoMedia, the logo is essentially a seal of approval that designates a portion of the given company's advertising spend is being put toward funding an environmental or clean energy project. The projects being supported have been designated as underfunded by local governments and non profit groups. Examples include an energy efficiency retrofit and solar power installation for the Miami City Hall or green work being done in schools in San Francisco, Miami and Cook County, Ill. The ads themselves could be digital, could be radio, could be television or even a billboard.

Who is on board? According to CBS EcoMedia, some of the first advertisers to sign up with the concept are Chevrolet, Safeway, O Organics, SunPower, Boston Scientific, PG&E, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Pacific Coast Termite, Port of Los Angeles and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Avidia Bank. If you look through the press release, there are some pretty high-profile comments about the approach. Here's one from George Pataki, the goverment of New York state.

"I have always understood that whether it was the preservation of over 1 million acres of open space for use by future generations or the establishment of cutting-edge programs like the first green building tax credit, improving our environment and creating jobs were not mutually exclusive goals. That's why I applaud EcoMedia for developing an innovative source of funding to do the same thing across America, making our communities healthier, more energy independent and more competitive in the global economy."

Big companies are going to advertise anyway, so why not make that advertising spend actually count toward a specific environmental project? I never really thought about the impact that a media company could have in the green space -- other than its editorial messaging -- but this is a pretty innovative approach to helping spread some green around.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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