A subsidiary of Hearst – one of the world’s largest buyers of publication papers – is among seven corporate sponsors along with Google of the controversial Paperless 2013 promotion. That campaign has come under criticism (See The Takeover of Paperless 2013) for unsubstantiated claims that organizations become more environmentally friendly when they switch to cloud computing and other paperless processes.
Manilla, a Hearst unit that offers an online bill-management process, is not just guilty of greenwashing by association. Manilla’s CEO said this month that the company’s sponsorship of Paperless 2013 is “truly representative of Manilla’s overall mission ... to help improve the environment by reducing the overall use of paper.”
Like Paperless 2013, Manilla presents no evidence that its processes help the environment. In fact, its web site reveals nothing about its environmental footprint or programs. That’s a far cry from the practices of the parent company, which owns such leading media brands as Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Road & Track, A&E Network, and the Houston Chronicle.
Hearst doesn’t just claim that its headquarters “is the most environmentally friendly office tower in New York City history.” It underwent the stringent process of having the innovative building LEED-certified with a Gold rating.
|Hearst paper policies|
Dead Tree Edition cited Hearst in 2009 as one of “the real leaders in making U.S. magazines greener” because of its multi-faceted work on such matters as encouraging sustainable forestry and promoting the recycling of magazines.
Documentation and transparency have been hallmarks of Hearst’s efforts. When it set up the Hearst Sustainable Forestry Initiative in 2004, it says it found that 38% of the fiber for its magazines was from certified fiber.
“By modifying our purchasing strategy and working proactively with our suppliers, we were able to increase this level to 75% by December 2009. We continue to have a goal of 80%,” says the company’s annual “Being Green” report. It also says it is not averse to “changing mills or suppliers when certification percentages and targets are unacceptable.”
Methinks that Manilla’s vague, self-serving claim about helping the environment does not represent the new Hearst philosophy but is rather a case of the startup division not absorbing its parent's culture. Manilla could learn a few lessons from its not-so-paperless sister companies about business practices that promote healthy forests and other measurable environmental benefits.
Methinks, to paraphrase a Manilla ad, that when it comes to environmental claims Manilla needs to get its “s**t together.”