Is the Guardian helping a food giant greenwash its image?

The news organization is partnering with Unilever to promote the company's sustainable image

Topics: The Guardian, unilever, greenwashing, native advertising, sustainable living, , ,

Is the Guardian helping a food giant greenwash its image?Unilever headquarters in Hamburg, Germany (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Guardian, normally a trusted and respected source for reporting on the environment and sustainability, has made some critics very, very angry:

Pollan’s referring to the announcement, made yesterday, that the U.K.-based newspaper is partnering with corporate behemoth Unilever to “create a bespoke engagement platform to increase awareness of, and foster debate about, sustainability issues, and ultimately encourage people to live more sustainable lives.”

In other words: native advertising. But pushing that already-controversial media practice to its extreme, the new “Guardian Labs” are eliminating what most news organizations take to be sacred: the separation of editorial and advertorial. From AdWeek:

Many news outlets have kept their journalists far away from the native content creation process. However, Guardian Labs will maintain no such separation.

Explained [deputy CEO of Guardian News Media david] Pemsel: “It’s one thing to say, go to a journalist and say, we’d like you to write that. We would never do that. But we have people working in television and technology and film and general news, and they have ideas. It would be sort of mad not to tap into that knowledge.”

At The Dish,  Andrew Sullivan is also outraged:

So the entire paper is to be filled with a p.r. campaign disguised as journalism, in order to promote Unilever’s image as a green company. That’s called corporate propaganda. The key to all this is the old and simple trick of deceiving readers into thinking they are reading journalism when they are actually reading p.r. – especially when a single page can travel alone through the Interwebs and seem to most readers to be a Guardian article. And the end of all this will be the growing gnawing sense among Guardian readers that, unless they are very careful, they will have a very tough time telling the difference.



This is far from the first time that Unilever — which manufactures Axe body spray, Lipton tea, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Vaseline, among many other brands – has been accused of greenwashing its image. Now it’s just going to get some extra help from one of the places that’s supposed to be calling it out.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...