Ethical consumerism non-profit Green America has this week gone on the offensive against American telecommunications giant Verizon regarding what it describes as misleading ‘#humanability’ advertising campaign that is currently focusing on a partnership with the Hawaiian Electric Company.
Green America has long been the self-imposed watchdog for America’s telecommunications companies, as highlighted by its Wireless Scorecard which rates the big four companies — T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon — on their commitment to and current clean energy sourcing, and their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. In March of this year, the latest Scorecard gave T-Mobile an A-, Sprint received a C, AT&T received a C-, and Verizon flunked out across the board with Fs.
“Verizon is flunking when it comes to adopting renewable energy, and AT&T and Sprint aren’t doing much better,” Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Consumer and Corporate Engagement at Green America, said at the time. “T-Mobile deserves credit for stepping up and being best in its class. To reduce our climate emissions at the speed and scale necessary to address the climate crisis, all companies should shift to 100% renewable energy within the next decade. If companies like Apple and Google can achieve 100% clean energy, telecom companies can too.”
This week, however, Green America is drawing attention to a different kind of flaw in the system, specifically, a new ad campaign as part of Verizon’s #humanability campaign. The Verizon ad (below) makes much of the role they are playing in helping the Hawaiian Electric Company achieve 100% renewable power across the islands by contributing sensors that give the electricity supplier near-real-time information on electricity generation.
However, despite the great work being done by the Hawaiian Electric Company — and the role being played by Verizon — it is important to remember, as Green America is currently decrying to anyone who will listen, that Verizon currently only sources 2% of its power from renewable energy sources, and only has plans to increase its clean energy usage to 4%.
“While it is not uncommon to see advertising claims bend the truth, Verizon has fractured it beyond recognition by implying its leadership in renewable energy,” said Green America Executive Co-Director for Consumer and Corporate Engagement Todd Larsen. “If this commitment was real, it would start at home. We call on Verizon management, shareholders and customers to demand that Verizon follow the lead of its competitors and get on the path now to a 100% renewable energy.”
Verizon’s ‘#humanability’ campaign is based around the idea that, “We don’t wait for the future. We build it.” The company adds that, “We’re giving humans the ability to do more in this world, by creating the connections that turn innovative ideas into reality. We call it … #humanability.” The collaboration between the Hawaiian Electric Company and Verizon is currently the focus of the campaign, and Verizon is hammering home the importance of why Hawaii needs the support — 100 feet of Hawaii’s coastline could erode in the next 30 years due to climate change, as such the island state is looking to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045.
But is there any method to Verizon’s focus on Hawaii’s 100% renewable energy target at the expense of setting one themselves? Does Green America have a case to make about misleading and, arguably, false advertising?
For those of us watching this ad with the knowledge of the industry and of Verizon’s own poor performance, it definitely seems maybe Green America is over-hyping a bit of advertising. But when you stop to think about the perception it gives to the uninitiated, it’s unsurprising that Green America has taken such a militant approach to calling Verizon on its hypocrisy. The ad and the company’s associated language, with no context or extra information, serve to give the impression that Verizon cares about renewable energy. The reality, sadly, is that the company seems to be making no effort to put this ‘impression’ into action.
I reached out to Verizon to comment on Green America’s claims, and received the following statement in reply:
Verizon is proud that our technology is helping Hawaiian Electric reach their 100% renewable energy goal by 2045. We’re committed to minimizing environmental impact and driving efficiencies for our customers and ourselves, including the deployment of more green energy resources – such as solar and cell fuel technology – into our facilities. More information on Verizon’s green energy efforts and our sustainability goals can be found here: https://www.verizon.com/about/responsibility/sustainability
So, in other words, it would appear that Verizon is content to continue receiving F grades.
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