Corporate Campaigning on Coal
January 10, 2012
This morning I did some reading about corporate campaigning and thought a little about how it relates to our campaigns against coal mining in Australia.
In an interview with Rebecca Tarbotton of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Naomi Klein says:
“It sometimes works better not to go after the oil or coal company directly, but to go after the banks that lend them money, or the large corporations that buy their dirty energy (I’m thinking of the Bank of America, Facebook and Royal Bank of Canada campaigns here.) This can be more effective because the banks and corporate customers are less invested in the dirty business model themselves, so they have more flexibility to change course, whereas an oil company or a coal company isn’t going to see the light and stop being an oil or a coal company… But the truth is that I’ve never believed that we can change the world one corporation at a time. What we can do is use corporate campaigns to make things so uncomfortable for a few big corporate players that this builds leverage for across-the-board regulation, which should always be the goal.”
While I was with Six Degrees we were encouraged a few times to pick up corporate campaigns rather than targeting the mining companies directly. While this has never felt like the right approach to me (though I can’t quite articulate why), I think it’s a tactic worth a morning of my time researching and I’d love your thoughts on the matter.
When I think about targeting a corporation that invests heavily in the coal industry I know my mind often jumps straight to the messaging, the internet memes and the actions to pull off to shame the company into doing what we want. Probably because this is the part of the corporate campaigns that we, the public, see.
RAN has written a comprehensive introduction to corporate campaigning which I found here. The guide gives some insight into the steps they take before going public with their shaming campaigns:
- Research the Problem
- Define Your Goal
- Write a list of Demands
- Assess and Build Capacity
- Establish A Relationship With The Target
- Send a letter to your target; usually this is the CEO. In the letter, lay out the issue and define the goal in broad terms.
- Less than one week later call the company and try and set up a meeting with the CEO or the “head of the problem” department. Be persistent. Call weekly.
- Prepare for the meeting
- Attend the Meeting/s
- Follow up from the meeting
- Continue to engage in dialogue with the decision makers in the company.
- Don’t be fooled by false promises and continual dialogue; keep your eye on your goal: if the company isn’t changing its business practices then the company is stonewalling you and you should respond accordingly.
- Don’t make threats or promises you can’t keep. Make sure not to commit to doing any significant amount of their work for them.
- Launch Public Campaign (When communication with the company fails to create the targeted outcome)
- Declare Victory
- Enforce Implementation
RAN’s guide goes into a lot more depth about these steps and more (it’s 86 pages).
I’m interested to hear what targets folks have been thinking about for campaigns against corporate investment in coal in Australia and why. Is there any interest in doing this thoroughly rather than just the odd action here and there?