Disarmament Insight


Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A “Green Seal” for arms control?

What do environmentalists know that the peace and security community doesn’t? Well, for one thing how to use the business’s community marketing machinery to support their goals.

One of the biggest trends in marketing in recent years is “green marketing” in which businesses lay claim to environmental bona fides as a means of encouraging affluent consumers to purchase their product or not shy away from doing so. A soymilk manufacturer sponsors a “Green Caps for Green Energy” program, a bottled water distributor supports global clean water efforts, a travel agency supports sustainable development projects. And then there’s all the companies from British Petroleum to Starbucks that seek to shrink the environmental footprint that they leave.

Outside the environmental field, there’s all sorts of similar efforts: Virgin Mobile is tying its sales effort to efforts to get homeless young people off the streets; Microsoft is willing to donate money to a variety of causes from the National AIDS fund to UNICEF for every Instant Message a customer sends; Ralph Lauren is opening a series of Rugby stores dedicated to volunteerism and community service.

Yet, as far as I know no similar efforts have been made in the peace and security community (and I’d love to be corrected if I’m wrong). It’s not clear why. To be sure, there are some obstacles—security policy is inevitably more politically charged than giving money to health issues, for example. And it’s also often far more complicated to explain.

Yet, it seems that there should be possibilities for winning support nonetheless. What about companies interested in the developing world contributing to gun buyback efforts or efforts to clear landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war? Since UNICEF and UNESCO are using companies’ marketing efforts to raise funds, how about raising additional revenue for the inspection efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons?

As in other areas, companies are also interested in avoiding the damage to their reputation that might occur if they are tied to arms trafficking or dangerous weapons. At this summer’s Carnegie Nonproliferation Conference, for example, Ralf Wirtz of Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum talked about how his company, tarnished after inspectors discovered that some of its dual-use equipment was used in Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, overhauled all of its export control procedures and decided to work pro-actively with governments.

Many corporations, however, see little incentive or are provided little guidance in how to tighten their end-use monitoring absent any embarrassing disclosure. Wouldn’t it be useful if there was a peace and security equivalent of Green Seal, which certifies products and services as environmentally responsible?

This is a guest blog by Miles Pomper, editor of Arms Control Today, the monthly magazine of the U.S. Arms Control Association.

Dis Insight editors’ note: what do readers think? Use the comment function at the foot of this post to let us know.


Photo downloaded from Flickr.


Miles Pomper said...

Wade Boese of our own Arms Control Association reminds me that at least one government is thinking along similar lines. At a February Arms Control Association press conference whose transcript is available on the ACA website (www.armscontrol.org) , John S. Duncan, the United Kingdom's ambassador for multilateral arms control and disarmament, discussed how a proposed Arms Trade Treaty "might act as a form of corporate social responsibility for the arms trade, much in the same way as the lumber and coffee industry have turned an obligation into a marketing device, such as sustainable forestry and fair trade in coffee."

Anonymous said...

Ben and Jerry's ice cream has been a constant supporter of peace and disarmament http://www.benjerry.com/features/peaceoneday/index.cfm

Glastonbury music festival used to gives money & support to CND until after Gulf War 1 and now gives Greenpeace among others.
It always seems a pity not to build on such multipliers. But they are there for us to work with.


Anonymous said...

And, in a related vein, don't forget the power of negative incentives on arms producers, apart from a Green Seal for arms control...See this article in today's British Observer ("Observer: Cluster bombers face City boycott (19 August 2007"):