An Open Letter to Corporate Ethics International

From the CEI website "rethink Alberta" campaign

By A. B. Thomas

On Wednesday July 14, 2010, Corporate Ethics International put up billboards in several American cities that compared the Alberta Tar Sands oil extraction projects to the BP oil disaster. The advertising campaign is aimed at discouraging tourism to Alberta as a way to protest the project. It would appear that the logic in this campaign would be that if people do not come to Alberta, the loss of tourists’ dollars will put pressure on the Alberta government to shut down the investors, research and development of the oil sands projects. In two weeks the group plans to start their “Rethink Alberta” anti-tourism campaign in the United Kingdom.

What I’d like to say, if I were a metrosexualized e-duh-cated Albertan, is politely offer these points in opposition to your ad campaign. Political goals should be left in the political arena.  If your membership has issues with oil companies and government policy, then that is where the resources for bribes, strong arming and haranguing should be focused. I realize that as an American entity, it is only natural that you emulate your government’s tactics in getting your ends met when there isn’t the public’s support behind your forthrightness.

It would be negligent of me if I did not point out that Corporate Ethics International is headquartered in San Francisco, California.   I cannot but wonder why you would focus your ad campaign on a foreign oil project as a terrible polluter of the Earth when your own country is teeming with ‘evilness’.  Alberta has the Rocky Mountains, The Royal Tyrell Museum, The Blackfoot Interpretive Centre, large sections of crown land expressively put as wildlife conversation areas, the Torrington Gopher Museum and lakes upon lakes, streams upon streams, that are ideal for fishing and swimming – all projects that are protected and maintained through Alberta government funding.  A look through the various informational windows around the San Francisco area on ecological concerns seems to show an overt lack of statements with “preserved and maintained by Corporate Ethics International” emblazoned upon the sites.  Alberta is at least attempting to find solutions to the potential pollution problems of the tar sands projects, including those caps suggested by the Kyoto protocol, a document that the United States refused to sign. Empty talk is pretty cheap, and hardly an erstwhile pursuit in terms of impacting changes.

Examples of sabotaging another nation for America’s oil interest is well established; the attempt to sink the USS Liberty in order to get a leg hold in the “new” Middle East, the “weapons of mass destruction” and the ensuing  policies of dismantling the power structure and military to ensure that Iraq would not recover its independence before American interests could be established; or overthrowing the Afghanistan government initially supported when it refused to obey the whims for a pipeline to secure oil from a fair market that would include Pakistan, Iran and China. It is duplicitous to throw blame onto a region supplying the American demand for oil and its products; perhaps there is also the belief that once you wipe with toilet paper the feces is no longer owned by you but the manufacturer of the toilet paper. I would think that ‘ethically’, it would be repugnant to backdoor a political motive by striking at the ordinary citizens of a foreign power, but monkey see, monkey do, I guess. I would think that it would be in your best interests to be better than that, if you are truly attempting to create a positive affect.

Strategies that bastardize a specific culture, in this case, the Albertan peoples, is not a platform that one can stake a solid position worthy of being listened to. It is depressing, yet expected, that you would take a page from the American government once again to portray Albertans as thoughtless and uncaring about the land in which we dwell in.  Just as all Russians were not out to kill everyone during the Cold War, and just as not all Muslims are terrorists today, by painting these broad strokes of ill-defined caricatures you demean all those who hold that cultural flag with honour.  If you truly want to paint the darkest of pictures about the citizens of the province of Alberta, let’s just add a few other things to your add campaign, shall we? To appeal to the Christian fundamentalists, place raping a baby; for racists, have a black man raping a beaten and battered woman and for the animal activists, let’s add a Native hunter laughing while a bear writhes in agony with an arrow sticking half out of one of its eyes. To further destroy Alberta’s image, let’s not forget to have a lawyer serving papers to a business person for not having in big bold letters “warning your coffee is hot” – wait, sorry, that’s the American justice system hard at work, not Canadian. Perhaps, in light of your tactics, it would be of the utmost importance to remove the word “ethics” from your brand name as you are intent on proving “corporate ethics” is essentially an oxymoron.

I could not help but  notice that one of the other campaigns you are engaged in is the “Big Box” protest – the protest of large retailers who are squeezing out not only small businesses but the producers of the products by demanding lower prices, which in turn, forces lesser wages for those employees.  What struck me as odd is that Corporate Ethics International is a conglomeration, according to your website, of at least a hundred smaller organizations – in effect becoming what you purport to oppose, a “Big Box”.  How is the Corporate Ethics International “protest power” through mutual alignment of resources any different than Walmart’s buying power? The desired result is the same for both: more bang for the least amount of buck.

As I said, I’d like to, but the fact of the matter is that I’m just Small Town Alberta, and being so, the only response I can make is this:

photo taken by: en:User:Adrian Pingstone in July 2004 and released to the public domain

Plant ‘em, buckos, plant ‘em.