Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day 3: Greenpeace and Coca Cola are now friends

The buzz on the opening day of the annual BSR Conferece here in San Francisco was a story Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace, was telling about its former arch enemy Coca COla. After well over a decade of Greenpeace pressure, Coke has agreed to install Greenfreeze refrigeration units at the Beijing Olympics and other venues worldwide (about 100,000 units total I think) that will save several thousand tons of hydroflourocarbons (HFC) over their lifetime. HFC's are a nasty contributor to climate change. (You might recall chloroflourocarbons CFC's were banned in the 1980's in most industrialized nations for their contribution to Ozone Layer depletion - at that point most refrigeration units shifted to utilizing HFCs instead).

Some people thought this was very good news. It showed that long term committment to issues by NGOs do result in sigificant change, and that civil society can work together with businesses to take on the difficult challenges of our times. It gave hope to people who had previously lost hope or interest in these sorts of collaborations.

But others were disappointed in Greenpeace. After 10 years of work how could they claim that Coca Cola's 100,000 frig units was a success story? Why did it take so long? Why not a complete phase out of HFCs? Why did they settle? What happened to the Greenpeace of old?

For me every small victory is a victory and it all adds up. It shows that we have changed a lot as a global community as well - for the better perhaps. Collaborative instead of confrontational. Celebrating the postive rather than the negative. Building the foundations for future collaborations and wins.

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