I’ve just returned home from my holiday at Knysna on the Garden Route. In our bathroom was a notice informing us that the Garden Route was suffering its worst drought in 130 years and to therefore use water sparingly. Whether or not this drought is an effect of climate change I am not qualified to say, but it did lead me to think about our concern for the environment, and what we are being encouraged to do about it.
The messages the public gets seem to fall into two distinct classes, the first of which contains the general exhortations to be conscious of our impact on the environment, minimising our carbon footprints and so on; and the specific, commercial messages as corporations attempt to cash in on the new environmental awareness. It is with this second class of message that I have a problem.
Here’s an example: we know that plastic bags are clogging landfills and suffocating sea birds, so the obvious thing to do would be to use reusable bags instead of the disposable plastic bags. Retailers have leapt onto the bandwagon, offering for sale a variety of bags for a range of prices. People have bought these enthusiastically, enjoying the sensation of saving the planet for a small outlay. But is it actually making environmental sense? One website I consulted suggests that each reusable bag must be used 171 times before it repays its manufacturing energy cost, compared to the flimsy plastic disposable bags. So the warm fuzzy feeling may have been purchased at an environmental cost hidden from the user, who thinks he has paid to protect the environment, when he may in fact be harming it. Either way, the manufacturer makes his profit.
And then there are the truly cynical, like Nedbank who offer a thing called a “Green Affinity Account” which–they boast–offers their clients
the opportunity to participate in the conservation of our environment and the upliftment of local communities, at no cost to the client.
Bullshit. Nedbank’s fee structure is one of the highest around, so to claim that there is “no cost to the client” is disingenuous at best. In this document (pdf) Nedbank witter on nauseatingly and incomprehensibly about the environment and how wonderful they think they are. Here are a couple of examples:
THE DEBATE ON CLIMATE CHANGE, WHAT IT IS OR WHY IT’S HAPPENING, IS OVER. THE QUESTION NOW IS HOW BUSINESS SHOULD OPERATE IN A CARBON-CONSTRAINED FUTURE.
No, Nedbank, the debate isn’t over. No scientific debate is ever over–that is in the nature of inductive reasoning–but this one is less over than almost any other. Whilst there is a consensus that climate change is a fact and is at least partially anthropogenic, our understanding of the climate and our ability to model it is primitive, to say the least. This debate will continue to rage, and our conclusions at present must be regarded as provisional.
To position Nedbank and its clients appropriately for a carbon-constrained future, Nedbank Capital has a dedicated Carbon Finance Team to view carbon dioxide (CO2) and other emissions holistically. This team is part of the African Treasuries, Carbon & Financial Products unit and, through a multidisciplinary approach, has created a niche centre of excellence that interfaces with other business units. Ultimately, the objective is to leverage specialist skills to enhance our client service offering.
Oh, boy. Do they teach you to write like this as part of your MBA? Or is the meaninglessness of your drivel a manifestation of the deficiencies of your thinking apparatus?
Enough of Nedbank’s opinions. Let’s see if what they say matches what they do.
This report, Bankrolling Climate Change suggests that Nedbank has financed coal mining and coal-fired power stations to the tune of 119 million Euros between 2005 and 2011. Enough said.
OK, rant over.
The Garden Route is a part of the world that I have been meaning to visit for a long time. I regret having left it for so long.
This beautiful place is one we shall visit again sooner rather than later.
Apart from the beaches, forests (with elephants, although we didn’t see them) and lagoons, we visited the Knysna Yacht Company to see what they have up their sleeves. Scallywag and I have this ridiculous ambition to do a round-the-world trip under sail before total decrepitude overtakes us and we can no longer remember who or where we are. We were very kindly given a tour of the boatyard and a complete Knysna 48 by Kevin Fouche. This stunning craft will be on view at the Miami International Boat Show from the 16th to the 20th February 2012–go and see it!
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License