Expedia offsets carbon, Ford continues to perplex

In a similar vein as the recent announcement of BP's Target Neutral program, the online travel giant Expedia will be offering a similar carbon off-setting program in partnership with TerraPass, a carbon reduction program sponsored by the Ford Motor Company.

Of course, this post is less about flogging Expedia's new program (which they should be commended for), than it is a segue into a post we have been meaning to do for a while now on TerraPass, the Ford Motor Company and the massive climate change spin machine, the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

It is befuddling to see a company like Ford, on one hand supporting major climate change causes like the TerraPass, while on the other hand continuing to support an organization like the CEI, whose most recent claim to fame was the production and distribution of the most offensive counter-climate change advertisements to date. For those not in the loop, I have included the infamous TV commercial (that ran in 14 US cities this spring) below.

And we're not the only ones confused about this, check out this from the TerraPass people themselves on their frustration with Ford's continued involvement with the CEI.

If Ford is serious about climate change, their words should match their actions. An old PR story that speaks to this reputation discrepency is as follows:

A CEO hired a PR guru. In their first meeting the CEO said,” I have a reputation for being an SOB, and I'm hiring you to improve my image.” “Well,” said the PR guru “First you'll have to stop being an SOB.”

The moral of the story is that good reputations are hard earned. You won't develop one if you don't deserve it, no matter how good your PR guru is.

Here's the video from the CEI, an organization that Ford Motor Company continues to support:


Hi Kevin,

While we at TerraPass find the relationship between Ford and CEI deeply unfortunate, we don’t find it confusing. Although corporations often seek to present themselves as monoliths acting with a single voice and unity of purpose, they are in fact extremely farflung organizations representing a diversity of interests, points of view, and agendas.

This is why companies like Ford sometimes appear schizoid on controversial issues, particularly when they’re trying to change a longstanding set of internal cultural assumptions. Much of Ford’s leadership and certainly the folks in the sustainability group that we deal with on a regular basis are deeply knowledgeable about climate change and hopeful that they can be on the forefront of eventual solutions.

But other parts of Ford use organizations like CEI for lobbying purposes. It’s important to note that CEI is not a “massive climate change spin machine,” as you claim. CEI is a pissant lobbying firm that put a small amount of money to use in a way that was designed to achieve as much publicity as possible. Their day job consists of lobbying on behalf of various industry causes, and for that purpose someone at Ford finds them useful.

If this sounds like an excuse, it isn’t meant to be. We at TerraPass are quite clear about where we stand: the CEI ads were inexcusable, and Ford should loudly and publicly sever ties with the firm.

But they haven’t, and the reasons for that have nothing to do with hypocrisy or conspiracy. It’s just a depressing beauracratic cock-up, plain and simple. (By the way, regardless of the reason, it is a good idea to put public pressure on companies that behave badly. They really do take notice and respond, particularly if that pressure is well-reasoned and respectful.)

Anyway, on to happier things. The Expedia partnership has been live for only a day, and already it’s doing great! Read all about it on our kick-ass blog: http://www.terrapass.com/terrablog/posts/000410.html

- Adam

CEI has had a large impact on the issue of climate change, while they may be ‘pissant’ they have been effective. A 14 city TV ad campaign is big and is expensive, putting them in the category of “massive spin machine.” As far as Ford, a bumbling beauracracy is not an excuse for their continued support of CEI, if there was a concern at the executive level there would be action taken. Further, there are a lot of lobbyists in Washington and I am sure there is one out there that is just as effective as CEI, but better reflects the overall corporate image Ford would like to have.