Sierra Club Cleans House — With Clorox!

by PETER MONTAGUE

The Sierra Club’s national board voted March 25 to remove the leaders of the Club’s 35,000-member Florida chapter, and to suspend the Chapter for four years. It was the first time in the Club’s 116- year history that such action has been taken against a state Chapter.

The leadership of the Florida Chapter had been highly critical of the national board’s decision in mid-December 2007 to allow The Clorox Company to use the Sierra Club’s name and logo to market a new line of non-chlorinated cleaning products called "Green Works." In return, Clorox Company will pay Sierra Club an undisclosed fee, based partly on product sales. The Clorox Company logo will appear on the products as well. A 2004 report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund named The Clorox Company as one of the nation’s most chemically dangerous.

The Clorox deal has angered and embittered Club members all across the country, not just in Florida. Since the deal was announced in January, 2008, the Club’s national leadership has deflected many requests by Club members to see the text of the legal agreement signed with Clorox. Johanna O’Kelley, the Club’s director of Licensing & Cause- Related Marketing, will say only that the amount of money involved is "substantial." Carl Pope, the Club’s executive director, has said that money was not the driving factor behind the deal: "Our focus was on consumers who otherwise would not migrate to a safer product because they wouldn’t be sure it wasn’t green scamming," Mr. Pope has written. The idea is that the Clorox logo will convince people the products will work, and the Sierra Club logo will convince people the products are environmentally preferable.

Third parties are already benefiting from the deal. John Ulrich, who heads the Chemical Industry Council of California, claims broadly that, "the chemical industry is moving toward developing and marketing safer, more eco-friendly products, pointing to Oakland-based Clorox Co.’s new line of ‘green’ cleaning products that have been endorsed by the Sierra Club," according to a recent news report. As he spoke, Mr. Ulrich was using the Sierra Club-Clorox deal to try to deflect attention away from a new report showing that the chemical industry sickens and kills thousands of Californians each year, costing the state an estimated $2.6 billion in medical expenses and lost wages.

With 2007 revenues of $4.8 billion, The Clorox Company is best-known for its namesake chlorine bleach. The company also manufactures and sells other cleaning products, including Pine-Sol, Clorox Clean-Up, Formula 409, Liquid Plumr, Armor All, plus STP auto-care products, Fresh Step and Scoop Away cat litter, Kingsford charcoal, Hidden Valley and K C Masterpiece salad dressings and sauces, Brita water- filtration systems, and Glad bags, wraps and containers. With 7,800 employees worldwide, the company manufactures products in more than two dozen countries[2] and markets them in more than 100 countries.

In its most recent 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Clorox acknowledges,

"The Company is currently involved in or has potential liability with respect to the remediation of past contamination in the operation of some of its currently and formerly owned and leased facilities. In addition, some of its present and former facilities have been or had been in operation for many years and, over that time, some of these facilities may have used substances or generated and disposed of wastes that are or may be considered hazardous."

And:

"The Company handles and/or transports hazardous substances, including but not limited to chlorine, at its plant sites, including the rail transit of liquid chlorine from its point of origin to our manufacturing facilities. A release of such chemicals, whether in transit or at our facilities, due to accident or an intentional act, could result in substantial liability."

The Clorox Company seems an especially unlikely partner for Sierra Club because many environmental organizations in the U.S., including many members of the Sierra Club, have been working to eliminate chlorine chemistry for the past 15 years. Supporters of the deal point out that it is a step toward that goal. Critics are asking who’s next for partnerships? DuPont? Dow? Monsanto?

According to postings on the Club’s "Clubhouse" web site,

(1) the Club’s Corporate Relations Committee examined the proposed deal with Clorox and rejected it, but was overridden by the national board of directors;

(2) The Club’s Toxics Committee was not consulted before the deal was signed;

(3) The Club’s Corporate Financial Acceptance Policy says, in part, "The Club will not endorse products."

Among grass-roots Club members, the process for making the decision, as much as the decision itself, is cause for anger and dismay. The Club has 1.3 million dues-paying members, many of who are active volunteers in their local communities. Volunteers and paid national staff sometimes have different perspectives on what’s most important to the Club.

When grass-roots members pointed out that Clorox was fined $95,000 for violating U.S. pesticide laws just as the deal with the Club was being brokered, staffer Johanna O’Kelley dismissed Clorox’s culpability, saying their violation was "a technicality."

According to a report in the Palm Beach, Florida, Post newspaper, "Many past and present chapter leaders have declined to speak publicly about the dispute, with some saying they fear punishment from the national organization. In a recent letter, the club instructed leaders not to ‘seek public media coverage of this internal board decision.’"

On the Club’s "Clubhouse" web site, several Club members have called for a full national membership referendum on the Clorox deal, but so far the national staff in San Francisco has not adopted that suggestion.

PETER MONTAGUE is editor of Rachels’ Health and and Environment News.

Notes

[1] Disclosure: PETER MONTAGUE is a member of the Sierra Club.

[2] In its 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission dated June 30, 2007, The Clorox Company listed these subsidiaries: 1221 Olux, LLC Delaware; A & M Products Manufacturing Company Delaware; Andover Properties, Inc. Delaware; The Armor All/STP Products Company Delaware; BGP Switzerland S. a. r. l. Switzerland; Brita Canada Corporation Nova Scotia; Brita Canada Holdings Corporation Nova Scotia; Brita GP Ontario; Brita LP Ontario; Brita Manufacturing Company Delaware; The Brita Products Company Delaware; Chesapeake Assurance Limited Hawaii; Clorox Africa (Holdings) Pty. Ltd. South Africa; Clorox Africa Pty. Ltd. South Africa; Clorox Argentina S.A. Argentina; Clorox Australia Pty. Ltd. Australia; Clorox (Barbados) Inc. Barbados; Clorox Brazil Holdings LLC Delaware; Clorox do Brasil Ltda. Brazil; Clorox Car Care Limited United Kingdom; Clorox (Cayman Islands) Ltd. Cayman Islands; Clorox de Centro America, S.A. Costa Rica; Clorox Chile S.A. Chile; Clorox China (Guangzhou) Ltd. Guangzhou, P.R.C.; Clorox de Colombia S.A. Colombia; Clorox Commercial Company Delaware; The Clorox Company of Canada Ltd. Canada (Federal); Clorox Diamond Production Company Delaware; Clorox Dominicana, C. por A. Dominican Republic.


 


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 03, 2015
Sal Rodriguez
How California Prison Hunger Strikes Sparked Solitary Confinement Reforms
Lawrence Ware
Leave Michael Vick Alone: the Racism and Misogyny of Football Fans
Dave Lindorff
Is Obama the Worst President Ever?
Vijay Prashad
The Return of Social Democracy?
Jeralynn Bluford
Quantitative Easing for People: Jeremy Corbyn’s Radical Proposal
Paul Craig Roberts
The Rise of the Inhumanes: Barron, Bybee, Yoo and Bradford
Lynn Holland
For the Love of Water: El Salvador’s Mining Ban
Geoff Dutton
Time for Some Anger Management
Jack Rasmus
The New Colonialism: Greece and Ukraine
Norman Pollack
American Jews and the Iran Accord: The Politics of Fear
John Grant
Sorting Through the Bullshit in America
David Macaray
The Unbearable Lightness of Treaties
Chad Nelson
Lessig Uses a Scalpel Where a Machete is Needed
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America