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While others are clamoring for integrated marketing campaigns, U.S. Can Corp., a leading manufacturer of metal containers, is moving in the opposite direction.
The company in July unveiled a corporate restructuring plan that focuses on segmentation of marketing, marketing strategy and sales, rather than integration.
A growing customer sophistication, coupled with the ever-increasing global marketplace, led to the restructuring of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company, says its new chairman-CEO, Paul Jones.
Mr. Jones says that when he joined the company in April, he set out to understand the business and how he could prepare it for growth. What he learned, he says, is that U.S. Can’s “manufacturing plants, equipment and people are among the best in the industry,” but the company “had an opportunity in the area of strategic marketing and strategic pricing.” The company’s containers are used for personal care, household, automotive, paint and industrial products.
Conversations with employees, customers and analysts brought Mr. Jones to the conclusion that the key to success lies in a new approach to marketing.
Reorganization for customers
Under the new plan, each of the company’s business operations – aerosol; paint, general line and plastic; custom and specialty products; and international – will be responsible for its own marketing, market strategy, manufacturing, sales and overall business leadership.
With most companies leaning toward heavily integrating the organization, U.S. Can may seem a bit out of step with business trends, but Mr. Jones says it’s all a matter of timing.
“We do need to do a lot more integrating and we will do a lot more integrating, but right now, we’ve got our work cut out for us to get this organization working and focusing on the customers,” he says. “At some point in the future, we’ll take another step, but that’s not part of my plans right now.”
In U.S. Can’s previous structure, one person took charge of all sales and marketing efforts. Mr. Jones says the new approach will result in a more concentrated marketing effort.
“In today’s environment, an organization is much better served to have one person solely focused on marketing and another solely focused on managing the sales function,” he says. “When you have someone over both sales and marketing, 98% of their time is spent on managing the sales organization. The amount of time devoted to marketing is little or none.”
Each of the four operations will be in charge of its own marketing budgets, including merchandising and pricing. However, a marketing council is being formed in which all marketing leaders will come together with the director of communications to make key decisions on issues such as media buying.
While the sales function will not be altered by the new structure, a new sales force automation program is in development that promises to take efforts to a new level. Furthermore, a global accounts management process will be established in October, which Mr. Jones said he thinks will help ensure that customers are served properly and promptly.
In addition to the four business divisions, a Business Support Organization has been created to help foster cooperation among plants. Serving as vice president will be Thomas Scrimo, who was recruited from Greenfield Industries’ consumer products group, Latrobe, Pa.
Mr. Jones says the organization will serve as a quarterback of sorts, “calling signals for those 35 plants out there, so they will all be marching in the same direction.”
Mr. Scrimo and his staff will be responsible for the company’s overall quality assurance, manufacturing systems and programs, plant rationalization and restructuring, and manufacturing technology and strategy for each of the business units.
With all the division leaders located in the company’s Oak Brook headquarters, they also will be able to coordinate an ongoing interchange of ideas and practices.
Against the trend
Still, U.S. Can’s new structure “is’ against the trend that we see among the clients we serve,” says Michael Weaver, VP-account group director for NKH&W, a Kansas City, Mo.-based integrated marketing communications agency. “The rest of the world is mainly moving in a different direction, and that is integration.” NKH&W’s client list includes Phillips Petroleum Co., Yellow Freight and Nesta Chemicals.
“The appointment of someone to oversee the new structure seems like a prudent step,” Mr. Weaver says, “but unless there is line responsibility, facilitating positions often do not work out. A unified structure almost always seems to pay off in the long run.”
Says Rick Kean, executive director of the Business Marketing Association, Chicago: “I don’t know how you can have a seamless operation with so many separate parts. The cool thing about integration is it makes it easier to quantify what’s working and what isn’t.”
If U.S. Can doesn’t go the integrated route, Mr. Kean says, “it would be important that their structure identify a measure of accountability. So often, a major problem is lack of communication and accountability. Maybe the [marketing] council will do this.”
Mr. Jones said he thinks U.S. Can’s new marketing focus will take it into the new millennium as a force to be reckoned with in the container industry. And despite what critics say, he is determined to see it through.
“It’s a case of looking at where we were and where we need to go, and I think this is the right step for this company right now,” he says. “We’ve got an initiative to take marketing to the same level as our manufacturing and make it one of the success stories of this company.”
It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that some ideas are easier to get published than others. As an environmentalist, you may have at least heard of Losing Ground, a tough critique of the big U.S. environmental groups. But the average citizen must navigate the swells of environmental literature (and environmental politics) without even a vague insider’s sense of the rumors, jokes, and daily gossip of the green movement. If they know the new books at all, they know them by advertising and media “buzz,” and are likely to have noticed only A Moment On The Earth.
Losing Ground is published by an academic press, and in bookstores is generally tucked almost invisibly within daunting stacks brimming with “new nonfiction.” This is hardly the fate of Gregg Easterbrook’s book, which was expensively acquired, aggressively promoted, and received by talk-show hosts, op-ed editors, and other assorted opinion-makers with almost abject eagerness. Why the stark contrast? Has it anything to do with, say, politics? With the mood of the country? Easterbrook’s claim, certainly, is soothing, so much so that it stands apart. Here is its kernel, in his own words:
In the western nations and especially the United States, which is the first nation to attempt a systematic if flawed, but genuine and systematic attempt to protect the environment, trends are now in the main positive.
Dowie, like the grassroots environmental activists he champions, has reached different conclusions – so different that one reviewer was moved to ask if the two books even hail from the same planet. Easterbrook celebrates a “coming age of environmental optimism,” and insists in the midst of today’s frenzy of free-market anti-environmentalism, that long-term trends will vindicate him. Dowie, for his part tells the story of an official environmental movement at the brink that, led by a privileged and disoriented elite and outflanked by increasingly sophisticated corporations, risks becoming altogether irrelevant in the great game for the future.
It’s an odd divergence, but it has explanations, and they concern overall approach as well as political agendas. Losing Ground takes a tight focus – the American environmental movement, and particularly the failures which, Dowie argues, are products of its elitism and self-absorption. A Moment on the Earth, for its part, wanders from ill-spirited, pro-corporate polemics – here greens appear as “doomsters” and “transrationalists” – to vast ideological vistas in which Easterbrook presumes to speak, repeatedly and with startling hubris, for “nature” itself.
Losing Ground was published several months after A Moment on the Earth. It was easy enough to find “off the record” tales of green activists, pressured to optimism by Easterbrookean funders and development directors, who heaved a sigh of relief as Dowie came to their support. Today, with U.S. greens under heavy attack, even Easterbrook’s moment is fading. Not that he is gone, but certainly his claims are palpably, visibly, misformed. Indeed, he himself has regrets. Speaking in Berkeley in May, Easterbrook admitted that if he had “been smarter” and “seen what was coming” in the GOP-controlled Congress, he would have written the book differently. It’s an astounding admission, especially when made by an author still on his book tour.
Ironically, it was the Environmental Defense Fund that most clearly saw the need to debunk Easterbrook. EDF, with its strident and generally unreflective advocacy of pollution trading and the other mechanisms of market environmentalism, has done more than any other single organization to push the American environmental movement onto the treacherous slopes of cost-analyzed, corporate-biased realpolitik. Easterbrook was still touring when EDF published the first installment of “A Moment Of Truth” to correct Easterbrook’s “scientific errors.” (See page 28.)
Then, as a delicious followup, came something like comedy. Here is Easterbrook’s response (May 5th, National Public Radio) to CEO Fred Krupp’s announcement that EDF had a detailed critique of Moment in the works:
Don’t these guys have better things to do, with Gingrich and Dole up on Capitol Hill? . . .Now I think, sadly, from the point of view of financial self-interest it may be perfectly logical. I mean, obviously, EDF knows that Gingrich and Bob Dole are bad news for the environment, but they may make it easier to raise money for environmental groups. . . . Now if you turn around and look at me, for example, my optimistic ideas may be good for the environment, but they certainly might upset traditional forms of environmental group fundraising.
This is more than a clever, opportunistic defense. It is also peculiarly Dowiesque. Easterbrook’s claim here is that EDF’s virtue is that of the heroic, bulk-mail fundraiser, and this is just Losing Ground’s charge against elite environmentalism.
EDF was right to attack Easterbrook, for Moment is one of the most pernicious documents to claim itself as green in quite-some time. Yet EDF and Easterbrook actually have a great deal in common – most obviously technological optimism and a faith that, in the end, the market will save us all. Moreover, there is a shard of justice in Easterbrook’s charge against EDF.
Losing Ground has its own problems. Dowie’s history is uneven, for one thing, and troubled by an unfortunate, politically correct tone. And his whirlwind review of the philosophical problems raised by ecological crisis is more than just a bit thin. Losing Ground’s more significant problems hover about its core concerns – the tribulations of “legislation and litigation,” justice and elitism, money and politics, both near and long term. And here, crucially, the contrast between Dowie and Easterbrook couldn’t be stronger, for Losing Ground is constructive even in its weaknesses.
Take Dowie’s history of U.S. environmental law, which is alone reason enough to read the book. The story of large, environmental organizations as a “class-bound interest group” that pursues, largely though the litigation/legislation strategy, “a more cautious reform agenda than the movement as a whole” is a story screaming to be told, and Dowie does not disappoint. In a dramatic narrative that begins with a chapter called “Sue the Bastards!” and runs inexorably though “Fix Becomes Folly,” he offers a vivid, unsparing history of the often funder-dominated and always lawyerly process by which the American people were so unwisely encouraged to trust in the sincerity and efficacy of official regulatory politics.
Dowie’s central claim is that “American land, air, and water. . .would be in far better condition had environmental leaders been bolder; more diverse in class, race, and gender; less compromising in battle; and less gentlemanly in their day-to-day dealings with adversaries.”
It is a claim we should take dead seriously. Anti-environmentalists now control the playing field, and much depends on how we choose to understand the path by which they stormed it. No good will be served by denying that official environmentalism is a big part of the problem. Denis Hayes, the director of the first Earth Day and a man who has taken both sides in this debate, recently observed, “There is some sense that [environmentalists] are sort of pointy-headed intellectuals who use complicated analyses and don’t care much about regular people.” With social insecurity high and rising, “regular people” find their concerns rotating tightly around money and the future, and we should not be surprised if they lack great sympathy with a distant “environmentalism” of bureaucrats and well-dressed expertise.
Not all enviros are happy with this analysts, pointing to the accomplishments of the Clean Air and Water acts, Superfund, NEPA, the Endangered Species Act and so on. Dowie does not disagree that the early victories were significant. It’s just that he sees them as limited and more likely to be rolled back than reinforced.
It has not been long since Al Gore won high office, but who today will claim this a greal event? Is it not, to be honest, the token of a “victory” that did more to inflame the right than to empower the greens, a victory that left huge numbers of Americans concluding that the environmental problem was taken care of? Obviously, this isn’t the whole story, but certainly it’s part of it, and it must be faced if the green movement is to have a future. Dowie, then, is essential reading, and this despite the fact that he hardly has the whole story sorted out.
Losing Ground is a report from the front, not a breakthrough of political synthesis. Dowie has talked to people throughout the U.S. movement, and done a fine job of collecting their thoughts, war stories, and theories in a reasonably balanced and tidy package. It may be too tidy, but the fact remains that the opinions here are the common currency of activist circles. But there are crucial contradictions among them. Here are some of them, noted by Paul Rauber in the Sept/Oct 1995 issue of Sierra magazine:
[Dowie] faults environmental groups for not hiring enough people of color – but when they do he faults them for stealing talent from grassroots groups. He complains that environmentalists are failing to reach out to distressed loggers – and then belabors any group that fails to advocate a total ban on logging in the national forests. He insists that they add to their core concerns environmental justice, international human rights, eco-feminism, and spiritual ecology – and then ridicules the “passive supporters of mainstream groups [who] have proven themselves mercurial, faddish, and easily attracted to other causes.”
This is quite fair. Dowie does all of this. But it is a flaw far less decisive than Rauber imagines. The real point, and the reason why Losing Ground is a constructive book, is that the contradictions here are not for Dowie to resolve, but for us all. Dowie is trying to tell hard truths, and to do so while speaking for a strategy in which green mainstreamers and grassroots environmental justice activists evolve new ways of working, ways that allow them to disagree, and yet to continue to work together to pursue their common goals. His sympathy is with the grassroots, but he is generous to opposing views.
The easy victories are over. From now on, environmental battles will be hard won, if they are won at all. There are many lessons to be drawn from looking back on the path that led us here, and I doubt many of them are better than Dowie’s insistence that “justice” is the key to the future.
We should not imagine, though, that in affirming even such a fine word as justice we have done something decisive. There is more at stake here than pretty rhetoric, as there is more to strategy than uncritical cooperation. The mainstream is here to stay, and so is the grassroots. The question is how we can work together so that each of us strengthens, rather than undermines, the other.
It won’t be easy. As Easterbrook has proven, one may imagine oneself a fine environmentalist, and yet eagerly carry water for the anti-environmental right. And Dowie has shown that the elitism and simple-minded realism of the mainstream movement goes beyond absurdity to be actively debilitating, and even nurtures backlash.
What is the lesson of that backlash? It is, I think, that people do not attend solely to isolated single issues like spotted owls or even clean water. “The voters,” as they are called, care as well about large political themes. And if the right has managed to seize the stage and define those themes as excessive regulation and government interference, that is at least strong evidence that environmental protection will not be won by an apolitical strategy that seeks to avoid facing the realities of life on an increasingly polarized planet.
The story of the new right, and of anti-environmental upsurge, and indeed of the militias, is the story of American populism swinging again to its right-wing pole, of freedom seen as a variant of private life and property, and as the antithesis of regulation. This is not inevitably its definition, but with big capital benefiting so richly from its repetition, an alternative will not come easy.
Yet there can be an alternative. Populism has a second, better, past, and we just may be able to build on it. But popu-lism is not enough. If freedom is to cease to be a synonym for property, it will not do for environmentalists to give lip service to the poor, but actually spend their days working for the salvation they imagine hidden in markets and cost analysis. If justice is to once again be widely accepted as a political ideal, it must as well be seen as an aspect of freedom, and as a product of life in healthy, active, communities. Building those communities is what environmental justice is all about, and if we are to escape this dead-end into which we have wandered, we had best think beyond new laws and regulations, and beyond a bright new set of bulk mailings.
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In this era of integrated marketing, business-to-business marketers have had few tools to help them create and implement customized promotions and campaigns – and even fewer that tie into the Web as well.
But that’s changing with the emergence of a new category of front-office applications called enterprise marketing automation, a spinoff of sales force automation tools designed specifically for the marketing department.
Formally introduced this year, this category has only a handful of vendors so far, but the market is expected to grow rapidly.
“The whole idea of managing marketing and marketing campaigns has been neglected,” says Judith Hurwitz, president of the Hurwitz Group, Framingham, Mass., an analyst company specializing in strategic business applications.
As businesses begin to do more sales and marketing over the Web, they will definitely need tools and technology to help them, Ms. Hurwitz says.
In fact, Web marketing is one of the primary forces driving this category.
Taming the Wild West
“Right now the Web is a wild frontier. With a sophisticated Web tool you can start learning from your experience and make those intelligent decisions about how you spend money,” says Ms. Hurwitz.
However, EMA is more than just a reporting mechanism for Web marketing. It’s designed to provide companies with the ability to integrate information on marketing campaigns, prospects and customers, regardless of the marketing channel.
Armed with that data, marketers can set up processes to collect information, send appropriate responses to prospective customers and eventually push qualified prospects into the correct sales channel.
Tied to sales automation or other sales channel systems, EMA also allows companies to accurately measure marketing return on investment.
That’s the kind of functionality Hitachi Semiconductor was looking for in 1994. When it couldn’t find packaged software that fit its needs, the company built its own, spending $350,000 on its Responsive Sales Lead Management System.
While the homemade system has been successful, it’s only gone so far, says Jim Rey, director-marketing communications for Hitachi Semiconductor, South San Francisco, Calif. The company is now piloting an EMA system from Rubric, San Mateo, Calif., to replace it.
“As the Internet has taken off and as field sales and customers became more progressive, we saw the need for mobilization and a Web-based system, and that’s where our home-grown system has fallen off,” Mr. Rey says.
The Internet is becoming increasingly important to Hitachi Semiconductor as a marketing channel, and that’s putting a strain on marketing systems.
“In the paper world, we were dealing with less than 1,000 inquiries per month. On the Internet, just last month, there were 32,000 downloads of pdf [portable document format] documents,” says Mr. Rey. “On top of that, the views and visits are becoming hundreds of thousands.”
As with Hitachi’s current system, the goals of the new project center on collecting as much customer information as possible. Then, its sales reps can provide prospects with custom information and dangle carrots designed to get them to respond to its offers.
While the complete cost of the project has not been determined, Mr. Rey says it will be a lot less than the cost to implement its old system. And even more important, he adds, it will mean an increase in sales.
“I’ve done all the ROI analysis with all of the standard assumptions looking at a 5% close rate, a 10% close rate or a 20%, and the numbers are quite impressive,” he says. “This is definitely the way to go.”
Companies most interested in these systems are those struggling with distributing and managing leads from their marketing channels, says Markus Duffin, director-enterprise marketing solutions at consulting and systems integration firm Cambridge Technology Partners, San Francisco. The systems also are attractive to companies trying to extend their Web marketing channel and coordinate those activities with their telemarketing and direct mail channels.
Cost is steep
The cost of entry is steep. Most of the vendors’ EMA solutions start at about $200,000, with system integration potentially doubling that cost.
But Mr. Duffin says ROI is there for those willing to make the leap.
“I think they’re going to see an increase in revenue at least between 5% and 10%, conservatively, coupled with another 5% to 10% reduction in marketing costs over time,” he says.
“The business case is not that hard to make,” Mr. Duffin adds. “What clients are a little bit leery about is the newness of these products and how their organizations will embrace it.”
The speed of microprocessors has increased dramatically. Hard drives that once held 40 megabytes now hold gigabytes. The products of the electronics industry are transforming the way we live, work, learn and play. However, despite its promise, high-tech development also has a darker side. The legacy of high-tech production in Silicon Valley, California – the birthplace of the electronics revolution includes the toxic footprint of groundwater pollution, a high worker illness rate and an elevated rate of miscarriage for production workers.
In 30 years, the production of semiconductors, data processing and telecommunications equipment made the electronics industry one of the world’s largest and fastest growing manufacturing sectors. Some industry projections indicate 100 new semiconductor plants will be built before the end of the century. As the industry spreads through the United States and into the Third World, it has become a worldwide player, bringing significant economic and environmental impacts. The passage of NAFTA and GATT have increased the mobility of the electronics industry and highlight the urgency of establishing networks with groups in other countries and other parts of the United States.
Despite the squeaky clean image of computer products and campus-like appearance of their manufacturing facilities, the electronics industry is dependent on some of the most toxic substances ever synthesized. These include toxic gases, large quantities of dangerous solvents, metals, acids and volatile organic compounds.
Exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace and toxic releases to surrounding communities have resulted in cancer, central nervous system disorders, birth defects, deaths, unprecedented environmental degradation and substantial groundwater contamination. The “clean” in this so-called clean industry refers to the conditions needed to produce working circuits, not to the working conditions for employees or the environmental impact of production.
A few examples of the serious toxic legacy of high-tech development include:
* Silicon Valley has more EPA Superfund sites than anywhere else in the country due to groundwater contamination caused by electronics firms.
* The semiconductor industry uses more toxic gases, including such lethal gases as arsine and phosphine – than any other industry in the country.
* Until very recently, electronics manufacturing depended on the use of large quantities of ozone-destroying CFCs.
Unless the electronics industry makes a commitment to toxics-use reduction, the next generation of smaller and faster chips will use even more solvents and toxic substances to achieve the necessary requirement for “clean” components.
The same chemicals that are harmful to the environment are also harmful to the industry’s workforce, which is primarily composed of people of color, women and immigrants. According to Dr. Joseph La Dou, director of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, systemic poisoning (illness related to exposure to toxic chemicals) of electronics workers is higher than workers in the chemical industry, even those in pesticide manufacturing. Semiconductors workers have the highest rate of all electronics workers.
Reproductive hazards from chemical exposure are a real concern to both environmentalists and workers. Yet employers provide little information and even less protection against reproductive hazards. In the highly competitive field of chip manufacturing, production demands often outweigh safety demands. Often the industry has opted to phase out the workers, rather than phase out the toxics.
Electronics firms often do not have enlightened employee relations policies for production workers, and the industry is notorious for its anti-union stance. Not surprisingly, federal data confirms the industry’s highly polarized workforce. White men dominate managerial and professional positions, while women and people of color – those exposed to the toxic chemicals – dominate the semi-skilled production workforce.
The corporate centers for the electronics industry are concentrated in the Silicon Valley, the Route 128 area near Boston, Japan and western Europe. In search of lower wages and weak environmental standards, the industry is expanding its production into Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. This relocation is also happening within the United States. Numerous manufacturing plants are relocating to the Southwest – a low wage region with large populations of people of color, a lack of trade union activity, less stringent environmental regulations and workplace safety standards, and weak government and enforcement structures. (See box on Intel below.)
More recently, a new enticement has entered into the picture – subsidies. To attract high-tech businesses, municipalities enter “bidding wars” to see who can offer the largest incentives or weaken environmental and workplace regulations the most. In this “race to the bottom,” states offer multi-billion dollar industrial revenue bonds, tax abatement programs, streamlined environmental permitting process, and enormous direct and indirect subsidies. Oregon has become a new area for the industry to relocate because of its “Strategic Incentive Program.”
Industry “promoters” emphasize increased jobs when an economic development strategy based on micro-electronics and computers is adopted. These big giveaways could result in local communities not having the money necessary to build the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the new growth.
Many of these problems are systemic to the structure of the industry. Few industry or government leaders have confronted the negative impact of high-tech industries. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) and other groups are challenging these impacts by creating models to help level the playing field so communities can attain sustainable development and environmentally-responsible manufacturing. This involves encouraging industry to adopt a proactive pollution prevention approach and develop new technologies that will reduce the environmental and occupational health impact of their production processes. It also involves organizing local communities to counter industry’s whipsaw tactics of pitting city against city in the quest for jobs by imposing conditions on new economic development plans.
The electronics industry tries to drive wedges between workers and those concerned about the environment by flaming the debate as a choice between the environment and jobs. To thwart this effort, we are building broad coalitions with environmental, community and labor organizations who agree that the relationship between electronics manufacturing companies, workers and communities must be restructured.
Because environmental problems are woven into the social fabric of our lives we must recognize the need for broader social solutions beyond the mitigation of a particular risk of environmental hazard. We must work for greater, more democratic public participation at every stage of policy making, community and worker empowerment, and corporate accountability. We can’t put the genie back into the bottle. Instead, we must become involved in efforts to ensure that high-tech industrialization benefits the communities and workers without harming the local economies or the environment.
“Environmental Groups Are Drying Up in the `10s.” “Green Magazines in the Red. “Environmental Movement Struggling as Clout Fades.” The headlines in the nation’s press read like epitaphs.
A Wall Street Journal article observed that, “After years of fighting to save whales and spotted owls, the nation’s big environmental groups are in agony about another dwindling species – their supporters.”
Adding to the perception that the greens have lost their muscle was the dismal lack of legislative victories in the last Congress, when the Democrats controlled both houses and the White House.
But it’s not just the media offering a grim prognosis. “The environmental movement is in massive decline and is going to need a major overhaul if it wants to stage a comeback,” says Eric Mann, director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles.
A quarter-century past the first Earth Day, is the environmental movement really in its last gasp? Or, in the words of Mark Twain, have reports of its death been greatly exaggerated?
One thing is clear: If the movement is ailing, it’s not due to lack of popular support for the issues. Public opinion polls reflect a strong and consistent commitment to the environment. A Times Mirror survey last June found that 79 percent of respondents describe themselves as active (23 percent) or sympathetic (56 percent) environmentalists. More than half thought environmental laws hadn’t gone far enough, with only 16 percent thinking laws had gone too far. Environmental groups were also given high ratings, with 74 percent feeling highly or moderately favorable toward them. Eighty-nine percent of college students named the environment as the top concern facing the nation in 1992, according to The Student Political Organizing Guide, published by Sierra Club Campus Green Vote and Americans for the Environment.
This support is reflected in the hefty membership rolls and multi-million-dollar budgets of the nation’s largest environmental organizations. Some, like the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Defense Fund, are experiencing remarkable growth. Others, like the National Audubon Society and Natural Resources Defense Council, lost support when President Clinton was elected, but are now rebounding. Local groups continue to flourish, with the Citizens Clearinghouse on Hazardous Waste (CCHW) in touch with more than 8,000 community organizations.
“Overall, the membership trend was downward,” says Matt MacWilliams, managing partner of MCSSR, a communications consulting firm based in Takoma Park, Maryland, which represents numerous environmental clients. “Not because people were less interested in the environment, but because they thought the problems were being solved when Clinton was elected Since the [congressional] elections, many groups have been picking up membership. Ifs a direct relation to the perceived threat.”
“When Republicans are in office, we seem to get stronger, more united and more powerful,” agrees Luis Sepulveda, president of West Dallas Coalition for Environmental Justice. “Environmental programs get more support.”
While the state of the movement may not be as bad as some have said, most would agree that environmentalists need to regain some of their earlier vigor. Critics from both the right and left point to national groups they say are bloated with bureaucracy, overrun with lawyers and far removed from their grassroots base.
“The most fundamental problem is the collapse of much of the mainstream environmental movement into an explicitly pro-corporate stance,” says Mann.
Not surprisingly, articles in the mainstream press contend that it’s this pro-corporate stance that offers a promising future for environmentalism. For example, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer argued that EDF’s policy of working with McDonald’s and Prudential Insurance on recycling is just the kind of practical, problem-solving approach that the public wants.
A conservative analysis, “Restructuring Environmental Big Business,” by the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis, attributes what it calls a public backlash not only to top-heavy bureaucracy but to the movement’s purported exaggeration of environmental dangers and the tendency of most groups to take on such a broad agenda that their mission is lost. “Policy makers and potential donors find it increasingly difficult to tell different organizations apart. Essentially, different environmental groups are offering potential supporters identical products,” according to the report. The report gives high marks to the Nature Conservancy, which has kept its focus on buying land for nature preserves.
All this dissection of the movement has led to some soul-searching. “The national groups, including Greenpeace, did become too large in the 1980s and did grow top-heavy,” says Barbara Dudley, executive director of Greenpeace. “The draw to legislative solutions was too seductive and took the large organizations that evolved from a mass movement too far away from their grassroots.”
“It’s fair to say the environmental movement is confronting extraordinary change, not just in terms of Newt [Gingrich], but far more fundamental and pervasive,” says Lynn Greenwalt, vice president of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
Some of the changes are administrative. In an effort to streamline organization, staffs are being cut and publications scaled back. For example, last year, Friends of the Earth pared back the frequency of its newsmagazine from monthly to bimonthly, and NWF is now considering contracting out its mail order business as a way to save money.
But other changes are substantive, with a renewed respect and attention being paid to the grassroots. “A lot of the action is at the state level and we’ll be shifting staff and resources there,” says Greenwalt. “The grassroots is not in Washington. There are plenty of people out there willing to work on their own behalf and for the environment and the human future. That means redeploying resources, money or ideas from here to there.”
The National Audubon Society, based in New York, is in the midst of a major strategic planning process, involving interviews with hundreds of members, staff and board members from around the country, as well as colleagues, political leaders and foundations. “We tried to glean from them some of their best ideas on how we should organize ourselves for the future,” says Tom Martin, Audubon’s chief operating officer.
Like NWF, Audubon plans to shift more attention to the organization’s 500 chapters. “We’re not going to affect Congress through insider lobbying. We have to do it in the home offices [of legislators]. The advocacy will move outside the Beltway,” says Martin.
But the very remedy proposed by many pundits for the environmental movement – to become more pragmatic and single-focused – is not likely to emerge from a grassroots strategy. For example, NWF plans to continue expanding its message beyond wildlife to include public health concerns. “It’s impossible to separate human health issues from those that affect other creatures,” says Greenwalt. “A toxin in the Great Lakes may be devastating to fish and ducks, but it’s also not good for people.”
As activists make clear in the interviews on the future of environmentalism, beginning on page 5, the trend is increasingly toward building coalitions and making connections between environmental and social justice concerns. “In the long run we’ll win the battle because we’re on the side of average Americans,” says environmental consultant Matt MacWilliams. “The other side has been able to marginalize us as elitist and extremist. So the biggest task is to make the environmental message relevant once again to the mainstream. We need to talk to them in terms of what really matters: the health and safety of their families and their communities.”
Whether you call it the mainstream or the grassroots, if national groups follow through on their commitment to communities, the movement could well recapture its former ardor. “Let me reveal a not so obscure secret,” says Greenpeace’s Dudley. “The grassroots environmental groups are a far sight more radical than the national groups.”
Local groups faced with a hazardous facility moving in next door are much less willing to compromise than are the Washington representatives of national groups trying to craft a piece of legislation. In addition, the initial anger and fear about a local site often spreads to other issues as well. “The environmental movement caved in on NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement),” says Sue Lynch, executive director of People Against Hazardous Landfill Sites (PAHLS), in Valparaiso, Indiana. “The local groups didn’t. We worked with our local unions and opposed NAFTA. If we cave in, we’re really letting the people down who are counting on us.”
In ways that even the best-intentioned national groups are unable to do, grassroots activism gives a movement its edge. As Lois Gibbs, director of Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, points out, “In most communities, people don’t think they can fight City Hall. We give people back a sense of self-worth and empowerment. We help them build up their self-confidence and say yes, you can.”
Ultimately it will be this self-empowerment that promises not only a healthy future for the environmental movement, but for democracy as well.