It's no accident that corporate social responsibility campaigns are often handled by the marketing department. A few notable examples of CSR that confuse selflessness with self-promotion:
Spin: Project Evergreen promotes the environmental benefits of green spaces.
Reality: Funded by Dow, TruGreen, and other chemical companies, the alliance campaigns behind the scenes against regulating lawn pesticides and water use.
An Uncomfortable Fit
Spin: American Apparel hypes its humane working conditions. "You don't have to fuck the Third World up the ass…or the Canadian and American workers to do business," boasts CEO Dov Charney.
Reality: The National Labor Relations Board has slapped the hip T-shirt maker for union-busting. Charney is facing two sexual-harassment suits.
Spin the Bottle
Spin: Beer magnate Pete Coors appeared in TV ads, explaining, "When we at Coors say, '21 means 21,' believe me, it's no joke. We'll wait for your business."
Reality: Coors—recently arrested for DUI—has lobbied to lower the drinking age. Underage drinkers make up at least 17.5 percent of the booze industry's sales.
Spin: Acres for America preserves an acre of wilderness for every acre of land with a Wal-Mart on it.
Reality: Much of the preserved land is in rural areas far from the valuable suburban real estate the big-box chain builds on.
I Can't Quit You
Spin: In TV ads for its QuitAssist program, Philip Morris offers to "help smokers who have decided to quit be successful."
Reality: Since 1998, nicotine levels in cigarettes most popular with kids and minorities, including PM's Marlboros, have risen 10 percent.
Spin: Sutter Home Winery pledges $1 to breast cancer research for every bottle of its white zinfandel sold.
Reality: Alcohol has been linked to breast cancer. Consumers must send in a seal to secure each $1 donation. Winery caps total giving at $100,000.
Send in the Clown
Spin: Last year Ronald McDonald started touring schools as a health ambassador.
Reality: Need we say more?
Waiting to Exhale
Spin: A recent TV ad warned, "Some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant.... Carbon dioxide: They call it pollution. We call it life."
Reality: The spot was made by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a global warming-denying think tank that has taken $1.9 million from ExxonMobil since 2000.