If New Zealand was a banana, would we be getting sued?

There is a bit of a David and Goliath battle shaping up in the intellectual property domain, with NGO Fairtrade New Zealand and Australia taking on one of the world’s largest fruit suppliers, Dole bananas.

Dole has been on notice that its so-called ‘ethical choice’  label is misleading.  A consumer might reasonably believe that it indicated that some third party verification proved that the fruit was in some way ‘ethical’ in the way that Fair Trade certified products are.  The ethical choice label used by Dole is in fact just that, a label, with little in the way of genuine underpinning or substance.

This apparent case of greenwash is not only confusing for consumers, it also undermines the considerable investment and commitment of  genuine third party certified distributors like All Good bananas .  All Good product is more expensive than some others, because they pay growers a fair price, and ensure that everyone along the production and distribution chain is treated decently and honestly. (Disclosure : one of the principals of All Good is a personal friend of mine, and a sustainability hero, so please do your own investigation to see that I’m not making stuff up!). 

So what has this to do with New Zealand’s place in the world?  There has been a furore this week following the publication of an article in the New York Times, where the ‘reality’ of New Zealand’s clean green image is challenged.  Kiwi ecologist Mike Joy has been vilified by some for daring to speak out about the divergence between the image and the reality.

Some may think that if you don’t like the message, the solution is to shoot the messenger.  But there is too much at stake for that.  Our export of primary produce, our tourism industry, our economic and social wellbeing, all rely heavily on the quality of our natural environment.  We do live in a stunningly beautiful country, and can legitimately make some claims associated with that.  But if we oversell the brand, if we make claims we cannot substantiate, if we cannot present an authentic value proposition, then we will be found out and the consequences would be severe.

No-one actually expects us to be 100%, no-one realistically expects perfection, but while we are so far short of that standard, and in danger of moving further away from it, then our ‘brand’  is in major trouble.  Let’s continue to celebrate the good, while acknowledging and working to remedy our shortcomings.  Let’s put our energy and efffort into cleaning it up, not covering it up.

3 Comments Posted

  1. I don’t understand the critisism of the critic. What he said is all true and it is high time as a country we invested in our country by protecting it from further harm.

    You can’t have the environment ignored and expect it to continue bringing in revenue for generations to come. Like any income producing asset (which our environment is) it needs to be maintained. I would have thought such a corporate focused government would know that.

  2. David says “No-one actually expects us to be 100%, no-one realistically expects perfection, but while we are so far short of that standard, and in danger of moving further away from it, then our ‘brand’ is in major trouble. ”

    Yeah right. That means there’s a lot of brands in trouble unless –
    – Mumbai slums are “incredible”
    – everything in Thailand always amazes us
    – everything in Peru is a legend
    – everybody will love New York
    – everything in Japan is an endless discovery
    – everything in Indonesia is wonderful
    – everyone who goes to California will find themselves
    – everything in Brazil is sensational
    – everything begins in Egypt
    – everything in the Maldives in natural
    – everything in Phillipines is more fun
    etc etc

    The difference is that no other country in the world has people and polititians who would stoop so low to deliberately try to sabotage their own tourism campaign.

  3. Some may think that if you don’t like the message, the solution is to shoot the messenger.

    Interesting turn of phrase. Lets get some help from wikipedia…

    An analogy of the phrase can come from the breaching of an invisible code of conduct in war, where a commanding officer was expected to receive and send back emissaries or diplomatic envoys sent by the enemy unharmed.

    So, was the “messenger” in this case an “envoy sent by the enemy”?

    Clearly not, as the so-called “messenger” is apparently one of us. And ther is no evidence of there being a state of war.

    So what do we have here?

    Going to the article linked to above, we have the following quote:

    “I’m pretty disgusted . . . I have been quoted in this article commenting on the state of the environment and people have called me a traitor to this country. I’m just the one doing the research.”

    Traitor? That seems harsh. Lets ask Wikipedia:

    Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as “…[a]…citizen’s actions to … seriously injure the [parent nation].”

    Is it possible that this citizen’s actions could seriously harm New Zealand?

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