A survey of 1,200 French consumers conducted by TBWA Non Profit, a subsidiary of the Omnicom agency TBWA Corporate, showed that Evian ranked first out of a selection of 90 well-known brands in terms of being perceived by the public as committed to sustainable development. Consumers polled were asked to rank the firms on a scale from one to 10 and none of the firms scored higher than 6.9.
So how do French consumers reconcile Evian’s image with its latest launch in Canada – a luxury, distributed in high-end restaurants only invention called Evian Palace Bottle which retails for $15-$20? In an era when many restaurants are moving to ban bottled water?
Among the other top ten irms in the survey were Max Havelaar, the Fair Trade Certification firm, which came in second, beauty and cosmetics giant Yves Rocher (third), supermarket chain Leclerc (fourth) and Ikea (fifth). French railway monopoly SNCF came in 10th. One of the key conclusions of the study was that a “new deal” has replaced the former climate of mutual suspicision which reigned between industry and NGOs. “NGOs – which 63 percent of the French consider credible – have identified brands and firms as major levers of change,” Nicolas Bordas, president of TBWA France, told financial daily Les Echos in an interview earlier this month.
So who are these NGOs that French consumers are willing to trust? The same ones who will be lobbying hard during the upcoming Grenelle de l’Environnement. Here are some of the principal players:
Fondation Nicolas Hulot pour l’Homme et l’environnement – Former television presenter Nicolas Hulot, who almost ran for president because he was so popular, heads up this foundation which focuses on environmental education. Funds come mainly from corporate donors and partnerships
World Wildlife Fund is lobbying for a moratorium on incineration and on GM crops.
Greenpeace – more radical than the previous two, the only NGO which receives no government subsidies or corporate handouts. Anti-nuclear position likely to undermine its influence at the Grenelle.
Good Planet – brainchild of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, created in 2005, this foundation sponsors worthy projects.
Friends of the Earth – little known in France, works on issues which don’t rate high with the media like export credits and responsibility of financial institutions.
Representatives of these associations and several others will take part for the first time in government debates alongside captains of industry, union representatives, civil servants, cabinet ministers and representatives of civil society. The stakes are huge, and the NGOs are concerned that their image will be not only be tarnished by the spectacle of “collaborating” with the polluting powers, but that they will be forced to endorse a watered-down compromise at the end which falls short of their vision of how to tackle the looming ecological crisis.
The government has set up a separate video stream devoted to the Grenelle on You Tube, so the public can follow the debates live.