armchair bushman

GreenWashing - Colin Bell's Perspective

3 posts in this topic

Not sure if this has been posted before. I couldn't find it on a quick search.

Thought you might all find it interesting.

I believe we all know what "Green-Washing" is, but for the sake of those who may not, it's basically talking big about your "green" credentials, while washing over your biggest environmental issues. It's a way to get conscious travellers to visit your establishment without really being eco or community friendly.


There are MANY ways to improve your green credentials, from solar energy, to staff salaries, to sourcing locally produced food, etc. It seems one of the criteria Colin Bell uses in his book/article here is that camps SHOULD NOT be sending all their revenue to overseas bank accounts. I tend to agree. One of the biggest criteria for me for a lodge in a developing country is that it should be contributing to the local economy. So if all the money ends up somewhere else, and if all the materials, decor, and everything else is sourced from overseas, what good are you doing for the national and local economy? Pretty much none.


Anyway, sorry to keep you reading my useless ramblings: here's the article



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Very interesting. Green washing is everywhere, but there is general "washing" in the world... marketing, marketing, marketing, sound bites, sound bites, sound bites. Never mind the details. Hide them.


It shouldn't be lost on people that no matter how "green" a camp is, the guests (including people like me) fly over in a large jet consuming gallons of jet fuel.


The point about leaving the money in the local economy... Yes, that would be nice, and I know Colin Bell was a huge advocate of employing and contracting local people and businesses when Wildereness Safaris moved into Botswana 20+ years ago. However, the reality is that very few African countries are politically stable. If you are an entrepreneur and you started a successful business in, say, Zimbabwe, would you leave all the money in that country right now (with your own family to feed)? It's a Catch-22.

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Posted (edited)

@@Safaridude and @@armchair bushman... On the book's web site the point about sending money overseas that you mention is presented rather differently to in the article - I suppose the publishers thought it would think it made uncomfortable reading for their advertisers although I may be overly cynical on that point.


But the most insidious cases we found were the secret violators: operators who take the money from paying guests and divert it to overseas bank accounts. Thus they dodge not only local taxes but also cheat their neighbouring communities out of the bed levies owing to them and the foreign exchange due to the various national treasuries. In East Africa, where the practice is endemic, it’s called “leakage”. These eco-pirates have done more than anyone else to sully the name and reputation of “ecotourism”.


I wonder how they managed to establish that various places were doing this? And clearly given the amount of foreign-owned camps on the list (the vast majority at first glance) they must have had serious access to accounts, since one would assume that a good amount of money from these places is (justifiably and uncontroversially) ending up in foreign bank accounts.



Another interesting tidbit from the web site, on the subject of "How to Help" (and I cannot say how impressed I am not to see "buy the book" on the list!)


•If you are travelling to Africa on safari, please book as many of these properties as possible and support them in every way you can. They have made the effort and they deserve a return
•If you are a travel agent or safari outfitter, by booking these lodges and camps you are certain your clients will be in good hands and helping local communities and /or conservation
•Try to ensure you make payments locally so your money flows to that region, or ensure your travel agent or tour operator does the same
•The most effective means of long-term conservation is creating buffer conservancies around formally protected parks and reserves. If your lodge is not active in such a venture, engage with senior management or the owners to explore options for creating local conservancies and expand the amount of land under conservation protection
•If you come across a lodge that is fence-sitting on green issues, sometimes all they require is a gentle prod. You could provide it
•Find out what NGOs are most effective in the area, and see if you can help them in any way
•If possible, donate to local school feeding schemes; try to ascertain that they provide balanced nutrition and not just conscience hand-outs
•But most of all, travel to Africa’s safari areas and spread the love along with your much-needed foreign currency


I think there are a number of things I do not like about this book.


1. I don't like that they obviously failed to visit a pile of places and that they appear to typically myopic about Kenya and Tanzania. For example how come they put Basecamp (who seem to have been eco-ing and community-ing away forever) in their "upcomers" but don't seem to miss rather new camps owned by chains? Whoever is supplying names for consideration in Kenya does not have a very long-standing interest in the topic. Elsa's Kopje - yes of course we noticed that. Sarara - where?

2. I don't see the criteria used anywhere. Of course they will always be controversial but it'd be nice to have a brief description of them. Putting them up for public debate before setting off to do this would probablyt have been a good idea.

3. Just from first impression, they don't appear to weight the footprint/impact of building the camp or lodge itself very highly. Maybe from their standpoint there is a very good reason why wooden decks, walkways, permanent stone structures, fiireplaces burning wood, etc. appear on the surface to be rated as less damaging than not growing your own vegetables. I suspect there is a reason in terms of longer-term impact. However, I also wonder if there isn't an asssumption built in that these, together with energy, are basics and need to be "forgiven"? They mention the issue of why there are not more walking camps on the list on the we site - clearly something someone has crioed foul about that already. Did they deduct points for every vehicle used or did they "forgive" the first few since it is a basic need? Are solar panels for every tent seen as a negative when compared to no panels at all? Did they deduct points for kersosene usage but not for gasoline? I just wonder.



But that is all fixable, and anyway I suspect it is intended to pressure those camps who do flaunt eco-credentials, rather than those who quietly get on with it. Fair enough I suppose. So for me there is a lot more I do like about this book than I dislike. I love the "follow the money" aspect and I really like potential impact it could have in terms of making community benefit more important to camps. So although I would take the first two "How to Help" tips with a small pinch of salt, I couldn't argue much with the rest. How far it will all affect my decision-making in reality I do not know but it might, and that is reason enough for the book to exist for sure.


Cool and thanks for bringing it to our attention AB!



Edit: Not that I've read the book before reaching these judgements..... of course! :lol::lol::lol:

Edited by pault

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