Part One: All Quiet on the Western Front
In January, the world saw the launch of the $15bn dollar “zero-carbon, waste-free, car-free” city in Abu Dhabi, UAE – MASDAR – the largest single investment in clean tech in the world. Top-tier media from all corners of the world covered the investment story on 21 January – except one: the U.S.
Being both a newcomer to these shores and having the opportunity to lead Edelman’s global media outreach for Masdar, no one was more perplexed than I – though I soon realized that I was not alone. A very prominent environmental reporter from the New York Times asked me if Edelman had specifically targeted European media because of the carbon angle of the city. He too was surprised when I told him ‘no.’ Equal resources and outreach had been committed within U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East to the investment and the event. Despite healthy media pick up in the U.S. second-tier and trades in the weeks following, this geographical disconnect continued to repeat itself. Last month in TIME magazine, Masdar hit the front page, but not in my copy – the U.S. edition.
As this pattern began to unfold during the launch at the World Future Energy Summit and Expo in Abu Dhabi – I was also struck by the fact that there were no U.S. clean tech business stands or country displays – Germany, Holland, Japan and China stands stood comfortably alongside those of BP, Total, the Emirati Dolphin Gas Company and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. In fact, the only U.S. presence I felt throughout the three day event was the lone voice of a Texan businessman telling his dinner guests at the Zayed Energy Prize reception at the Emirates Palace how his company led the world in solar panels components.
Although the ‘Middle East factor’ may have influenced Masdar’s initial appeal to U.S. media and public, my experience with other U.S. clients suggests that this geographical disconnect was not a one -off. Similarly, during my work with a New York-based equity firm within the clean tech space, I unintentionally stumbled across this data – showing a marked disparity in the way a British top-tier covers the space compared to its U.S counterparts (2006 -2007).
Over the next couple of issues, I want to examine why this disconnect exists, why the U.S environmental media seas are so stormy today, and offer advice on which corporate sustainability platforms are likely to be more successful at navigating them. By sharing some of the insight I have garnered from both sides of the Atlantic, I hope to give a ‘crystal ball’ style reading of how the next 36 months will pan out.
Next month in part two, I will take a brief look at the Kyoto Protocol’s hidden legacy on the U.S. despite its non-ratification, and – using the aviation industry – I will show how, behind the scenes, Kyoto has been implicitly influencing both the environmental media and businesses’ response on this side of the Atlantic.
Mark Grundy is a senior account supervisor in Edelman’s Corporate Social Responsibility group in New York. Previously, he was a Communications Officer at the European Commission’s Environment Agency in Copenhagen.