Everyone who teaches public relations at some point talks about PR’s “boundary-spanning role.”
Simply put, it means that PR people live with one foot inside the organization and one foot outside — in the world of our key publics/stakeholders. When we sit down at that chiché called “Management’s Table,” we’re supposed to act as advocates for those key publics while also communicating our organization’s perspective to them.
It’s stressful living in two worlds, and conflicts of interest are inevitable. But if you don’t feel pangs of conscience while seated at The Table, you’re not doing your job. You’re simply doing management’s bidding.
Maybe it’s tree-hugger values that drive me, but I’m careful to remind students of their duty to advocate for the planet, too — to count Mother Earth among our stakeholders. She is, after all, our strategic partner in everything we do. And, sadly, she has few at The Table speaking on her behalf.
I’m wondering if PR people were at The Table at the GladWare division of Clorox or the Ziploc division of S. C. Johnson when those companies dreamed up “disposable food storage containers.” It happened back in the late 1990s, but the explosive growth of this product niche — now a $1.4-billion business — is the subject of an AP wire story today.
And guess what? Nowhere in that 900-word story is there a single mention of the recycling issue, and not a single mention of the tons of crap these containers add to the waste stream once they’re used a few times and discarded. The story is all about convenience in a throwaway culture (yet another chiché).
To ensure fairness, I ran a search on GladWare and found quite a few stories and blog posts touting the product as GOOD for the environment. Disposable plastic a good thing? In a way it is, since these multi-use containers can reduce our dependence on single-use packaging — products like GladBags and GladWrap.
In Australia, Glad makes a visible effort to address environmental issues, but if you read carefully, its website offers more apologies than it does solutions. But at least it makes an attempt. The U.S. site for GladWare makes not a single mention of trash or recyling issues, nor do the site’s FAQs address the issue.
Are we such a self-centered society that convenience must always trump conservation? Are we so customer-driven, so bottom-line focused that we don’t consider our impact on the planet? Or have I just hugged too many trees?
Answers to the first two questions are becoming painfully obvious. How else do explain the Hummer? And for number 3, yeah, that’s bark on the front of my shirt.
It’s probably unfair to beat up on Glad and Ziploc. The world has plenty of one-use containers that are worse polluters, like disposable diapers, or anything WalMart sells in a bubble pack.
But it was GladWare and Ziploc that stepped into my business page this morning touting convenience and disposability. And as we all know, timing is everything in this business.
As I look in the “plastics” cabinet at my own house, I see a couple of GladWare containers. But I also see two dozen Tupperware and Rubbermaid tubs, some more than 20 years old and still eager to store my leftovers.
Kermit the Frog would be a great PR pro and a courageous boundary spanner. You see, Kermit knows “it ain’t easy bein’ green.” That’s chiché number 3.