EDF defends Green Britain initiative as rivals question its return

Npower and Eon have questioned the validity of rival EDF Energy repeating its Green Britain Day climate change campaign following the controversy it attracted last year.

EDF, however, claims last year’s initiative was successful in getting people to take action over climate change.

The energy provider is running an integrated campaign across Radio, TV, outdoor and print media. it includes a [partnership with Heart FM and a takeover of London’s free newspaper Metro turning the usually blue masthead green and running ads throughout the paper inviting readers to “be a part of today” and join its Team Green Britain.

The French energy company’s inaugural “Green Britain Day” was slammed by rivals and some consumers last year.

British Gas hit out, stating that it “is thinking about new ways to be green every single day” and not just on one day each year.

Separately, Ecotricity threatened legal action against EDF after alleging it stole its own green union jack logo.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 149 complaints from people that questioned whether a French-owned energy that used non-renewable energy sources could claim to be either British or green. The watchdog rejected the complaints.

Npower marketing director Kevin Peake says he “totally stunned” that EDF is running the camapaign for a second time as “it didn’t work last year and there was public outcry.”

Jeremy Davies Eon’s director of brand and communications echoed the sentiment saying that while the intention behind Green Britain day is sound, the approach is questionable.

“Green doesn’t mean anything specific to customers and it becomes like greenwash,” he says.

The ASA has already received a number of complaints this year from people that questioned the claim that EDF produces nearly half the UK’s low carbon energy and its treatment of the Union Jack flag by a French company. The ASA has not investigated the claims.

EDF says that the campaign “created national debate and successfully engaged people across the country in combating climate change” and attracted more than 700,000 members as well as children from more than 800 schools.

Eva Eisenschimmel, chief operating officer EDF Energy, says: “Following the success of Green Britain Day in 2009, we’re once again using the power of the Games to inspire employees, our customers and all those interested, to save money and save energy. We believe that Green Britain Day and Team Green Britain will provide more schools and communities with the inspiration, the knowledge and the support they need to change today for a lower carbon tomorrow.”

The energy provider says that the campaign will focus on building its Team Green Britain platform and helping consumers understand how their behaviour affects climate change, and will attract more people this year.

The initiative has also garnered support from Greg Barker MP, Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster and Ed Milliband MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Milliband says: “Climate change is the biggest challenge the world faces and even the smallest changes to our daily lives can add up to a big difference. I encourage everyone to do something green for the team by joining Team Green Britain.”

Both Eon and Npower believe that energy companies must tread carefully when embarking on green initiatives because they are inherently not green companies.

Davies adds: “We have to acknowledge the fact that energy providers are not green and while we are part of the problem, we can also be a big part of the solution. Education and getting customers to understand energy use and change behaviours is critical.”

The BP oil crisis and its aftermath – from a brand that had tried to reposition itself as sustainable – has raised the question whether rebrands can ever really work:

  •          To read the cover story relating to this: ’Actions speak louder than logos’click here
  •          To read Mark Ritson’s response to the cover story click here.
  •          To view the Top 10 mistakes marketers make when rebranding – and how to avoid them table, click here.
  •          To read Mark Choueke’s opinion on BP’s woes, click here.
  •                  For three business viewpoints click here.

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