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Cause Marketing, Sans the Cause

Imagine that you're Nucor, the steel manufacturer that makes steel by recycling old steel, and you form a new relationship with Union Pacific to recycle its old track and replace it with newly reforged Nucor steel track.

Or, imagine that you 're a vertically-integrated chocolate company... like Mars... and you learn that cacao trees grow better under a canopy of taller trees. So you plant taller jungle trees over your cacao trees so that they yield more beans per tree.

If you were Nucor or Mars practicing that kind of forward 'environmental' thinking you'd probably want to crow about that wouldn't you?

[Cue the sarcastic smirk].

In effect, that's what tissue maker Irving Tissue, Inc., the maker of Scotties Tissue, is doing with its "Renewable Forest Project."

Running in ads (this one was in the March issue of More magazine) and Free-Standing Inserts (FSIs), Scotties says that it "will plant three seedlings in the spring and summer for very one tree used to produce Scotties products the previous year."

Now bear in mind that Irving Tissue... which is owned by the Canadian conglomerate J.D. Irving, LTD... is vertically-integrated. It's the only way to make money in the paper business. So Irving owns the timberland that it turns into Scotties as well as the machines that turn wood pulp into paper.

In short, they're replanting the trees that they cut down on their own plantations. That's a little like a farmer replanting wheat in the spring after the fall harvest.

But, what about planting three for every one they cut down?

I know nothing about modern forestry practices, but I'd be very surprised to learn that any timberland company plants only one tree for every one it cuts down.

Some seedlings won't make it. Some won't survive being transplanted into the timberland. Some will be hurt by bugs, or animals, or the weather. You get the picture.

So while this effort from Scotties seems like cause marketing or corporate social responsibility, all it really is just business.

Now I'm not one who thinks that there's something inherently wrong with commerce.

But I'm calling Scotties out because this has the gloss of corporate social responsibility and cause marketing. When it's really nothing of the kind.

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