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PRI's Environmental News Magazine


Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

(Music up and under: Dave Brubeck, "If You Wish Upon A Star")

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Actor Paul Newman is on TV again, but he's not starring in a movie or selling salad dressing and tomato sauce. He's pitching the environment.

(Guitar music. Newman: "Close your eyes, and imagine you're beside a pure mountain stream, the water cascading over the stones. A paradise like this isn't easy to come by, but it does still exist. Because the Nature Conservancy works locally with people like you to save precious places around the world, forever. That way, closing your eyes will never be the only way to get there. I'm Paul Newman. Help save the last great places...")

CURWOOD: That ad, produced for the Nature Conservancy, is part of the ongoing marketing push by national environmental groups to increase name recognition. Even Greenpeace has been conducting polls on its image. And some groups are taking the drive to be known into the commercial arena. At times, you've been able to find the National Wildlife Federation's logo on McDonald's Happy Meals and MBNA credit card statements. And recently, the Federation promoted the sale of stuffed animals through the oil company BP-Amoco. Philip Kavitz, Vice President of Communications for the National Wildlife Federation, says these promotions help them reach a wider audience.

Kavitz: If we merely reach out to the people who read one of our magazines, we're missing a big part of the audience out there. So, by working with a number of different businesses, we're really opening up a new audience for conservation, and new opportunities to achieve the mission.

CURWOOD: Tell me a bit more about how this deal with British Petroleum works. I pull up to the gas tank and what happens next?

Kavitz: Well, I believe what people could see was a sign indicating to them that they could purchase one of, what they were calling, the Endangered Wildlife Friends for a relatively low charge. They, if they chose to do so, would receive this particular plush toy, and hopefully, would bond with the species that it represents. Would take a look at the tag and would discover that that species has some habitat needs that are affected by conservation issues. It gave them the opportunity to learn that their purchase of fossil fuel can make a contribution to global climate change, which really imperils not only wildlife but people, too.

CURWOOD: I understand that part of the reason you're doing this is to get your name out there. But what about money? What sort of compensation does the National Wildlife Federation get from working with companies like BP?

Kavitz: In terms of cash, the relationship with BP will probably bring the National Wildlife Federation in the range of $100,000, that we will then be able to invest in other areas of our conservation education and advocacy efforts.

CURWOOD: How does this work for British Petroleum? In essence, if the message is, by using petroleum it's harmful to the planet, that would reduce demand for their product.

Kavitz: Well, I think what it does for the company is it shows that they care. It shows that they are realistic in recognizing that the product that they're selling at the same time has a negative impact on our environment. And that by sharing that information with people, they empower people (a) to make a choice, and (b) to take some action that can really have a positive impact.

CURWOOD: Now, how do you reconcile a partnership with a company that, however much it sees itself as a green company -- I think they're calling themselves BP stands for Beyond Petroleum these days -- still, they make a tremendous amount of profit from oil consumption, which many would agree is generally harmful to the environment?

Kavitz: The National Wildlife Federation sees itself as a common-sense conservation organization. And part of that means operating in the realm of reality. People in the United States consume a tremendous amount of petroleum products, and we are not going to make that go away by ignoring it. And unless we ultimately change the consumption patterns of American fossil fuel buyers, of American gasoline users, we're not going to be successful in combating problems such as global climate change. What we may be able to do is influence them to look toward other means or influence them to look toward conservation. But first, we have to reach them.

CURWOOD: Now, getting your name out there is part of what marketing people call "branding," if I have this right. And I'm just wondering, to what extent are nonprofit environmental groups like yours putting their branding effort before the message?

Kavitz: Well, in this case, the branding effort, if you will, getting the name of the National Wildlife Federation out there, is just a natural evolution of the mission. And the mission is to make people aware of wildlife and wild places. To make people understand the challenges to keeping them healthy. And to helping people understand how they can get involved to make a difference.

CURWOOD: Philip Kavitz is Vice President of Communications for the National Wildlife Federation. Thank you, sir.

KAVITZ: Okay, thank you, Steve.

(Music up and under: The Cardigans, "First Band on the Moon")



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