By now it's clear that Verizon Wireless can hear us, but so far they refuse to listen. The company seems inexplicably content to weather the public firestorm it created by choosing to sponsor coal baron Don Blankenship's anti-climate "Friends of America" rally on a former strip mine in West Virginia on Labor Day.
Over the past few days tens of thousands of Verizon customers have called, emailed and signed petitions imploring the company to honor it's stated commitment to the environment by dropping its corporate sponsorship of the event. Today, NRDC joined with several other conservation organizations -- collectively representing millions of Americans -- on a joint letter requesting that the company withdraw its support (which is tantamount to an endorsement of the extremist rally). The letter reads in part:
We believe that Verizon Wireless' sponsorship of this event indicates the company's support for mountaintop removal coal mining and indicates opposition to climate change legislation. It is undeniable that the rally is a political event, for several reasons:
Attendees must register for tickets online next to a link to sign a petition that's against climate legislation; the keynote speaker is a prominent critic of global climate change science; and the stated purpose of the event is to protect coal-mining jobs, with a particular focus on mountaintop removal. Thus, by sponsoring this event, Verizon Wireless is also endorsing the political positions behind the event.
Coal is one of the largest sources of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Mountaintop removal coal mining has destroyed more than 1,200 miles of streams and more than 1 million acres of forest in Appalachia, while permanently contaminating drinking-water supplies, endangering residents with dust, fly rock, and mud slides, and jeopardizing imperiled species.
We ask that Verizon Wireless withdraw sponsorship of this event or explain the company's support for mountaintop removal coal mining and opposition to climate legislation. If Verizon Wireless indeed does not support mountaintop removal coal mining, then we ask that you officially let your customers know that you oppose this destructive practice.
The primarily online campaign is now getting attention in the news media. Hot off the presses comes this story by the Washington Post, in which a Verizon spokesman simply shrugs off the controversy this way: "All the damage is done. All the publicity for the event went out with our name on it . . . There's nothing else to do."
For good measure, he adds this parting shot: "We also can't allow the blogosphere to run our business."
(Hmmm, I wonder if he thinks Twitter is just a website for twits?)
Well, I'm not just a blogger, I'm also a Verizon Wireless customer. Oh wait, check that: If Verizon can't see how its actions undermine its credibility as a "green" company and won't take responsibility for this screw-up then I'll just take my business elsewhere. Sure, there are 87 million other Verizon customers out there to take up the slack...unless, of course, a bunch of those folks happen to own computers (maybe even with internet access provided by Verizon Wireless!) and share my deep commitment to protecting the planet.
At this point we know Verizon's marketing people are mistake-prone and its public relations staff are tone-deaf. Let's hope the CEO is not clueless. All you Verizon Wireless customers out there on the inter-webs oughtta take a moment and email him your thoughts: Lowell.McAdam@verizonwireless.com