Update 9/3: Gap, Levi- Strauss and Timberland have not specifically committed to eliminating “tar sands oil” from their fuel sources, but each have committed in their own way to reducing the environmental and social impacts of their fuels. Any action to reduce environmental and social impacts of fuel choices must consider the significant impacts of tar sands, and give preference to suppliers who avoid it, but these companies are not specifically targeting tar sands fuel for a boycott. Walgreens, however, has made an explicit move away from tar sands oil, and has directed its suppliers to source non-tar sands fuels.
Original Post: The pen is mightier than the sword, but the purse may sometimes be mightier than the pen. Major US corporations are adding market pressure to the growing wave of opposition against tar sands expansion, giving tar sands producers a fresh reason to consider the consequences of their poor environmental street cred.
Whole Foods Market and Bed Bath and Beyond joined a list of six major Fortune 500 companies, including Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss, committed to reducing the environmental impact of their fuel sources. Walgreens also recently announced it will avoid purchasing tar sands oil to fuel its distribution network.
Federal Express also voiced concerns over the ‘environmental and social impacts’ of the fuel it sources, and committed to address them. Being the dirtiest fuel on earth, tar sands oil certainly makes the short list for these categories.
These companies are throwing the weight of their purchasing power behind the criticism of tar sands and the Keystone XL expressed by many Americans, including written letters from thousands of citizens, fifty members of Congress, and critique from major federal agencies like the EPA.
Forest Ethics, who organized the boycott campaign (and other successful efforts like it), says this is only the beginning, with a total of 13 companies expected to announce tar sands boycotts by the end of the year.
For an industry aggressively pushing to secure a leading role in the US energy market, businesses labeling tar sands oil as a “brand risk” is a major blow to the tar sands industry and its destructive practices.
As the old business adage goes, the customer is always right- and as the number one consumer of tar sands crude, US corporations and consumers need to be taking a stronger stance against products like tar sands that carry unacceptably high social and environmental costs. If consumers continue to demand a cleaner energy future, those who hope to profit from the vast American economy will have no choice but to clean up or clear out.
-- Gabriel DeRita