Unicef’s change (for good?) of heart

Following last week’s piece, I was more than surprised that neither Tesco nor Unicef Ireland issued any response whatever on the day of publication (Thursday). It wasn’t until the Friday afternoon that Tesco submitted a letter to the Irish Times saying that all had been resolved, etc. Silence from Unicef.

Having tried several times earlier in the week to get hold of either the executive director or the press officer for Unicef Ireland, I went with the statement on their site, dated July 24th, 2009, which gave both barrels to Tesco for it being ravaged by a corporation heartlessly trying to “capitalise on one of our campaigns and subsequently damage an income stream which several of our programmes for children are dependant on”.

Imagine my surprise when, late last Friday evening, I finally got a response (by email) from Unicef Ireland, to the effect that the whole kerfuffle had in fact been resolved on August 19th last! I wrote back asking why, if this were the case, no statement had been issued either in response to my enquiries or to the media generally. Nearly a week later, and still no reponse from Unicef Ireland.

The plot thickens. Despite claiming a settlement dating all the way back to August 19th, only today (Sept 2nd) did a new ‘Joint statement on Change for Good’ appear on the Unicef Ireland site. It is sub-headed: “UNICEF Ireland and Tesco Ireland Joint Statement on Change for Good” and reads as follows:

“Following discussions, the dispute between Tesco Ireland and UNICEF Ireland was resolved on the 19th August 2009.

Tesco agreed to no longer use the term “Change for Good” in any of their marketing or advertising material from the 11th of September 2009 onward.

Tesco has undertaken to support UNICEF Ireland with an in store fundraising opportunity in the coming months. As in previous years, Tesco will continue to support UNICEF Ireland’s ongoing campaign with Pampers to eliminate maternal and neo-natal tetanus”.

The punch-line? The article is stamped: “Date posted: 19-8-09”. I have faithfully checked the Unicef Ireland every day since last week’s article appeared, and am certain that this “joint” statement which they are now claiming to have been posted two weeks ago has only in fact appeared today.

While remaining pleased that Tesco have seen the light in terms of their extremely ill-advised ‘Change for Good’ campaign, what’s with the cloak-and-dagger about pretending this was in the public domain on August 19th last? Was this the “price” of securing a deal with Tesco “to support UNICEF Ireland with an in store fundraising opportunity in the coming months” ?

It should be incumbent on anyone who throws around strongly worded allegations in the public domain (especially when they depend on the public’s trust in fund-raising) to be open and accountable. Unicef Ireland has, in my view, fallen short on this count.

I’ll be posting a copy of this blog entry to Everylittlehelps.ie as my final entry on the topic.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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4 Responses to Unicef’s change (for good?) of heart

  1. Coilin MacLochlainn says:


    You stick your head above the parapet in a good cause and, blam, even the friendly fire ricochets into you. Probably not your greatest journalistic moment but full marks for effort anyway.

    Pleased to see you taking on the might of Tesco, as ever since Richard Corrigan and Hugh Fearnley Cottontail described the quality of life of the €3 Tesco chicken, I’ve not only stopped buying it but stopped using Tesco altogether, for that reason and also for putting the squeeze on Irish local suppliers in various different ways.

    Corrigan described the intensively-reared chicken as ‘shit’ or words to that effect, and it reminds me of a book published about two years ago called ‘Everything is Shit’, perhaps written by the above mentioned Hugh Fearnley C, I can’t remember. Sounds offputting, but it was a very enlightening read, describing how quality is forsaken in every sphere, obsolescence is inbuilt, and everything is of the ‘stack em high and sell em cheap’ variety.

    It’s true, and it’s mainly because big retailers cut costs at every level, skimping on quality, screwing producers, maximising turnover, ultimately sending small competitors to the wall. They claim that supermarkets offer more choice than ever before, but you can’t buy fresh beetroot in supermarkets, the carrots are tasteless, a lot of apple and pear varieties have disappeared, rashers shrivel to nothing on the pan because they’re pumped full of, well, shit, and yet we’re expected to pay €3 for half a dozen of these pathetic excuses for rashers. Why don’t people refuse to buy them? And where can you buy a proper rasher these days? Are they no longer made? I saw blackberries in Dunne’s this week that were the size of grapes, almost unrecognisable as the humble berry I used to pick in the countryside. What on earth are they doing growing blackberries of that size? It must involve a serious amount of energy and water, not to mention the food miles involved in importing them from God knows where, Holland probably. We don’t need blackberries of that size. And they’re probably mostly water.

    If you want quality, you have to pay way over the odds for it. The big clothes stores are full of the most dreadful tat, sometimes dressed up as quality. I recently bought a jacket in a so-called sale, with the price reduced by half. Superficially it looked nice, but it is the most annoying jacket I ever bought, with bits of velcro catching on the sleeves so that you are continually wrestling with the damn thing. This piece of tat was probably not reduced in price at all, as it was not even worth the sale price, so they probably announced a sale just to get rid of it. Everything else I ever bought in that store was almost as disappointing and overpriced. Basically, everything is shit. I would pay double or even treble for a decent jacket that was comfortable and lasted 10 years. But I’ll never find it in a regular store because they only produce shit that has to be thrown out after six months.

    Elvery’s, I remember from way back, was a store that carried proper quality sports goods. In its most recent incarnation, in Dundrum ‘Town Centre’, it is laid out like Penney’s or Dunne’s and, well all I can say is I was extremely disappointed with the quality of stuff on offer. You can judge for yourself whether it’s shit or not. (That’s not where I bought the above jacket.) The good name of Elvery’s is sullied by this new store. It is not really Elvery’s any longer.

    As Ireland’s competitiveness was eroded by benchmarking and escalating wage levels over the last ten years, Irish ‘niche’ companies were reduced to dressing up their common-or-garden products as high-quality value-added, to justify a high mark-up so they could pay their employees and buy a second house in Bulgaria, or whatever. Basically they were selling more or less the same shit as the major multiples’ own-brands, but adding a fancy label and doubling the price. The recession is going to weed out all these rip-off merchants, leaving the field to the multinationals and biggest natives. The only way to restore balance to the whole thing is to buy Irish organic or near-organic foods locally, as these are the only foods that are being produced sustainably. It will cost more, but food is way too cheap and we need to get some quality back into it and reduce the huge impact that mass production is having on the health of the soil and on the environment generally. Good food should be what we pay most for, because we need it to survive. Instead, food is extremely cheap so we have a surplus to spend, and our disposable cash goes on useless luxuries like big cars, dishwashers and stuff that just adds more CO2 to the atmosphere.

    I’m giving up on chicken now except for real organic, and will scrupulously avoid those labelled only ‘free-range’ as basically they are reared indoors as well, in cramped conditions, and they are conditioned to stay indoors, so they don’t avail of the opportunity afforded at rare intervals to go outdoors for some fresh air and a runaround. My next big problem is bacon, as I’m reading that pigs are reared in the same kind of conditions as chickens, living the whole of their short lives in darkness or under weak electric light, in cramped crowded spaces, sleeping in their own shit. These are sentient intelligent beings that under normal circumstances would live sociable lives, not unlike our own in terms of family bonds and so on. So what they endure is worse than prison, it is a brief lifetime of extreme mental torture and physical stress. How can anyone rear animals in this way and sleep soundly at night?

    That only leaves beef and lamb, really, and I think Irish beef and lamb are reared on grass mainly, so that’s ok, unless I hear otherwise. And fish, but they’re being overfished to extinction, so it’s getting difficult to buy fish with a clear conscience. Salmon is farm-reared, so that’s more sustainable, at the moment anyhow, but the price of salmon is coming down so fast I’m wondering what they’re doing to make that possible. Is that shit too, now?

    Ultimately, the price of oil will rise so high that the cost of importing food will rocket, and also the cost of growing food in the conventional fuel-intensive way, so we will be forced to grow all our food in Ireland and in a sustainable permacultural way. That day is not far off, but is the government preparing for it? Well, the junior minister for horticulture is definitely trying but not getting a whole lot of support. Climate change will reduce much of the world’s arable land to dust, again reducing the amount of food that can be imported and also it will be badly needed by the affected populations. So it’s not the recession we need to worry about, it’s climate change, the energy crisis and food shortages up ahead, which are going to hit us before we’re out of the economic morass. There’s no point in talking about a percentage reduction in carbon emissions, or 20:20:20; the only thing that will have any effect now is zero carbon emissions. That is a 100%, not 20% reduction. The government needs to set out a roadmap for reaching that inside 20 years, as does every country. I think we’re screwed.

  2. John Gibbons says:

    Thanks for the interesting posting Coilin. Am not too bothered about my journalistic record on this one, as I’m pretty clear what happened here, and am satisfied I’m not the one who was setting out to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

    Agree entirely that food is far too cheap. So too is electricity (an average household’s entire daily ESB bill averages around €2.50, less than a latte a day), so too is energy generally: if a litre of fuel bore its real cost (including the pollution element) it would probably be at least double today’s prices, and imagine the effect that would have on the vehicles people drive, and how often they drive them.

    Of course, the situation for aviation (and international freight shipping) is far worse, with both enjoying a free ride under arcane “agreements” dating back to the end of World War 2 allowing taxes and tariffs to be waived. The whole explosion in cheap travel has been built on the back of ridiculous tax breaks, and now governments are terrified to inform their publics that dirt-cheap intercontinental travel is not a god-given right.

    As regards those poor Tesco chickens, New Scientist this week has a piece examining the possibility of genetically engineering the ability to suffer pain out of animals such as cattle, who experience huge trauma in transit, rough handling and of course gory slaughterhouses. Whether we find this idea humane, or even more creepy, is a matter of personal opinion.

    You mention there being no point in even talking about 20:20:20 reductions, but what else can we talk about? Nothing shy of a global cataclysm is capable of throwing us towards a zero carbon future. People will fight to the last bullet to defend their right to do precisely as they please. Maybe we are indeed screwed, as you suggest; still, what choice is there but to fight on as long as possible? The alternative is despair, and I’m not prepared to go down that route just yet.

  3. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    John, I was just taking my thoughts on targets from a piece by Monbiot, where he mentioned some country that was aiming for zero carbon emissions in a few short years by making 10% cuts per annum or something like that. He reckons zero global emissions is called for now.

  4. John Gibbons says:

    Sure Coilin, I’m familiar with the Monbiot piece you reference, and yes, unfortunately, he’s most likely right. We’re still stuck with the dilemma: since we’re not going to do everything we need to achieve zero carbon, do we just give up and do nothing, or chip away, do the best we can, lobby, cajole, etc. in the hope that somehow people and politicians will snap out of their reverie in time for us to save the day. OK, I know this is now beginning to sound like the plot of a Bond movie! JG

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