Your community, region, state has a pressing environmental crisis that threatens your area's resources, quality of life and identity. It's in the news, and most people are vaguely aware of the issue, but the right slant needed to spur the issue further in public and policy debate is missing. While you have broad support among the environmental community, crucial players with strong influence over policy-makers are uninterested or even avoiding joining your fight. Businesses as well are unaware of how they can play a part in local conservation efforts.
How do you simultaneously reinvigorate your issue and prod policy-makers to address the crisis?
The example below shows how a group of economists are helping to boost Northwest salmon conservation efforts by examining the economic benefits of habitat conservation and creating "pocketbook" incentives to protect endangered salmon.
The private sector's impact on the environment is undeniable, but environmentalists often ignore the business press because we think that our straightforward environmental news won't fly in the business section. Furthermore, we too often are associated with "bad" or negative news concerning the environment or end up defending against our opponents' tired, but oft-covered "jobs vs. the environment" mantra. In fact, as we know, just the opposite can be true -- what's good for the environment is not only good for people, it can be good for jobs and businesses. So, how do your reach the business community with positive stories on strategies for lessening their impact on the environment?
Determine how to best communicate the economic angle on your issue. Should you release a report including data on the positive economic impact of certain conservation measures? Hold a press conference with business leaders who support policy changes on your issue? Pitch a feature story highlighting businesses or companies that are reaping profits from environmentally sound business practices? Pick one, or try all three, create effective press materials to support your approach utilizing your economic and business experts and think about creative ways to highlight partnerships between the environmental and business communities.
The Center for Watershed and Community Health (CWCH) at Portland State University recently commissioned a report, "Saving Salmon, Saving Money" to help decisionmakers throughout the region better understand the economic issues associated with salmon and stream conservation. The report presented overwhelming data that showed how companies taking steps to reduce energy consumption, waste and pollution are not only having a beneficial impact on salmon, but are improving their bottom lines. EMS worked with the report authors, from Portland State University, ECONorthwest, Lewis and Clark College and University of Puget Sound to release the report to the media and leverage its findings.
To best illustrate the dramatic findings of the report, EMS decided to hold two press briefings in the region's largest media markets, Portland and Seattle. Next, EMS arranged to hold the press briefings on site at two businesses cited in the report, a supermarket and an auto repair shop in Portland and Seattle respectively. These unconventional locations provided excellent photo opportunities for TV and print media and good audio for radio. The owners of each business were also available for comment to testify that their salmon conservation efforts actually are enhancing their businesses and saving them money. Report authors from Washington and Oregon appeared at the briefings in each city respectively to provide expert economic commentary.
Press materials providing accurate, objective, and easy-to-understand information about the significant potential benefits associated with restoring water quality and healthy salmon populations were developed and sent to a target media list focused on business and environmental reporters in both Washington and Oregon.
"Saving Salmon, Saving Money" was covered widely in Washington and Oregon with a high number of radio and TV pick ups and hits in business columns and journals. The report publicly rewarded businesses that were, knowingly or not, helping to recover endangered salmon, and provided local policy-makers with solid economic justifications to do the right thing for salmon.
[ Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce hit ]
EMS will continue to work with the Center for Watershed and Community Health to help reframe the public debate, through the media, over the economic impacts of salmon recovery. Using additional research, reports, news events, and spokespeople, we can dispel the myth that recovering salmon has costs but no benefits economically.
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