FOSSIL FUEL SPONSORSHIP OF THE CLIMATE EXHIBITION IS GREENWASHING – TAHTO MUSEUM BREAKS ITS OWN ENVIRONMENTAL PROMISE WITH ITS ACTIVITIES
Sponsorship of TAHTO museum’s exhibition ‘’Menneen talven lumet (The Snows of Yesteryear)’’ is irresponsible greenwashing – Protect Our Winters Finland and Save Pond Hockey discontinue their partnership with the museum for the time being.
The sponsorship cooperation of the new exhibition of TAHTO Museum, which operates under the Finnish Sports Museum Foundation, is no longer part of today’s practices and fulfills the hallmarks of greenwashing. Protect Our Winters Finland and Save Pond Hockey, two climate organizations of winter athletes, disapprove of the conflicting sponsor cooperation related to the new exhibition. For the time being, the organizations will discontinue their cooperation with TAHTO Museum.
Having its opening on Thursday this week at the TAHTO Museum (formerly the Sports Museum), the exhibition ‘’Menneen talven lumet’’ deals with the role of sports in climate change and sustainable development. The introductory text of the exhibition asks whether the snow and ice, which are an essential part of Finnish sports and exercise culture, are permanently melting because of our own activities.
The answer is that, unfortunately, this is happening in a large part of Finland, and the reason is the climate crisis and its effects, which we all feel strongly already – both in our everyday life and especially in winter sports.
The climate crisis is fundamentally caused by massive emissions, the main source being the use of fossil fuels. One of the partners of the exhibition is the energy company St1 Oy, whose business is based specifically on fossil fuels. St1’s annual emissions are 15 Mt CO2e. For comparison, domestic traffic emissions per year are 10.4 Mt CO2e in Finland. St1 says that it is in a transition phase and that it is investigating more sustainable ways of producing energy, but in reality the company’s business is still mostly based on producing fossil energy and promoting the sales of fossil fuels. The company does not have public emission reduction targets for its own operations, which would be the first and required step for an energy company implementing a credible transition.
In the opinion of Protect Our Winters and Save Pond Hockey, it is outrageous that a major sponsor of a climate-related exhibition is a company whose activities are constantly worsening the climate crisis. As climate organizations, we interpret such a partnership as blatant greenwashing and irresponsible action.
We also consider the actions of TAHTO Museum, which operates under the Finnish Sports Museum Foundation, the producer of the exhibition, to be contradictory. TAHTO Museum’s public environmental promise is “to act in a culturally sustainable manner, safeguarding valuable cultural heritage for future generations, and to recognize the environmental aspects related to one’s own activities”. Enabling the visibility of a fossil company in a climate-themed exhibition perpetuates a problem, while finding the solution is not only a matter of fate for winter sports but also for all of humanity.
As organizations, our position is that fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship is harmful and limiting it is an essential part of the solution to the climate crisis.
Protect Our Winters Finland and Save Pond Hockey also represent winter athletes concerned about the climate crisis, of which there are already a considerable number today. Based on POW’s recently published survey, a large number of winter athletes are worried about climate change and the future prospects of their sports. Taking the worry of athletes seriously means brave and committed climate action from all players in the sports industry. The “Menneen talven lumet” exhibition, with the sponsorship of an active fossil fuel company, is not like this.
We hope that the Finnish Sports Museum Foundation and the TAHTO museum have the courage to be trendsetters rather than prisoners of the past. We encourage the museum to cut off the sponsorship cooperation with the fossil fuel company for this exhibition, because in our opinion fossil fuel advertising is, if anything, the snow of the past winter.
In addition to our statement, Protect Our Winters Finland and Save Pond Hockey discontinue their partnership with the TAHTO Museum for the time being and have requested the removal of materials and entities on display related to and made with the organizations for the museum.
Protect Our Winters Finland:
Executive Director Noora Vihervaara
Chairperson of the Board Heidi Kalmari
Save Pond Hockey:
Executive Director Steve Baynes
Chairperson of the Board Svante Suominen
MORE ON FOSSIL FUEL ADVERTISING AND GREENWASHING
- What is fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship and why is it harmful?
Fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship is the advertising of companies operating on fossil fuels, with which the companies try to make the use of fossil fuels socially acceptable and sometimes to achieve a better political position. Advertising and collaborations are often focused on a perspective that aims to bring the company and business areas to people in the most positive light possible. According to an international survey, up to two-thirds of the marketing of six various fossil giants in Europe emphasizes “green” operations, even though the business model is entirely based on fossil fuels. When the image created by advertising and sponsorships differs from reality, the advertising can be considered as greenwashing.
- What does greenwashing mean?
Greenwashing refers to a lie or partial truth with which a company tries to create a more positive image of itself and its environmental actions to people, either intentionally or unintentionally. In other words, the aim of greenwashing is ‘’to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is” or ‘’an attempt to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”.
- Why and how is fossil advertising being regulated?
According to the IPPC, in order to curb the climate crisis, we must significantly distance ourselves from the use of fossil fuels in all sectors. The positive images and visibility created by misleading marketing, on the other hand, mean money and resources for the companies to continue greenwashing and, therefore, actions that are harmful to the climate. France has banned the advertising of energy products that run on fossil fuels with its new climate law. However, the climate act in question does not prohibit, for example, joint sponsoring. Similar actions have also been taken in individual cities in the Netherlands, in Sydney, Australia and, most recently, in Stockholm, Sweden. Also last year, there was an initiative in Finland in favor of a ban, and the city of Helsinki has begun to explore ways to ban and limit outdoor advertising that is harmful to the climate.
- How can fossil advertising be compared to the marketing of tobacco products?
Banning fossil advertising is often compared to the ban of tobacco company advertising. Indeed, tobacco and fossil fuel companies have a lot in common: significant harm to both health and the environment. What would an event focused on the relationship between sports and well-being, sponsored by a tobacco company look like? Well, we think it’s pretty similar to an exhibition focusing on the relationship between sports and exercise and the environment, sponsored by a company that makes money for its owners with fossil fuels.
- Why do POW and SPH react and intervene in fossil advertising and sponsorship?
POW and SPH have an obligation to commit to the same principles in their partner activities that are also expected from their athlete-ambassadors. Therefore, cooperation with a climate-themed exhibition, whose partner is an energy company that derives its main business from oil, contradicts these principles. We want to be organizations that our athletes can represent without any ethical or moral conflicts, because we see that it is the only way to maintain the athletes’ trust in our operations.