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As Wildlife Federation Defends Its Greed, Scotts Continues to Assault Our Sensibilities

UPDATE: Petition Asks NWF to Say No to Scotts’ Sponsorship:

Did any of you catch the beleaguered CEO of the National Wildlife Federation defiantly attempt to justify his recent It really does come off as an incredibly interesting case study of an organization that just made the worst public relations move of its career — with little or no skill set in place for spin control. Every time Coyle tried to ask Schweiger about the toxicity of Roundup and weed ‘n feed, the CEO grimaced and said, “We don’t have to agree on everything in order to work together to find answers to the tough problems.”

Time and time again in the interview Schweiger insisted that it was better to deal with this devil, Scotts Miracle Gro, from close range. That way, he said, he can help Scotts become better environmental citizen.

“They want to change. They want to be a better company,” said Schweiger.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Jim Hagedorn, the CEO of Scotts Miracle Gro, signed up for that ringing endorsement when he signed the check over to Schweiger. Do you really think Hagedorn thinks his company needs to improve its environmental record?

More likely, though, Hagedorn wasn’t watching Schweiger squirm. Instead he was probably paying close attention in Florida today where his company is leading a fierce battle to overturn that state’s many bans on the applications of lawn fertilizer containing nitrogen. The fertilizer runs off during the rainy season and creates massive blooms of red-tide. That’s bad for the state’s fishing and tourism industry — something you think the National Wildlife Federation should care about — but a ban on the fertilizers in the nation’s second largest lawn care market has been also bad for Scotts’ bottom line.

Think about that. On the very day Schweiger defends Scotts in front of a camera looking like his tie is three clenches too tight, Scotts is a few states away making Schweiger’s decision looking more asinine by the hour.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club asked everyone in Florida to take a look at this map that shows where the fertilizer runoff is having a huge impact: Wouldn’t disseminating that kind of information be a better use of NWF’s time than defending its recent money grab?

Near the end of the interview Schweiger insisted that he’s been an environmental activist his whole career for the sake of his grandkids — like the kids everywhere who roll around in lawn care poisons at 30 million homes from Maine to California.

It seems to me, if I could make a suggestion to the National Wildlife Federation, that there’s an real opportunity at hand here if Mr. Schweiger really does care about his progeny and the planet.

He needs to stand up tall — and loud — and say he’s sorry. He needs to say he made a bad decision in taking the Scotts money. He needs to say he won’t take another dollar from Scotts or any company like it until the companies stop making products that can poison his grandkids.

That would effect change. That would (or might) MAKE Scotts take notice. That would fulfill the mission of the National Wildlife Federation and restore the trust for tens of thousands of supporters who were disillusioned this week.

Until he does that the tie is only going to get tighter.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
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  • Sue Sweeney

    very astute. thank you

  • Carole Sevilla Brown

    Very good summary of the events that unfolded today in that live chat when NWF tried to regain control of their message, Paul!

    Oddly enough, when I interviewed David Mizejewski about the NWF partnership with Scotts I told him that he had a PR nightmare on their hands, strongly suggested to him that they revisit the carefully scripted message they were busy cutting and pasting into my original article about this and the many others that followed.

    I told him that this message was not working because no one could get past the title of Scotts press release “Scotts Teams Up With National Wildlife Federation”

    He told me we should just wait and see how this unfolds. Wait? This cat has been let out of the bag and there’s no putting it back in now!

    You’d think a big organization like them would have anticipated this backlash and have had a plan to respond effectively to the firestorm. But it’s obvious they have no plan and are now completely losing control of their message as they continue to cut and paste the same lame canned responses on their facebook page as well as into the comments of the blog posts that have shown up today.

    Keep sounding the call! And I will, too. They need to know that they are now under our scrutiny. We’re not going to shut up and go quietly away!

  • Doug Rankin

    Bravo! Well said, as always.

  • Sue Reed

    So excellent. Thank you.

  • Chiot’s Run

    Ironically I got an e-mail from NWF yesterday afternoon (after watching the Q&A on-line) urgently requesting my help to save the planet from corporate pollution.

  • Karak

    With Chemicals NWF helps their victims

  • Viveka Neveln

    After watching the CEO’s defense, I wasn’t sure if it made things any better or just worse, as it left me with many more questions – you know, those annoying, carefully unanswered ones that let you know you’ve just been handed a load of BS instead of truth. For one, I’d like to see the agreement they have with Scotts. Claiming that there are no strings – nothing NWF is expected to do in return – seems quite dubious, for one thing. Also, if they were looking to bolster programs such as their Natural Playscapes and Save Our Songbirds and educating gardeners, I do believe there are many other, far less unsavory options out there than taking Scotts’ money. And I found it really odd to say that the partnership allows NWF’s voice to be heard by Scotts – so, what, Scotts had to pay NWF to lobby for the environment??? That’s a new one, as I’m pretty sure NWF is all about doing that anyway. But possibly my favorite line was about the “very vigorous conversations” they’ve had and will have with Scotts about things that they don’t agree on (which exactly these are, CEO man was very careful to sidestep the whole time) – um, I’d say they’re in “very vigorous conversations” now with their soon to be ex-supporters. All I could think was, “well played, Scotts!”

  • Kathy @nativegardener

    Very good article. I am happy for the links to what’s been happening in Florida. It is important for folks to be educated as to exactly what these chemicals do, not just that they are bad. Thanks.

  • Mike Serant

    Hey SafeLawns,

    My thanks for being such a great Organic Warrior organization. Y’all are helping to kep us united across the land. If any of y’all to connect to a local organization that supports SafeLawns in the Houston area, check out


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