Rachel's Democracy & Health News  [Printer-friendly version]
March 27, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: The national board of the Sierra Club has
removed the leadership of its Florida Chapter, which was highly
critical of the board's decision to lend its name and logo to the
Clorox Company's marketing campaign for a new line of cleaning

By Peter Montague[1]

The Sierra Club's national board voted March 25 to remove the
leaders of the Club's 35,000-member Florida chapter, and to suspend
the Chapter for four years. It was the first time in the Club's 116-
year history that such action has been taken against a state Chapter.

The leadership of the Florida Chapter had been highly critical of
the national board's decision in mid-December 2007 to allow The Clorox
Company to use the Sierra Club's name and logo to market a new line of
non-chlorinated cleaning products called "Green Works." In return,
Clorox Company will pay Sierra Club an undisclosed fee, based partly
on product sales. The Clorox Company logo will appear on the products
as well. A 2004 report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Education Fund named The Clorox Company as one of the nation's most
chemically dangerous.

The Clorox deal has angered and embittered Club members all across the
country, not just in Florida. Since the deal was announced in January,
2008, the Club's national leadership has deflected many requests by
Club members to see the text of the legal agreement signed with
Clorox. Johanna O'Kelley, the Club's director of Licensing & Cause-
Related Marketing, will say only that the amount of money involved is
"substantial." Carl Pope, the Club's executive director, has said that
money was not the driving factor behind the deal: "Our focus was on
consumers who otherwise would not migrate to a safer product because
they wouldn't be sure it wasn't green scamming," Mr. Pope has written.
The idea is that the Clorox logo will convince people the products
will work, and the Sierra Club logo will convince people the products
are environmentally preferable.

Third parties are already benefiting from the deal. John Ulrich, who
heads the Chemical Industry Council of California, claims broadly
that, "the chemical industry is moving toward developing and marketing
safer, more eco-friendly products, pointing to Oakland-based Clorox
Co.'s new line of 'green' cleaning products that have been endorsed by
the Sierra Club," according to a recent news report. As he spoke,
Mr. Ulrich was using the Sierra Club-Clorox deal to try to deflect
attention away from a new report showing that the chemical industry
sickens and kills thousands of Californians each year, costing the
state an estimated $2.6 billion in medical expenses and lost wages.

With 2007 revenues of $4.8 billion, The Clorox Company is best-known
for its namesake chlorine bleach. The company also manufactures and
sells other cleaning products, including Pine-Sol, Clorox Clean-Up,
Formula 409, Liquid Plumr, Armor All, plus STP auto-care products,
Fresh Step and Scoop Away cat litter, Kingsford charcoal, Hidden
Valley and K C Masterpiece salad dressings and sauces, Brita water-
filtration systems, and Glad bags, wraps and containers. With 7,800
employees worldwide, the company manufactures products in more than
two dozen countries[2] and markets them in more than 100 countries.

In its most recent 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange
Commission, Clorox acknowledges,

"The Company is currently involved in or has potential liability with
respect to the remediation of past contamination in the operation of
some of its currently and formerly owned and leased facilities. In
addition, some of its present and former facilities have been or had
been in operation for many years and, over that time, some of these
facilities may have used substances or generated and disposed of
wastes that are or may be considered hazardous."


"The Company handles and/or transports hazardous substances, including
but not limited to chlorine, at its plant sites, including the rail
transit of liquid chlorine from its point of origin to our
manufacturing facilities. A release of such chemicals, whether in
transit or at our facilities, due to accident or an intentional act,
could result in substantial liability."

The Clorox Company seems an especially unlikely partner for Sierra
Club because many environmental organizations in the U.S., including
many members of the Sierra Club, have been working to eliminate
chlorine chemistry for the past 15 years. Supporters of the deal point
out that it is a step toward that goal. Critics are asking who's next
for partnerships? DuPont? Dow? Monsanto?

According to postings on the Club's "Clubhouse" web site,

(1) the Club's Corporate Relations Committee examined the proposed
deal with Clorox and rejected it, but was overridden by the national
board of directors;

(2) The Club's Toxics Committee was not consulted before the deal was

(3) The Club's Corporate Financial Acceptance Policy says, in part,
"The Club will not endorse products."

Among grass-roots Club members, the process for making the decision,
as much as the decision itself, is cause for anger and dismay. The
Club has 1.3 million dues-paying members, many of who are active
volunteers in their local communities. Volunteers and paid national
staff sometimes have different perspectives on what's most important
to the Club.

When grass-roots members pointed out that Clorox was fined $95,000
for violating U.S. pesticide laws just as the deal with the Club was
being brokered, staffer Johanna O'Kelley dismissed Clorox's
culpability, saying their violation was "a technicality."

According to a report in the Palm Beach, Florida, Post newspaper,
"Many past and present chapter leaders have declined to speak publicly
about the dispute, with some saying they fear punishment from the
national organization. In a recent letter, the club instructed leaders
not to 'seek public media coverage of this internal board decision.'"

On the Club's "Clubhouse" web site, several Club members have called
for a full national membership referendum on the Clorox deal, but so
far the national staff in San Francisco has not adopted that


[1] Disclosure: Peter Montague is a member of the Sierra Club.

[2] In its 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission
dated June 30, 2007, The Clorox Company listed these subsidiaries:
1221 Olux, LLC Delaware; A & M Products Manufacturing Company
Delaware; Andover Properties, Inc. Delaware; The Armor All/STP
Products Company Delaware; BGP Switzerland S. a. r. l. Switzerland;
Brita Canada Corporation Nova Scotia; Brita Canada Holdings
Corporation Nova Scotia; Brita GP Ontario; Brita LP Ontario; Brita
Manufacturing Company Delaware; The Brita Products Company Delaware;
Chesapeake Assurance Limited Hawaii; Clorox Africa (Holdings) Pty.
Ltd. South Africa; Clorox Africa Pty. Ltd. South Africa; Clorox
Argentina S.A. Argentina; Clorox Australia Pty. Ltd. Australia; Clorox
(Barbados) Inc. Barbados; Clorox Brazil Holdings LLC Delaware; Clorox
do Brasil Ltda. Brazil; Clorox Car Care Limited United Kingdom; Clorox
(Cayman Islands) Ltd. Cayman Islands; Clorox de Centro America, S.A.
Costa Rica; Clorox Chile S.A. Chile; Clorox China (Guangzhou) Ltd.
Guangzhou, P.R.C.; Clorox de Colombia S.A. Colombia; Clorox Commercial
Company Delaware; The Clorox Company of Canada Ltd. Canada (Federal);
Clorox Diamond Production Company Delaware; Clorox Dominicana, C. por
A. Dominican Republic.