E. Bruce Harrison

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The name E Bruce Harrison often refers both to a Washington-based public relations practitioner, and the company he established in 1973 --the E Bruce Harrison Company -- which led the early fight against the early environmental activism on behalf of the chemical industry.[citation needed] It later became well known for the establishment of policy groups and coalitions of companies with environmental issues and problems.

Despite the patriarchial company name, this company was very much a partnership between Bruce and his wife Patricia (ex-Patricia de Stacy). Bruce Harrison appears to have been the public relations/environmental strategist, while Patricia focused on political contacts, travel and women entrepreneur accounts.[citation needed] She later co-chaired the Republican National Committee, and served as Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs.[citation needed]

E. Bruce Harrison himself is often referred to as the inventor of "environmental public relations."[citation needed]

A former journalist in Alabama and Georgia, and press secretary to a member of Congress from Alabama, Harrison was PR director at the Chemical Manufacturers Association and vice president of Freeport Minerals Company (now Freeport McMoran) in New York, before establishing the E. Bruce Harrison Company in Washington, D.C., in 1973.[1] [2] In 1997 the company was sold to Ruder Finn and ceased to trade independently. [3]

In 1991 Harrison was elected to be a member of the College of Fellows of the Public Relations Society of America, and was recognized by PR Week in 1999 as one of the 100 most influential public relations professionals of the 20th Century. He was selected in 2000 to the Public Relations Hall of Fame, established by the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.[citation needed] In 2008, he delivered a speech at the Corporate Communications Institute, held at Wroxton College, England, in which he described the political, policy and media factors encouraging companies toward the acceptance of climate change as a public issue and sustainability as a viable economic strategy. In 2008, he authored a new book (following earlier publication of "Going Green" in 1993), "Corporate Greening 2.0: Create and Communicate Your Company's Climate Change and Sustainability Strategies," he which he counsels companies to accept the political reality of climate change as a public policy matter and to communicate the enterprise's commitment and proven achievements toward sustainability. In 2009, Harrison was honored by the Arthur W. Page Society with its Distinguished Service Award.

Harrison and Environmental PR

Harrison's career began as a journalist and was active in the Society of Professional Journalists (formerly known as Sigma Delta Chi), co-chairing the group's "Project Watchdog," aimed at press freedom, and hosting its First Amendment Center in Washington,D.C., After working for a member of Congress and campaigning for the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, he joined the Manufacturing Chemists Association (now American Chemistry Council), where was initially appointed "director of environmental information" to work with the chemical industry team, responding to the public relations crisis created by Rachel Carson and her classic 1962 environmental book, Silent Spring.

A few years after the Harrison firm's founding, the company was incorporated into the Pinnacle Group, and later it was sold to Ruder Finn. [4]

Coalition foundations

For many years the company specialized in the creation of industry-wide 'umbrella' activities and ideologically based political campaigns. In its political activities, it had the support of companies like Coors the brewers and RJ Reynolds tobacco, who are active promoters of unrestrained free-market movements, reduction in taxes, and small government.[citation needed]

One of the company's umbrella organizations was the Total Indoor Environmental Quality (TIEQ) coalition of tobacco companies, fiber (asbestos and other) manufacturers, carpet makers, office equipment manufacturers and airlines. These companies all had problems with volatile chemicals from their products, or the need to influence workplace Indoor Air Quality legislation.[citation needed] The firm's primary client, which existed for more than 20 years, was the National Environmental Development Association, a broad coalition of industry, agriculture and labor representatives dedicated to "balance" of environmental, energy and economic factors in public policy.

Greenwashing

By the late 1970s, however, Harrison realized that attacking environmentalists had its downside, and he began advising his clients in the art of corporate camouflage--a strategy that environmental groups have labeled "greenwashing." The greenwashing strategy emerged at the same time that the environmental movement was undergoing an internal transformation. What began as a popular grassroots movement began to institutionalize itself. A handful of giant organizations emerged as "leaders" within the movement, paying six-figure salaries to their executives and raising hundreds of millions of dollars per year from direct mail campaigns, foundations and corporate donors.

"The activist movement that began in the early 1960s ... succumbed to success over ... the last 15 years," Harrison proclaimed in his 1993 book, Going Green. He observed that although the big environmental groups are formally incorporated as nonprofit organizations, their size and inertia have transformed them into business ventures themselves. Fundraising, he observed, had become their real primary mission. As he put it, the environmental movement's most pressing need was "not to green, but to ensure the wherewithal that enable it to green." The need for money and a "respectable" public image, he said, provided the motivation for green bureaucrats to sit down and cut deals with industry.[citation needed]

In the years since Harrison wrote Going Green, his advice has become gospel not just in the corporate suites of his clients, but in the offices of the large, Washington-based environmental groups he wrote about. Corporate partnerships have come to be viewed not just as a source of funding but even as a source of legitimation, as a sign of "success" and accomplishment. An environmental group that forms a partnership with McDonald's or International Paper usually gets some kind of concession from the company, however trivial, which the organization can tout as proof of its ability to tame the corporate beast.

Current

After the sale of his company Harrison worked as a part-time Executive Director of the Arthur W. Page Society, a position he resigned from in June 2000. Jack O'Dwyers Newsletter' reported that Harrison said he would work fulltime on "my corporate counsel practice" in Washington. D.C. [5] He now runs his own Washington. D.C. PR company Harrison Consulting. His website describes him as "the founder and international franchiser of EnviroComm." [6]

In April 2005 Harrison was nominated to continue in the role as Treasurer of the Washington D.C. Professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. [7] A statement in support of his candidacy states that he is "chairman of EnviroComm International, is a former newspaper reporter, Congressional press secretary and public relations professional, who has been a member of SPJ/SDX since 1960. He co-chaired SPJ's national Project Watchdog project, served as informal PR counsel to the national Board, hired former SPJ President Jim Plante to head up E. Bruce Harrison Company's New York office, and provided office space in Washington for the First Amendment program when Dick Kleeman ran it." [8]

In January 2007 he was one of the participants in a one-day seminar organised by the PR Coalition and the U.S. State Department titled the 'Private Sector Summit on Public Diplomacy'. [9] (Pdf - see page 32). The seminar was designed to advise business on how it could help rehabilitate the public standing of the U.S. abroad in the wake of its disastrous invasion of Iraq.

Bruce Harrison now advises corporations through speeches and books, and his new focus is on carbon/energy and climate change. His wife is active both in the Republican Party (mainly women's isues) and the Bush II Administration (Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs) and was elected President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in June 2005.

Books

  • E. Bruce Harrison, Environmental Communication and Public Relations Handbook, Government Institute, 2nd edition December 1992. ISBN 0865873216
  • E. Bruce Harrison, Going Green: How to Communicate Your Company's Environmental Commitment, Irwin Professional, April 1993. ISBN 1556239459
  • E. Bruce Harrison, "Corporate Greening 2.0" Create and Communicate Your Company's Climate Change and Sustainability Strategies", PublishingWorks, Inc, 2008. ISBN 1-933002-70-0

Articles and resources

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