Olympic Sponsors Go for the Green (Forget Darfur and Tibet)

Human rights, environmental, health and labor campaigns around the Beijing 2008 Olympics that seek to change China's behavior are increasingly targeting Olympic sponsors. "Companies operating in China are 'absolutely focused' on minimizing their potential exposure to issues such as Darfur and Tibet during the Olympics, says Richard Edelman, president and chief executive of Edelman Public Relations," whose clients include Olympic sponsors General Electric and Coca-Cola. Some sponsors "appear to be hoping to avoid the red flags by going green, focusing on environmental projects in China. ... Coke is playing up its water-conservation efforts on the Yangtze River," and has also partnered with World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. "Since March, Volkswagen has been planting thousands of trees in Inner Mongolia. GE is touting its role selling ecofriendly products such as solar-power and water-filtration systems for the Olympic venues." Edelman calls it a "win-win" strategy, saying the companies avoid addressing difficult issues while currying the favor of the Chinese government.