Letter From Sierra Club President Robert Cox
[Rachel's Introduction: This letter to the editor from the President of the Sierra Club explains the thinking of the Club's board of directors that led to ousting the leadership of the Florida Chapter and allowing The Clorox Company to use the Club's name and logo on a new line of cleaning products.]
Author Name: 
By Robert Cox, President, Sierra Club
This note is in response to reports about the Sierra Club Board of Directors' vote to suspend the Florida Chapter volunteer Executive Committee for four years. What has not been clear in some reports is that the action is the result of requests from Sierra Club members in Florida, themselves, for national volunteers to investigate internal disputes. It comes after much dissatisfaction, anger and frustration at the Chapter level and a multi-year process at the state and national level to improve the situation before this action was taken.

While it is a serious step and was a very difficult decision, it was made after much thought and extensive review. The impressive work of Florida's 19 groups to protect the environment will continue unaffected by this action. The Sierra Club looks forward to healing this rift and is confident that the Sierra Club in Florida will come out of this situation a stronger organization.

Over the past year and a half, the national Sierra Club has been asked multiple times to intervene in Florida Chapter matters by members concerned that factionalism compromised the Chapter's ability to accomplish its conservation work. An internal audit and comment period confirmed that the problems created by rifts in he Chapter made it difficult for the Chapter to be governed effectively.

Some reports have either explicitly or implicitly connected the suspension decision to opposition to the Sierra Club's recently announced partnership with Clorox Greenworks products or other disagreements over national policies adopted by the volunteer Board of Directors. This is completely false and a spurious connection. In fact, the difficult and exhaustive process to address the dysfunction of the Florida Chapter began long before the partnership with Clorox was announced--to be clear, Sierra Club and Clorox did not even begin initial conversations until July of 2007, with internal review among committees occurring last fall and the public announcement this past January. The process to address conflict in the Florida Chapter that ultimately resulted in suspension began in at least 2006.

As with many tough decisions inside a large and democratic organization like the Sierra Club, there have been internal disagreements. But the measures taken in Florida, which were made after considerable review, deliberation and solicitation of input from members throughout the chapter, were taken because the rifts in the chapter made it difficult to effectively govern. Disagreements between some leaders in the chapter and the national board over Clorox played no role in the Board's decision.

On the issue of the Clorox partnership itself: The Green Works products and The Clorox Company were investigated by a broad number of volunteers and staff -- including the Toxics Committee, the Energy Committee, and the Environmental Quality Committee. The Corporate Relations Committee also vetted this and approved of the Green Works products and of The Clorox Company, but did not approve the cause- related marketing relationship that would generate revenue for the Club. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors approved that program because the Board is the decision-making body on cause-related marketing programs such as this one.

This partnership -- our first cause-related marketing venture involving a widely-distributed consumer product -- was announced the week of January 14 as part of the 2008 launch of the Green Works line of five natural household cleaning products. The Green Works cleaning products are made from coconut-based cleaning agent and essential lemon oils; there is no phosphorus or bleach; they are biodegradable and 99% petrochemical-free; there is no animal testing and they are hypo-allergenic.

The Green Works line will make it easier and more affordable for millions of Americans to buy eco-friendly products and this a huge opportunity for the Sierra Club to influence the buying behavior of millions of people and give a giant kick-start to the market for safe, green, affordable household cleaning products. Up until now, a big stumbling block for families who want to live a greener lifestyle has been the high cost of "green" products and the fact that they are not always easy to find. Green Works' natural, environmentally-preferable cleaning products are priced at only 20-25 percent higher than conventional cleaning products, which is much lower than other natural cleaning brands, which can be priced 50-100 percent higher. Green Works products will also be easy to find in 24,000 mainstream stores in the United States and Canada.

To us, the fact that Green Works is the first new product that Clorox has launched in 20 years is a sign that major companies see the green market maturing and recognize it's possible to manufacture and sell products that will be good for business and for the planet. Industry has to be a part of the solution and the Sierra Club has the power to influence corporations to move in the right direction. We believe and hope that this will be a selling proposition that other companies will be quick to adopt.

The bottom line is that these products are environmentally safe, affordable, work well, will be available to millions of people, alter consumer behavior overall and support the good work of the Sierra Club. It is our chance to use the power of our brand to help people who want to do the right thing, to do the right thing. And that is a great opportunity for us. Individuals who want to learn more about the products and the Sierra Club's process for deciding on the partnership can read more at the Sierra Club website at: http://www.sierraclub.org/greenworks/