Compassion eclipses deception when it comes to talking our way to a greener future

The IECA's picture

For Immediate Release, March 15, 2016

Pope FrancisWhen it comes to talking about the environment, the Pope’s message of compassion stood in clear contrast to Volkswagen’s fraudulent marketing in 2015.

Experts in communicating about environmental issues have voted Pope Francis the “Environmental Communicator” of the year for 2015, and chosen Volkswagen as the “Environmental Miscommunicator" of the year.

“It’s difficult to imagine a greater ethical difference in communication than between these two,” said Mark Meisner, Executive Director of the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA), the organization behind the awards.

“While the Pope used his position to call upon the world to address our urgent environmental issues with openness and love, Volkswagen was manipulating its well-meaning customers and lying about the environmental benefits of its vehicles.”

In overwhelmingly voting for Pope Francis, IECA members mentioned how his Encyclical, Laudato Si, fostered widespread discussion of global warming, created an “inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” and effectively “made climate change a moral imperative.” Indeed, research by IECA members has shown that there was a “Francis Effect" with the Encyclical having “a significant impact on public understanding of and engagement in the issue.”

The Environmental Communicator of the Year award is intended to honour an individual or organization who stood out as making a significant positive impact on environmental awareness and problem-solving through their effective communication efforts.

VW Golf TDIIECA members voted Volkswagen “Environmental Miscommunicator" of the year because the company marketed their cars as being “clean” and environmentally friendly, when in fact they were rigged to cheat on pollution tests and then emit up to 40 times the legal limits of unhealthy exhaust.

“This wasn’t a typical  greenwashing case of exaggerating environmental benefits; it was an egregious deception of the public,” said Meisner.

The Environmental Miscommunicator of the Year award was created to draw attention to an individual or organization who misled the public in order to impede society's vital efforts to effectively address environmental issues.

The IECA was founded in 2011 and is the world’s foremost professional membership organization for those engaged in research and action to improve communication about environmental concerns. Its mission is to foster effective and inspiring communication that alleviates environmental issues and conflicts, and solves the problems that cause them. It publishes the journal Environmental Communication and runs the biennial Conference on Communication and Environment.


Media Contacts

Mark Meisner, Executive Director, International Environmental Communication Association, mark at theieca dot org  • +1 (513) 620-4322

Jennifer Good, Awards Committee Chair, International Environmental Communication Association, jen dot good at theieca dot org

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Photo of Pope Francis by Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo of VW Golf TDI by Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons