A new type of raiding is gaining popularity In Ukraine – environmental raiding. This tool is used in corporate wars, it is often adopted by politicians. Cleverly using the gaps in the legislation, environmental organizations and activists commissioned by politicians or specific commercial companies are successfully trying to stop enterprises and block the implementation of new projects. Their work with public opinion is very often win-win: the population reacts in a sharp way since environmental issues in their minds are connected with the basic need for security.
In early July, the heads of 16 specialized associations of Ukraine signed a memorandum on the provision of reliable information in the field of ecology. Among the signatories are Professional Association of Ecologist of Ukraine; Association of Hazardous Waste Management Enterprises; Bioenergy Association of Ukraine; Ukrainian Wind Energy Association; Association of Solar Energy of Ukraine and others. Representatives of the associations came together to oppose a new type of raiding - manipulations on the topic of ecology, which has recently become a popular tool of blackmail, the destruction of competitors, stopping new investment projects.
There is no secret that ecology is often used as an instrument of influence on either a business or a political competitor, Kyrylo Kosourov, the head of the Association of Hazardous Waste Management Enterprises, notes. According to him, the environmental issue is often used in the competition: "There are environmental organizations that seem to be environmental, but operate in the interests of certain business structures." Recently, environmental activists set an audit on one of the large enterprises that are actually engaged in ecological practice, including the disposal of hazardous waste. The company was forced to suspend its work, incur additional costs.
Often, the blocking of projects organized by ecologists and environmental activists coincides with the reluctance of a particular local business to develop a project, said Andriy Konechenkov, the head of the board of the Ukrainian Wind Energy Association. He cited the example of Borzhava, where an investor from Turkey embarked on a project to build a wind power station. Now the project is temporarily blocked. "Despite the fact that the Ministry of Ecology confirmed that a wind farm can be built in this place, the project can be stopped and the wind farm would not be built," Konechenkov noted. Very often, on the ground, environmentalists bully people before the start of the project.
Environmental blackmail and raiding are often used by politicians as well. “A lot of parties, having monitored the opinions of certain groups of the electorate, start using the topic of environmental control or start environmental projects. However, they are trying to get the support of the voters. This is populism," Kosourov outlines.
"Environmental impact, environmental issues often serve as a tool in corporate wars of commercial companies. Experts hired by one side defend one point of view, the opposite has a completely different opinion," said Vyacheslav Potapenko, co-founder of the Institute for Green Economy public organization. He added that often the vision of environmental experts is not based on real facts, but on the need to justify the customer’s position.
In 2015, the government of Arseniy Yatsenyuk even canceled the environmental inspection as a factor of pressure on the business, Potapenko said. According to experts, such a decision is also quite controversial. The situation cannot be approached one-sidedly, Kosourov emphasized: “We should not forget that there are irresponsible businesses. In particular, in the field of waste management, an enterprise, having received funds for the disposal of hazardous waste, can take them to a landfill under the guise of an ordinary one, generally burying it somewhere in the forest. The business also manipulates environmental issues to its advantage. "
Why is this possible?
Environmental raiding and blackmail take place due to the lack of methods that must be approved at the level of the law. We should not forget about the lack of activity of the Ministry of Ecology, which is not making efforts to maintain the investment climate. “Moreover, in order to start a war on ecological grounds, it’s not even necessary to unite a group of people - it’s enough to find an individual living not far from the target of the attack. A person begins to write appeals to the Ministry of Ecology or to the head of the environmental inspection, and most often to the Cabinet of Ministers, indicating which the enterprise does harm to it. This is the basis for a mandatory, unscheduled inspection," Kosourov states. According to him, no one will even check whether the applicant has a professional environmental education to make his conclusions. During attacks on large enterprises, large-scale campaigns are being conducted, media and bloggers, opinion leaders are engaged.
With the right approach, all this has a serious effect. "People are subject to manipulation. As a rule, most people read only the first line without reading the information to the end. They have a certain emotion, and then they act in accordance with it. As a rule, people do not feel responsible for themselves or for the others, and they tend to shift it to someone. Mostly the choice of Slavic people is motivated by emotions. A person reads the first line and does not think anymore," said Natalia Kuhtina, psychologist, member of the European Professional Psychotherapeutic League. This feature of the human psyche is often used by politicians, environmentalists, and pharmaceutical companies to achieve their goals, she adds.
"It often happens that the heading of the media message contains information that, when reading the entire text, appears to reflect a slightly different content," Yuriy Favorsky, the head of the Solar Energy Association of Ukraine, agrees. He spoke of serious concern that manipulations on the environmental topic could continue after the election.
How to deal with this?
Having united, professional associations hope to resist environmental manipulations and give objective assessments for each case. “Our goal is to create a platform not only for representatives of a respectable business but also for professional ecologists. We gather as many experts from different industries as possible in order to analyze each case, each case in detail. Ecology is the same exact science as mathematics. Therefore, the more experts are involved in the discussion of a specific issue, the more likely they are to give an objective conclusion," Kosourov said.
Favorsky emphasized the need to involve professionals in the assessment: “If a person has an environmental education that confirms his right to make expert opinions and carry out certification, then this person has the right to make statements. It is advisable that the conclusions of experts are based on education and experience, and not on the desire to fulfill political orders. We joined the memorandum, as we support the idea that the conclusions of experts, including in the environmental field. Ecologists should be professional, public, and objective."
Environmental manipulations work well and influence people, as most Ukrainians are seriously concerned about this topic, experts say. “Environmental issues play a significant role in everyday life of the Ukrainians,” said Vyacheslav Potapenko, co-founder of the Institute for Green Economy public organization.
All environmental topics are a contour of our safety, Natalia Kukhtina emphasized. "Our security - the need for security - is a basic human need. We are born with a need for security and we live with it. This need is recorded at the genetic level. Everything that affects our security causes people to have very strong emotions."