Lobbying is either OK, or not

Before you go ahead and read this post, I’d like you to know a couple of things about me – just for clarity.

By Richard Stone

The first is that I’m very much in favour of electric vehicle chargers being fitted to every newbuild in the UK. Next, I think the work done by the campaign group Transport & Environment is outstanding and enormously important. Finally, I’d like you to know that I have no commercial interest in chargers or homebuilding.

Lobbying for technical and STEM companies might look a bit like this. In the olden days, anyway...

Phew, glad I got that out the way. You may well have read the news about housebuilders lobbying against plans for mandatory electric chargers for newbuilds. If you have, you may have taken a moment to rail against corporate greed and greenwashing before moving onto the next story in your infinite doom scroll.

According to The Guardian, these “'blatant lobbying efforts were criticised by Transport & Environment, a campaign group”.

My issue with this is that a campaign group such as Transport & Environment exists to, well, basically lobby. On the Transport & Environment website, it says:

“We got the EU to set the world’s most ambitious CO2 standards for cars and trucks but also helped uncover the dieselgate scandal; we campaigned successfully to end palm oil diesel; secured global ban on dirty shipping fuels and the creation of the world’s biggest carbon market for aviation – just to name a few. Just last year T&E’s campaigning led to the European Commission proposing to move to sales of zero-emissions cars only by 2035.”

Campaigning to achieve these things is lobbying. I personally think this is brilliant work, awesome lobbying and to be applauded. But it is lobbying.

It may be done by the good guys. It may be as far away from the murky waters of Thank you for not smoking as possible. It may be the light side of the force, but it is still the force.

Lobbying doesn’t inherently exist in a grey area. It doesn’t necessarily mean hanging out in the Chemistry Club or texting Boris Johnson. It simply means acting on behalf of an organisation, group or individual by attempting to influence a standard, regulation, guide, or piece legislation in their favour.

In this case, that’s what the building companies referenced are alleged to have done. It is also what Transport & Environment exists to do.

Should lobbying be classified as bad when you disagree with its purpose and good when you are behind it? Does every organisation not have the right to represent itself?

Is lobbying bad if it’s funded by a large, cash rich corporation and good when it’s funded by a not-for-profit organisation? That doesn’t seem fair.

If a criminal is being tried in court, they have the same right to representation as an innocent person. They are innocent until proven guilty, just as an argument is potentially correct until proven wrong or right. Lobbying on behalf of an idea is legitimate even if that idea is already the subject of legislation, sometimes especially so.

Perhaps I’ve misread the article. Maybe when Transport & Environment says the building industry’s lobbying is ‘blatant’ it just means the work was obvious and effective. I doubt it though; I think the intention was to say that anti charging point lobbying is on the dark side and their own work is 100 per cent Skywalker.

Either way, I agree with their objectives, so may the force be with them. But, until what the housebuilding industry has done becomes illegal, I wish them the same. It’s only fair.  

About the author

Richard Stone
Richard Stone - CHART.PR, MCIPR

Stone Junction is managed by Richard Stone, a chartered member of the CIPR whose previous experience includes campaigns for Arup, AIT Plc, CIENA, Parker Hannifin, Schneider Electric, SIG, SKF, Roche and WorldCom.

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