If there is one thing I love more than a good celebrity scandal, it is seeing celebrities step up and take part in the environmental movement. That’s right, they are able to do more than check into rehab. Many celebrities are leveraging their star power to genuinely make a difference.
Celebrities have emerged as opinion leaders and their influence cannot be ignored by PR practitioners and organizations trying to communicate green initiatives. Social media such as Twitter has provided a resource for celebrities to communicate their beliefs directly with their followers. Celebrity value in the non-profit sector goes beyond the charitable giving of celebrities themselves, but further to the visibility that celebrity affiliation can provide.
In 2009, The Daily Beast investigated the unique economic value of celebrity and its effect on charities. Impact rankings were calculated by selecting 50 of the biggest celebrities that are associated with a nonprofit, either as a member of its advisory board, as an ambassador or a spokesperson of a campaign. They took into account not only the direct impact of donations, but also monitored the awareness that celebrities produced for their charity in print, broadcast and online.
The study delivered interesting and mixed results regarding the impact of celebrity. Some generate millions of dollars for their causes, while others deliver miniscule results. For example, Justin Timberlake’s support for his favorite cause is worth $9.3 million. Madonna’s support for Raising Malawi raises nearly $5.5 million. However, with a celebrity impact value of only $538, Paris Hilton “barely makes enough of a dent to justify sending a limo over.”
The real value comes from celebrities that “walk the walk.” It is not enough to affiliate a famous face with an organization. Insincere efforts by celebrities jumping on the green bandwagon to improve their image can contribute to green washing skepticism. It is great to see celebrities using their influence for good, but it is important that they have a true commitment to the cause.
Top Green Celebs
Leonardo DiCaprio – As a member of the National Resources Defense Council, this A-lister has public and political influence. He owns solar panels, a hybrid car and refuses to fly on gas-guzzling private jets. In 1998, he created The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to “foster awareness of environmental issues.”
Brad Pitt– Through the Make It Right Foundation, he built homes for Hurricane Katrina victims that were safe and sustainable. The U.S. Green Building Council declared the development the “largest, greenest neighborhood of single-family homes in America.”
Cameron Diaz – She hosted the launch of Live Earth, an organization that went live with a concert on each continent on 7.7.07 to spread awareness of Climate Change. Cameron reached the American youth in the MTV series “Trippin’.” The show explored different regions and discussed the need for environmental activism.