PR and ad agencies called on by over 450 scientists to cease work with fossil fuel firms

PR and ad agencies called on by over 450 scientists to cease work with fossil fuel firms

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Clean Creatives and the Union of Concerned Scientists have released a letter calling on PR and ad agencies to stop working with fossil fuel companies and spreading climate disinformation. More than 450 scientists have signed the letter which states that scientists are "constantly faced with the challenge of overcoming advertising and PR efforts by fossil fuel companies that seek to obfuscate or downplay [scientists'] data, and the risk of the climate emergency".

"In fact, these campaigns represent one of the biggest barriers to the government action science shows is necessary to mitigate the ongoing climate emergency, and avert total disaster," the letter said. According to Clean Creatives, an environmental campaign led by Fossil Free Media, this is the first time so many scientists have come together to call out the role of PR and advertising in fueling the climate crisis.

The letter proposed for PR and ad agencies to end all relationships with companies that plan to expand their production of oil and gas. "Stop all work that weakens legislative efforts to reduce carbon pollution," it said. 

Clean Creatives said it will be sending the scientist letter to PR and ad agencies including Edelman, WPP, and IPG. The letter will also be sent to some of the agencies' largest sustainability oriented clients, including Unilever, Amazon, Microsoft, and North Face, among others. 

This letter comes slightly more than a week after Edelman said it plans to "part ways" with clients that do not align with its climate operating principles, following a review of more than 330 clients and a deep dive on 20 emissions-intensive clients. Edelman will also finalise an independent council of external climate experts to offer input and guidance on strategy and on assignments and client situations of concern.

"Scientists have been sounding the climate alarm for decades, but they’ve been drowned out by billions of dollars of PR and advertising from the fossil fuel industry," Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media, said. He added: "The only way to clean up both is to stop this propaganda at the source: the PR and ad agencies that continue to work on behalf of fossil fuels. It’s time for creatives to come clean."

This letter comes at a time when PR and ad agencies are facing increasing pressure to halt work with fossil fuel companies to spread climate disinformation. A first-of-its-kind, peer reviewed study published in the scientific journal Climatic Change last December identified hundreds of campaigns by PR, advertising and marketing firms designed to obstruct climate action.

According to the study, the engagement of PR firms by organisations in the coal/steel/rail, oil and gas, utilities, renewable energy, and the environmental movement sectors is widespread. It was found that the utility as well as oil and gas sectors engage the most PR firms, and the environmental movement engages the fewest. 

The study added that companies in the utilities sector show a statistically significant higher use of PR firms than the other sectors. Within each sector, engagement of PR firms is concentrated in a few firms, and the major oil companies and electrical-supply manufactures are the heaviest employers of such firms. Meanwhile, a report by The Boston Globe said a handle of renowned PR firms used various tactics to promote climate delay, "including advertising, social media, and the creative of faux-grassroots 'front groups'".

Edelman previously faced a petition by Clean Creatives to drop ExxonMobile and all other fossil fuel clients. Following that petition, the agency rolled out Edelman Impact in November 2021, a global practice intended to harness expertise across Edelman’s existing ESG, Purpose and Sustainability offerings, and made a board-level commitment to set a science-based target in line with 1.5C. Meanwhile, earlier this week, ExxonMobile announced its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at its oil and gas operations to net zero by 2050, the Financial Times reported.

The company added that it would publish "a series of roadmaps" by year-end to illustrate how it would cut emissions at each of its own major operations. However, FT said ExxonMobile's plan did not include the carbon emitted from the fuel it sells. 

Photo courtesy: 123RF

Related articles:
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Edelman to 'part ways' with clients that do not meet new climate standards
Trust in media and govt leaders dip further, CEOs still expected to be face of change



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