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UN calls on ad industry to stop acting as enablers to 'planetary destruction'

UN calls on ad industry to stop acting as enablers to 'planetary destruction'

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UN secretary-general António Guterres has called on the ad and PR industry to stop acting as "enablers" to "planetary destruction" in a World Environment Day speech.

"Many in the fossil fuel industry have shamelessly greenwashed, even as they have sought to delay climate action – with lobbying, legal threats, and massive ad campaigns," he said. "They have been aided and abetted by advertising and PR companies."

Guterres went on to say in his speech that advertising and PR companies should top taking on new fossil fuel clients and set out plans to drop existing ones. "Fossil fuels are not only poisoning our planet – they’re toxic for your brand," he said. 

Don't miss: 1,000 agencies pledge to refuse work from fossil fuel industry in Clean Creatives campaign

He added that many governments restrict or prohibit advertising for products that harm human health – such as tobacco. "Some are now doing the same with fossil fuels," he said, adding:

I urge every country to ban advertising from fossil fuel companies. And I urge news media and tech companies to stop taking fossil fuel advertising.

Guterres explained that citizens must also deal with the demand side by embracing clean technologies, phasing down fossil fuels in their personal lives, and using their power as citizens to push for systemic change. 

Calling it “climate crunch time”, the UN chief said that May 2024 was the hottest May in recorded history, according to the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

"This marks twelve straight months of the hottest months ever," he said, adding:

Our planet is trying to tell us something.  But we don't seem to be listening.

He added that the truth was that almost ten years since the Paris Agreement was adopted, the target of limiting long-term global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is "hanging by a thread".

"The truth is, the world is spewing emissions so fast that by 2030, a far higher temperature rise would be all but guaranteed," he explained. "The truth is, we are burning through the budget at reckless speed – spewing out around 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year."

At this rate, the entire carbon budget will be busted before 2030.

Campaign group Clean Creatives, which is calling for an advertising and PR industry-wide movement where creatives and companies pledge to refuse future work with fossil fuel corporations, has since come out to comment on the speech calling it "historic".

"Today is a turning point in the advertising and PR industry’s relationship with climate change and fossil fuels - there is no longer any cover for agencies to say that they are doing the right thing when working with polluters. Everyone knows this is wrong, and everyone needs to act," said Duncan Meisel, executive director of Clean Creatives.

He added that over 1,100 advertising, PR and creative companies have already taken the Clean Creatives pledge to refuse work from big oil, and that they are the "true leaders" on this issue.

"We are living through the hottest years in human history, and Secretary Guterres’ statements today show what a safe climate future could look like for the creative and PR industry,” said Meisel. 

Earlier this year, Clean Creatives announced a list of agencies that signed its pledge to refuse work from the fossil fuel industry. 

Significant agency pledges were received from notable agencies such as Mother New York, Lucky Generals, Allison, and GALE. The United States topped the list of agency signees at 350, with the United Kingdom following close behind at 265. Canada ranks third at 65, with South Africa at 57, Germany at 43, Australia at 36, Netherlands at 30, and Sweden at 20 also making the list.

The types of agencies populating the 1,000 ranks are design (223), creative (201), branding (197), and public relations (183). A combination of digital, strategy, production, web development, consulting agencies, and more complete the list, with 138 of the 1,000 agencies being B-Corp certified.

Join us on 12 June 2024 for an exciting experience as Content360 makes its debut in Malaysia! Brace yourself to join the crème de la crème of the content marketing industry hailing from across the region. Immerse yourself in a dynamic atmosphere, and uncover the latest trends with thought leaders and solution providers from the realm of content.

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