Public relations and advertising companies reject fossil fuel customers

Public relations and advertising companies reject fossil fuel customers

Public relations and advertising companies reject fossil fuel customers

Mariana Ventura

Marian Ventura gave up all fossil fuel customers last year

Until three years ago, Marian Ventura, head of the PR and advertising firm, was more than happy to work on projects for oil and gas companies.

“I felt I was pushing change from within, collaborating to improve their transparency and accountability,” says the founder of Done !, which is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

He says the fossil fuel industry is considered “prestigious” in Latin America. “They sponsor every sustainability event or award in the region and, of course, are the” best customers to have, for their large budgets. “

Then, in 2019, Ms. Ventura’s feelings began to change when she decided to certify her business as a so-called “B Corp” organization. This is a global certification scheme whereby companies aim to meet the best possible social and environmental standards.

“As Company B, we know that to achieve our business purpose we cannot turn a blind eye to these questions: Who am I selling to? What am I selling? Will I be proud of what I am selling in 10 years?” Says Ms. Ventura.

Petrol pumps

Although a small but growing number of advertising and PR companies will not now work with fossil fuel companies, it is important to remember that many others still do.

As a result, it began to cut back on its oil customers, but took it one step further in 2021.

Last year, he decided that Done! it would become one of 350 advertising and PR companies that joined a movement called Clean Creatives. Joining the movement means that they are committed to rejecting any future jobs for fossil fuel companies or their trade associations.

“We left at least four active oil and gas-related customers and turned down a dozen requests for quotations, which actually keep coming in,” says Ms. Ventura.

He adds that his decision has come under criticism. “The people with whom we have the strongest relationships have told me that they disagree with our position, because they believe that oil and gas are irreplaceable resources for society and ensure that they can be developed in a responsible way.”

The United Nations (UN) recognizes that burning fossil fuels – oil, natural gas and coal – “are by far the largest contributor to climate change.” He says they account for “nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions”.

Speaking on the issue in April, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “some government leaders and businessmen say one thing, but they do another”. He added: “Governments and high-carbon companies aren’t just turning a blind eye, they’re adding fuel to the flames.”

Meanwhile, a report this year from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that “corporate advertising and brand-building strategies can also attempt to deflect corporate responsibility.” The study went on to question whether stricter advertising regulation was needed.

Duncan Meisel, director of US-based Clean Creatives, says he sees a change taking place. “We know there are non-commitment agencies that have told us privately that they are no longer offering fossil fuel customers. It’s a step forward.”

Duncan Meisal, left

Duncan Meisal, left, and his organization Clean Creatives saw 350 advertising and PR companies sign up

He adds: “The fossil fuel industry uses advertising agencies and PR agencies to make it harder for governments to hold them accountable. And the ads are misleading and make companies seem more committed to climate action than they are. in reality”.

However, some advertising companies are sticking with fossil fuel customers, such as Britain’s WPP, whose subsidiaries have worked with the likes of BP, Shell and Exxon Mobile.

“Our clients have an important role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy and how they communicate their actions needs to be accurate,” says a spokesperson for the WPP. “We apply rigorous standards to the content we produce for our customers and try to fairly represent their environmental commitments and investments.

“We will not hire any clients, or jobs, whose goal is to undermine the policies required by the Paris Agreement [on climate change]. “

A vintage Shell advertisement

Fossil fuel companies have been big gains for advertising and public relations companies since the early 20th century

Meanwhile, the world’s largest public relations firm, Edelman, was criticized late last year for its work for fossil fuel companies. Its customers include American fuel and petrochemical manufacturers as well as Exxon Mobile.

The US-based company subsequently carried out a 60-day review of its climate strategy, and Chief Richard Edelman said in a corporate blog post in January that it may have to “separate” from customers who don’t commit to zero emissions. net.

Edelman declined to make a subsequent comment to BBC News for this article.

The oil and gas industry association, Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), says it is wrong to criticize public relations and advertising companies that work with the energy sector.

“Pressuring agencies to avoid working with companies involved in the oil and gas sector is counterproductive to fighting climate change, as it is also those with decades of energy experience who are developing and implementing the cleaner technologies needed,” says OEUK director of external relations, Jenny Stanning.

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A spokesperson for the Advertising Association says he does not believe the fossil fuel industry should be banned from advertising “but we recognize the right for individual companies to decide who to work with and who not to work with.”

“Accuracy and honesty in all advertising is paramount,” he adds. “This is an area carefully regulated by both CMAs [Competition and Markets Authority] and ASA [Advertising Standards Authority]which expects advertisers to be able to show evidence for any claims they make about the environmental impact of the products and services they present.

“We believe in freedom of speech and Clean Creatives is exercising this right. Our ultimate goals are the same, ie net zero, but we believe a more nuanced approach is needed.”

Solitaire Townsend, head of the British advertising agency and public relations firm Futurra, quit working with oil and gas clients about 15 years ago.

He says more and more companies in his industry will need to follow suit if they want to attract the best people.

“Many agencies will get to the point where they have to make the decision if they want to be able to recruit the brightest,” says Ms. Townsend. “Young people don’t want to work with oil and gas [clients]. “

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