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Environment Extinction Rebellion Advertising

Over 20 agencies abstain from fossil fuel briefs in support of Extinction Rebellion


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

July 9, 2019 | 6 min read

Upwards of 20 environmentally-conscious advertising agencies have pledged to avoid working on fossil fuel briefs in an industry-wide drive inspired by the Extinction Rebellion movement.

Environmental pledge

Extinction Rebellion inspired ad land pledge to abstain from fossil fuel briefs gains momentum

The signatory agencies, from across the marketing, advertising and comms industry, have promised to disclose the percentage of their turnover that comes from high-carbon clients by the end 2019. They will also abstain from fossil fuel briefs and “use their power for good".

The #CreativesForClimate movement was launched by ‘change agency’ and ‘sustainability consultancy’ Futerra, founded in in 2001 with an objective to ‘make sustainable development so desirable it becomes normal’.

Now approaching 20 years later it has attracted the pledges of around 20 firms so far (with its eye on 50). It claims to be in discussions with agencies and an FMCG giant in the hope of sparking an honest conversation about advertising’s stake in the climate disaster.

The pledge (which agencies can sign up to here) urges: “If you’re an agency or creative who recognises the state of the world we live in, and want to doing something about it, read our Climate Emergency and Creative Conflicts letter and declare your commitment.”

The pre-launch invite went to all the BCorp certified agencies in the UK (AKA only those that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance) but is extending wider now.

At the time of publication Futerra; Greenhouse PR; Barley Communications; Question and Retain – Annabel Dunstan; L & Co; Forster; Leap; Studio Republic; the Good Collective; Creative Concern; Don't Cry Wolf; Praytell, Revolt; Republic of Everyone; Reason Digital; Croud, Mellor & Smith; Futerra Mexico; Archipelago; Sustainable Studio; and Bora Co have signed up. (There have been more since).

A campaign spokesperson estimated that the combined billing of the group comes to around £70m turnover per year.

Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of Futerra, said: "Creativity will help solve the climate emergency. That’s the power of imagination, invention, problem solving and storytelling. But not if the advertising, PR and marketing industry keep serving the problem.

"That’s why creatives, especially young talent, are opting out of destruction. They are powerful communicators themselves, so they know spin when they see it. Declaring your agency purpose without disclosing proof simply won’t cut it anymore. At Futerra we’ve spearheaded this letter to help put agencies on the right side of history."

The work is closely connected to Extinction Rebellion, the activist group that brought swathes of London to a standstill in April, and disrupted the Cannes Lions festival in June; where climate protestors were removed from the premises by security forces as the world’s top brands professed to be taking steps towards sustainability.

In May, Extinction Rebellion penned an open letter to advertisers and their agencies urging them to use their powers of persuasion to tackle the global climate and ecological emergency.

According to a UN report, we only have 12 years left to limit climate change disaster. The group looked to mobilise like-minded marketers, creatives and comms staff to act on behalf of brands, drive sustainable efforts and cut down on waste that is destroying the natural world.

William Skeaping, an ad exec helping Extinction Rebellion make waves in the world of comms commented on the #CreativesForClimate movement. He was involved with Extinction Rebellion's moves at Cannes Lions, its Facebook beach protest and featured on a podcast with The Drum editor Stephen Lepitak where he warned the industry "If there's no planet, there's no profit".

He said the pledge was a “great first step”.

“It is in line with Extinction Rebellion's first demand to governments: to 'Tell The Truth' - to share the seriousness of our climate and ecological emergency. It's great that individuals, businesses and whole industries are starting to get the message and doing the same. Industries need to come together, be open, honest, disclose their business actions that are in conflict with life itself and follow with fast and meaningful action.

“Creatives can have a huge role; to tell the truth, refuse to work with toxic clients or on briefs that will harm the environment. So many agencies claim to understand Gen-Z audiences yet promote ecologically damaging clients and behaviours, even greenwash fossil fuel companies, actions which will ensure that these young people who are deeply concerned for their planet, will have a future at all.”

He added: “We encourage all agencies to sign and disclose, for employees to rise up and demand change, for individual creatives to use their talent on the right side of history. We are running out of time.”

You can read the letter in its entirety below.


Joe Wade, founding partner of creative agency Don’t Panic, previously outlined how the ad industry can help Extinction Rebellion avert the environmental apocalypse.

He sceptically said: "In an industry that attempts to sell the sizzle and not the steak (that’s farted out tonnes of methane), we’ll attempt to take the path of least resistance as long as it looks good. Thereby helping to usher in an environmental apocalypse."

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