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More than 450 scientists urge agencies to drop fossil fuel clients

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By Ellen Ormesher | Reporter

January 20, 2022 | 5 min read

Climate campaigners Clean Creatives, alongside the Union of Concerned Scientists, have shared a letter from over 450 scientific leaders who unequivocally insist that advertising and PR agencies must step away from fossil fuel clients.

Fossil fuels

Co-signers of the letter say the effects of PR and marketing campaigns downplay the role of fossil fuels in the climate crisis

The letter outlines how PR and advertising inform public opinion of the climate crisis, with the co-signers saying that as scientists who study and communicate the realities of climate change, they are consistently faced with the major challenge of overcoming advertising and PR efforts by fossil fuel companies that seek to obfuscate or downplay their data and the risks posed by the climate crisis.

In fact, it says misinformation campaigns represent one of the biggest barriers to the government action that science shows is necessary to mitigate the ongoing climate emergency.

scientists letter

Scientists say that their findings are unanimous in that carbon pollution must be eliminated as soon as possible – nearly 50% by the end of the decade and fully by 2050 – and that this requires a rapid and immediate transition away from fossil fuels.

The letter states: “If PR and advertising agencies want to be part of climate solutions instead of continuing to exacerbate the climate emergency, they should drop all fossil fuel clients that plan to expand their production of oil and gas, end work with all fossil fuel companies and trade groups that perpetuate climate deception, cease all work that hinders climate legislation, and instead focus on uplifting the true climate solutions that are already available and must be rapidly implemented at scale.”

The letter arrives in the wake of Edelman’s announcement that it is yet to drop any of its fossil fuel clients, including ExxonMobile and Shell, following a 60-day review of its roster as part of its climate strategy.

At the time, Edelman said the “comprehensive internal review has identified areas where our principles will evolve the nature of the work and assignments we take on in the future.”

In a tweet published yesterday Ducan Meisel, head of Clean Creatives, said: “If companies like Edelman want to put their policies towards fossil fuel clients on a firm scientific footing, here is a great place to start.”

The responsibility of agencies to cease working with fossil fuel and high-polluting clients is also the toast of activists lobbying for climate reform. Back in November, head of Greenpeace Jennifer Morgan told The Drum that agencies’ credibility is on the line as the movement against greenwashing builds.

“If you care about your own brand safety, don’t associate with these companies; and, if you want to be a really responsible and credible player in fighting the climate crisis, then get ahead by lobbying to get this legislation put in place,” she said.

Clean Creatives believe that this letter offers a great starting point for understanding the core science of climate action. “If your agency wants to adopt a science-driven strategy for addressing the climate emergency, the first step is to stop working with the companies that are most responsible for it,” it says.

“The future of creativity is clean, and we are grateful to these scientific leaders for charting the path forward.”

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