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Will King Charles rethink royal warrant to focus on brand sustainability credentials?

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By Ellen Ormesher | Reporter

September 12, 2022 | 5 min read

600 businesses holding royal warrant from the Queen stand to lose their status unless granted a new one by her successor.

Royal Warrant

Warrant holders can display royal coat of arms and the words ‘by appointment‘

The Royal Warrant of Appointment dates back to the 15th century and enables brands to advertise that they supply goods or services to the royal household by displaying the coat of arms and the words ‘by appointment‘.

These do, however, expire after the death of their grantor, meaning that only those issued by the Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) are still current and that more than 600 businesses holding a royal warrant from the Queen will have to reapply.

Some of those warrants could be cause for debate, however, such as allowing the Esso Petroleum Company to display the royal crest – Esso is owned by ExxonMobil, which was recently shown to have spent a relatively small amount of its capital expenditure on ‘green’ solutions, disproportionate to the amount spent on its green PR strategy.

King Charles III is a renowned advocate for the environment (he recently spoke at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow) and is the overseer of a custom royal crest known as the Terra Carta, which acknowledges brands and companies that meet the royal standard when it comes to environmental sustainability, including multinational corporations such as Amazon, Unilever, AstraZeneca and Bank of America, “in recognition of their commitment to, and momentum towards, the creation of genuinely sustainable markets“.

Could it be likely, therefore, that fossil fuel firms, automotive brands and other less sustainable companies under the royal warrant will be barred from reapplying due to criteria overhaul? Or, with his role requiring him to no longer take a strong view on politics or policy, will the new king even be able to maintain his stance on the environment?

Solitaire Townsend, the co-founder of sustainable agency Futerra, says that, as king, “his royal highness has less room for vocalizing the deep concerns he has about climate change and sustainability“.

But, she adds, that makes soft influence all the more important. “Warrants are an excellent example. They are coveted, with high brand value and recognition – but with a somewhat opaque process for granting them, they are soft power in action. What an excellent way for a new monarch to send a strong signal without saying a word!”

Jake Dubbins of the Conscious Ad Network doesn‘t necessarily think we‘ll hear any less from Charles on the environment. “Science is not political,” he says, adding that, if the new king were to align the criteria for the royal warrant with the Paris agreement, “it’s an opportunity to back the science, because the crest carries a fundamental seal of approval”.

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