Sustainability Greenwashing Agencies

Havas and Shell: a controversial partnership that makes sense


By Gordon Young | Editor-in-Chief

September 20, 2023 | 3 min read

Responding to the news that Havas has won Shell’s media account and activists are already targeting it, The Drum’s founder, Gordon Young, expresses optimism the agency can aid the client’s transition.

A Shell oil rig in the North Sea

/ Shell

In a world fraught with environmental challenges, the line between ethics and business opportunity is often blurred. This is exemplified by the announcement that Havas Media has secured Shell’s $27m account, sparking a huge debate.

One client has already left the agency, and there are murmurs it should now be thrown out of B-Corp.

Critics say the win is a step backward in the industry’s journey toward sustainability. However, such partnerships are vital as we transition toward a greener future.

The world's challenges are enormous - and the green transition is one of the biggest of all. But many companies with the resources, scale and expertise to take this on are ironically in the fossil fuel industry.

However, they need access to the best marketing brains to help. Our industry’s ability to craft compelling narratives, influence consumer behavior, and drive change is unparalleled. All of these skills are fundamental if we are to reach net zero.

Therefore, we need agencies like Havas to engage with the likes of Shell to encourage it toward a path toward sustainability.

Havas now has an opportunity to influence Shell’s policies and practices to help them achieve a higher level of corporate social responsibility. In fairness, Havas may have its work cut out - Shell is not investing as much in renewables as it should.

But these issues are highly complex. The arguments are nuanced. But the reality is that our world will need fossil fuels for some time as part of any transition.

This is no time to pull up, draw bridges, or ostracize whole industries. What is needed is the best communication possible.

That is what Havas can offer. And it should be congratulated on an important win.

Sustainability Greenwashing Agencies

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