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Climate activists protest on the fist day of the ExxonMobil trial outside the New York State Supreme Court building on October 22, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Climate activists protest on the fist day of the ExxonMobil trial outside the New York State Supreme Court building on October 22, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

World's Biggest PR Firm Urged to Stop Enabling 'Ecosystem Destruction’

"Edelman is in fact actively contributing to fossil fuel emissions through its marketing activities," according to a new letter.

Andrea Germanos

A group of over 100 climate justice advocates and creators on Monday publicly called on the world's largest public relations firm—Edelman—to drop ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies as clients.

"Advertising for fossil fuel companies obstructs urgently needed government action on climate change and impedes climate justice solutions."

"Edelman's fancy ads are giving ExxonMobil social license to operate, and to thereby destroy our climate," Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and co-founder of the All We Can Save Project, said in a statement.

"With this campaign," said Johnson, "culture-makers are using their own social clout to say 'not on my watch.'"

Johnson is one of the organizers of a new letter that says Edelman often invites "people like us to join sustainability campaigns on behalf of their clients." While the values of some of those clients line up with those of the signatories, that's far from the case with ExxonMobil and Shell, companies the letter says Edelman works with extensively.

"In fact," the letter states, "Edelman does more work for fossil fuel interests than any PR agency on earth."

That's a massive problem, the letter argues, because "advertising for fossil fuel companies obstructs urgently needed government action on climate change and impedes climate justice solutions. 'Greenwashing' is too mild a term: Edelman is in fact actively contributing to fossil fuel emissions through its marketing activities."

Signatories to the letter include well-known voices in the climate movement such as Mustafa Santiago Ali, May Boeve, Tara Houska, and youth activists Vanessa Nakate and Luisa Neubauer. Additional signatories include authors Ta-Nehisi Coates and Naomi Klein, and other public figures like Michael Cain, Philippe Cousteau, and Baratunde Thurston.

The letter suggests Edelman's ties to the fossil fuel giants are particularly egregious in light of the climate emergency—"our planet is at a tipping point," it says. "There is no grey area here."

According to the letter, "promoting ExxonMobil's business model in 2021 means enabling untold human suffering and ecosystem destruction" and belies "Edelman’s corporate commitment to operating within the goals of the Paris Agreement fraudulent."

The letter also points to fruitless private conversations with Edelman to drop the fossil fuel clients as prompting the now-public appeal. Those talks took place after Clean Creatives, a campaign pushing PR and ad firms to cut fossil fuel ties, revealed Edelman had a secret role in promoting an ExxonMobil ad campaign opposing climate policy.

"Our voices and our platforms have power," the signatories said, "and it is our responsibility to use it."

According to Duncan Meisel, director of Clean Creatives, all PR firms—not just Edelman—should take note of the new campaign.

"Agencies with fossil fuel clients should take this as a serious sign that working with big polluters will damage their ability to build the kind of collaborative, purpose-driven campaigns that brands want," he said.

"Rejecting fossil fuel clients would open the door for Edelman to work more closely with collaborators like the ones that signed this letter," Meisel added, "and ultimately better serve their clients."


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