Aug 11, 2022
Public relations giant Edelman and Standard Bank Group are ending their relationship, reportedly due to a controversial oil project--a development that climate campaigners on Thursday welcomed as a win for activism pressuring PR firms to break up with polluters.
"This is a big statement that financial institutions should finance the just energy transition and not climate bombs."
A global campaign against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, StopEACOP, tweeted that "this is a big statement that financial institutions should finance the just energy transition and not climate bombs."
In emailed statements to Fin24, both companies said, "We can confirm that Edelman and Standard Bank Group partnered closely for three years and mutually agreed not to renew our partnership beyond December 2022."
While neither commented on the reason for the decision, the South African news outlet reports that "people familiar with the issue said this resulted from Edelman's refusal to provide any public relations or reputation management services specifically on the EACOP."
The American PR firm's public climate position states in part that "the biggest crisis we face as a society" requires urgent action to rapidly reduce planet-heating emissions and "we will partner with clients who are equally committed to helping drive the transition to a net-zero future."
Fin24 noted that Standard Bank has pledged to not finance new coal projects but has not made that same commitment for oil and gas--and though the South African bank has not publicly confirmed it will fund EACOP, such a relationship is reportedly under review.
A Standard Bank spokesperson toldThe Africa Report in February that an independent environmental and social adviser who has visited EACOP's project area will issue a "full due diligence report, and then the bank will "make a decision on the way forward."
The bank's participation "remains subject to the findings of environmental and social due diligence assessments and meeting the Equator Principles requirements," the spokesperson added, referencing a financial-industry benchmark. "It is also subject to a full assessment of the EACOP sponsors' climate change strategies and targets."
In a March 2021 letter to StopEACOP, Standard Bank confirmed the financial institution's "advisory role" for the project and acknowledged campaigners' concerns about potential funding for the pipeline.
If completed, EACOP would transport crude oil nearly 900 miles from Ugandam fields to a Tanzanian port on the Indian Ocean. The pipeline is a joint project of the Uganda National Oil Company, Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and French fossil fuel giant TotalEnergies.
StopEACOP coordinator Omar Elmawi framed Fin24's reporting as a "huge statement" by Edelman. As he put it: "The climate crisis is not only enabled by the fossil fuel companies but those who provide the financing and those that help shape their narrative. Being in their corner makes you one of them."
Nicolo Wojewoda, 350.org's Europe regional director, tweeted, "Great signal: if you're funding fossil fuels, we don't want anything to do with you."
\u201cWow, this is good news!\n\nEdelman, a PR firm of EACOP has confirmed that it will pull out of partnership with Standard Bank (EACOP financial advisor) by end of 2022.\n\nEdelman cannot whitewash the dangers of this deadly pipeline anymore. \u274c@TotalEnergies\n\n#StopEACOP #ClimateJustice\u201d— Justice Hunter \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddec\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8 (@Justice Hunter \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddec\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8) 1660203300
"Financing of massive new oil pipelines is an awful look, and if even the likes of Edelman realize that," said Adam McGibbon, U.K. campaign lead at Market Forces.
Greenpeace similarly said that "you know it's bad when even PR firms pull out of greenwashing schemes."
"Also, in case you were wondering if keeping the pressure on the fossil fuels industry makes a difference," the advocacy group added, "it most certainly does!"
Stephen Horn, South Africa county lead for Clean Creatives, also cheered the "huge news."
As Common Dreams has reported, Clean Creatives is a campaign for PR and advertising professionals who want firms to stop working for companies wrecking the planet. Their projects have included an open letter from young people working in the industry.
Earlier this year, climate scientists partnered with Clean Creatives for another open letter, which warned that "misinformation campaigns" that PR and ad firms craft for fossil fuel companies "represent one of the biggest barriers to the government action science shows is necessary to mitigate the ongoing climate emergency."
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