The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jamie Henn,

Clean Creatives Lays Out Clear Criteria For Edelman's Climate Review

“If Edelman wants to be trusted on climate, they need to drop fossil fuels.”


After coming under fire for their work with fossil fuel clients, Edelman PR, the world's largest PR company, committed last November to a 60 day review of their clients to make sure that they are "environmentally responsible." The results of the review are expected to be announced in the coming days.

Ahead of Edleman's announcement, Clean Creatives is releasing a set of clear criteria for what a real climate action plan from Edelman and other PR and advertising agencies should look like.

The Clean Creatives criteria are:

  • Drop all fossil fuel clients that plan to expand their production of oil, gas or coal
  • End work with all fossil fuel companies and trade groups that perpetuate climate deception
  • Cease all work that hinders climate legislation
  • Focus on uplifting the true climate solutions that are already available and must be rapidly implemented at scale

"We know that Edelman is going to try the classic PR trick of confusing the situation, so we want to make things really clear: if Edelman wants to be trusted on climate, they need to drop fossil fuels," said Duncan Meisel, Clean Creatives campaign director. "That means ending all their work with clients that are expanding fossil fuel production, perpetuating climate deception, or hindering climate legislation. Anything less is greenwash."

"Edelman will try and spin this by saying that they're only working with companies that are 'committed to net-zero' or that they're 'helping oil and gas companies transition to a low-carbon future.' That's absurd," Meisel continued. "None of the major oil companies have a credible plan to stop production and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. That's why they've hired Edelman to mislead the public about their true intentions, which are to keep making money while destroying our climate. If they were serious about transitioning to clean energy they would have hired engineers, not PR people."

According to a report from the think tank Oil Change International, none of the major oil companies are "close to aligning their actions with the urgent 1.5degC global warming limit as outlined by the Paris Agreement."

"Corporations like ExxonMobil come to Edelman with the express purpose of burnishing their reputations so that they can avoid the type of public pressure and government regulations that would trigger real change," said Meisel. "Even worse, they get Edelman to promote false climate solutions, like carbon capture and sequestration, that will line their pockets while doing little to reduce emissions. This sort of gaslighting is even worse than outright climate denial and it's time Edelman stop polluting our airwaves with misinformation."

Despite their rhetorical commitment to climate action, Edelman PR has made hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade working for some of the worst fossil fuel companies on the planet. Between 2008 and 2012, Edelman netted over $327 million in billings from the American Petroleum Institute, the industry's most nefarious front group. More recently, in 2019, Edelman had at least a $4 million contract with the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a leading opponent of clean air regulations. The agency also has long standing relationships with individual oil giants, like Shell.

The most recent scandal for Edelman came after a report from Clean Creatives showed that the firm was continuing to work with ExxonMobil, whose lobbyists have been hard at work to defeat President Biden's climate agenda. After CEO Richard Edelman defended the contract, a group of over 100 creators, designers, and entrepreneurs including celebrities called on the firm to drop Exxon and "fire your fossil fuel clients instead of helping them set the world on fire."

In response to the growing pressure, Edelman announced it would conduct a 60 day review of its clients, but when asked at an internal staff meeting whether this would potentially involve dropping fossil fuel clients, Richard Edelman said "no." The results of the review are expected to be announced soon.

Over 200 advertising and PR agencies and thousands of individual creatives have now signed the Clean Creatives pledge to quit working with fossil fuel companies. The campaign has also expanded around the world, picking up supporters in Canada, the UK, South Africa, and Australia.

Fossil Free Media is a nonprofit media lab that supports the movement to end fossil fuels and address the climate emergency.