World's Top PR Firms Turn Away From Climate Deniers
No More “Advertising Designed To Mislead,” Says Spokesperson.
A landmark decision has been made in the fight against climate change, as several of the world's top 25 public relations firms are refusing to represent entities that are actively denying man-made climate change or making campaigns seeking to block carbon pollution regulations. Some of the companies taking this stance include include WPP, Waggener Edstrom (WE) Worldwide, Weber Shandwick, Text100, and Finn Partners. Since the climate change discussion began, public relations firms have taken a pivotal role, framing both sides of the debate and possible solutions for both the general public and business world.
These statements were in response to independent surveys from The Guardian and the Climate Investigation Center(CIC), an organization dedicated to conducting research on climate disinformation campaigns. In a statement, CIC founder Kert Davies remarked that “the PR industry is a major component of the influence peddling industry that stretches across Washington and the world, and they are making large sums of money from energy companies and other important players that have businesses connected to fossil fuels and energy policy.” His aim from these surveys was to understand the mechanisms behind how messages on climate change are framed.
The exact reason behind some of these statements vary, but for the most part, the aim is the same. The UK-based WPP, the world’s largest advertising firm in terms of revenue, said taking on a client or campaign disputing climate change would violate company guidelines.
A spokesperson remarked that the company has a code of conduct to “prevent advertising that is intended to mislead and the denial of climate change would fall into this category.”
However, they also noted that the 150 companies within WPP ultimately make their own decisions on what clients to represent. Finn Partners, a company with a previous reputation for taking on environmental causes, also backed this stance, noting their previous work on expanding production tax credits for wind energy.
However, while the survey showed several firms willing to make a formal stance, there is still some level of ambivalence in the industry, as only 10 of the 25 contacted firms responded to the survey. One thing to note is both companies with a history of supporting environmental campaigns as well as blocking such efforts did not respond, suggesting that the motivation isn't for something as black and white as protecting their interests. Davies believes that at the end of the day, it all revolves around business.
“For the majority of them, they would rather remain neutral on any issue,” he explains. “They don’t want to have positions on anything because they like to keep options open to take on any client who walks in the door.”
With pivotal upcoming events in the climate change arena like President Obama’s regulations limiting carbon emissions from power plants, as well as negotiations for an international climate change treaty, the importance of powerful companies like these firms making a commitment to climate change is of paramount value.