An independent global investigation has revealed the advertising, media and PR agencies helping to promote fossil fuels, even as unprecedented climate-related disasters cause havoc around the globe.
The F-List from Clean Creatives and Comms Declare reveals newly-uncovered information on the broad scale of the ad industry’s collaboration with the companies that are responsible for the climate emergency.
Following last year’s groundbreaking report, the 2022 edition of the F-List includes a greater focus on Latin America and the Asia Pacific regions, showcasing the agencies actively under contract with the fossil fuel industry to aid them in covert attempts to greenwash.
Key findings include:
- 239 agencies have done recent work with fossil fuel companies. The vast majority of this work is not shared via agency channels, or with clients whose work may be affected by greenwashing claims.
- At least 17 agencies are working for Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest polluter, including a previously undisclosed Interpublic Mediabrands agency, Well7. Interpublic agencies McCann, UM, and Jack Morton have also led substantial work for Aramco, but all holding companies have some connection to the world’s largest oil company, and funder of human rights abuses.
- The world’s biggest coal exporter, Glencore is being referred to Australian regulators over a brand campaign ad that features EVs, solar panels and wind turbines – but doesn’t mention coal. Comms Declare understands Bastion Creative is behind the campaign. This complaint follows the barring of two employees of Anacta Strategies from lobbying the Queensland government. Glencore secured a lucrative bailout while employing Anacta.
- Edelman retains its role as the independent agency doing the most work for fossil fuel companies, despite a pledge in early 2022 to review its client policy. Some small signs of progress at the PR giant can be seen, but the company remains committed to working with polluters.
In Australia, Comms Declare, has calculated the top polluting agencies across several categories, using Scope 1 and 2 emissions data from their clients.
Most Polluting Clients (t- CO2 e):
- Creative Agency: Big Red – 45, 774, 195
- Media Agency: UM – 40, 670, 967
- PR/Lobbyist: GRACosway – 20, 612, 667
Belinda Noble, founder of Comms Declare said: “Big Red won the big prize nobody wanted – AGL’s creative account and, combined with its work for BHP, its Scope 3 emissions now represent more than 10% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas pollution – on par with Libya’s annual emissions.
“We calculate UM’s Scope 3 emissions are more than Finland’s, also thanks to their work with AGL.
“GRACosway is the most polluting lobbyist, with clients including Santos, Glencore and BHP, meaning its total client emissions are around 5% of Australia’s, or about the same as Kenya’s.
“Meanwhile GRACosway’s owner Omnicom somewhat hypocritically claims to be ‘actively working to harness our advertising power and influence to promote sustainable consumer choices and behaviors.”
Also in the report are details of efforts by international coal giant, Glencore, to improve its brand. In the wake of a bribery and price fixing scandal and its refusal to pull out of Russia, Glencore has boosted its Australian marketing efforts by hiring four lobbying firms (GRACosway, NEXUS APAC, Capital Hill Advisory, Anacta Strategies) and five other agencies (Bastion Creative, Brother & Co, Wahoo, Adoni Media, Campaign Edge Sprout).
It also launched its first brand campaign, ‘Advancing Everyday Life’ which has attracted legal complaints to the ACCC, ASIC and Ad Standards over greenwashing.
Noble added: “At least nine Australian advertising and PR agencies are helping coal giant Glencore portray itself as part of a clean energy future while the company is actually expanding coal operations. Agency executives need to wake up and realise they are actively helping the corporations creating global warming, which is generating unprecedented disasters around the globe.”
Duncan Meisel, executive director, Clean Creatives said: “Advertising and PR companies have had decades of warnings that their relationships with fossil fuel companies are harming their reputation, and their clean clients. Until now, executives have chosen to ignore those warnings, with serious consequences for the planet, and their ability to attract and retain young talent.
“Hundreds of agencies have pledged not to work with fossil fuels because working with polluters is bad for business, and bad for the planet.”
The release of the F-list comes on the eve of Comms Declare’s annual agency survey on climate change policies and actions which will be used to decide the winner of the third Climate Comms Champion award, for Australia’s most climate-friendly agency.
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