The Guardian has banned advertising from fossil fuel companies, making it the first global news organisation to reject ad dollars from oil and gas companies.
The ban was announced on Wednesday and is effective immediately. It follows the media company’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and increase reporting on climate change.
Acting CEO Anna Bateson and chief revenue officer Hamish Nicklin said in a joint statement the decision was based on decades-long efforts by many the fossil fuel industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world.
They said responding to climate change is the “most important challenge of our times”.
Bateson and Nicklin have called on other news outlets to reject expensive advertising campaigns by energy companies attempting to “greenwash their activities”.
The move also follows last year’s editorial change that saw The Guardian adjust its style guide by using terms such as “climate emergency” and “global heating” rather than “climate change” and “global warming”.
Rejecting any sort of advertising dollars may prove difficult for the company, however, with the Guardian Media Group board warning the business is facing substantial headwinds this year.
Nicklin and Bateson confirmed the advertising ban would hurt GMG’s revenue, of which advertising makes up 40 per cent of.
They said: “The funding model for The Guardian – like most high-quality media companies – is going to remain precarious over the next few years. It’s true that rejecting some adverts might make our lives a tiny bit tougher in the very short term. Nonetheless, we believe building a more purposeful organisation and remaining financially sustainable have to go hand in hand.”
Nicklin and Bateson said they hoped their decision to ban ads from fossil fuel companies would appeal to other advertisers, noting that advertising is still a main source of funding for the media company.
“We believe many brands will agree with our stance, and might be persuaded to choose to work with us more as a result. The future of advertising lies in building trust with consumers, and demonstrating a real commitment to values and purpose.”
Earlier this month, Pollinate’s Daniel Bluzer-Fry penned an opinion piece for B&T, asking how far brands who take a stand are willing to go, and if they are actually prepared to go in the tense times we live.
He wrote: “From championing the internal benefits of employee retention and productivity for brands that live by their own ‘progressive’ values and have a ‘meaningful’ purpose, through to driving brand preference and meaningful connection with consumers, many businesses have been working to ‘get with the program’ and future proof themselves … or at least do a bit of purpose washing in an attempt to make us believe that they’re on the right track.
“Yet in 2019, we began to publicly witness what will inevitably become a bigger tension in the future, which is brands who purport to have a sustainable / woke orientation struggling to authentically maintain their status in the eyes of western consumers as a result of pursuing growth in countries with ideologically and culturally different standards and expectations to those embraced in the countries they were built in.”
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