Some PR firms say they will not accept climate change denial assignments

Edelman is the world’s largest independently owned public relations firm. Recently an article in the UK based The Guardian newspaper suggested that Edelman works for some of the largest climate change deniers. In response, Edelman issued a press release in which it stated that Edelman:

  • recognizes the reality of climate change and accepts the science behind the claim.
  • does not accept clients that seek to deny climate change.
  • works with clients to promote their efforts to cut emissions from operations, improve energy efficiency, use alternative energy sources and build sustainable business models.
  • arranges meetings for clients with environmental NGOs, to construct mutually advantageous programs that reduce costs and cut carbon emissions.
  • does not work with astroturf groups [groups created by industry lobbyists that attempt to pose as legitimate grassroots organizations] and has never created a website for a client with the intent to deny climate change.
  • has partnered with many of the world’s largest companies on pioneering environmental programs, going back more than 20 years to Dolphin-Safe Tuna for Heinz StarKist.

The President and CEO of Edelman states “Sustainability has moved from philanthropy/CSR to green marketing to sustainable supply chain. The next phase, and it is one where PR can play a massive role, is changing consumer behavior. It is our job as effective PR counselors to make that happen. We are advising our clients to operate in the smart zone, beyond minimum legal standards and above public expectations, because this is where business actually can make a big difference.”

The Edelman press release is available at http://www.edelman.com/p/6-a-m/edelmans-position-climate-change/

The Climate Investigations Center is a new US-based organization set up “to monitor the individuals, corporations, trade associations, political organizations and front groups who work to delay the implementation of sound energy and environmental policies that are necessary in the face of ongoing climate crisis”. As one of its first projects it is conducting a survey of major US public relations firms to determine their position on working with climate change deniers. The survey results have not yet been analysed but some preliminary results are available at http://www.climateinvestigations.org/

It is interesting to note that CIC states that the first Edelman response to the survey was a note from the President & CEO of Edelman that was inadvertently sent to the Climate Investigations Center stating “I don’t believe we are obligated in any way to respond. There are only wrong answers for this guy.” It was only after Edelman’s supposedly incorrect position was reported in the press that Edelman updated its response to that described in the bullets of this article.

It is clear that some PR firms do work with climate change deniers. If environmentally reputable companies will decide not to work with PR firms that provide support to the climate change denial movement it might help move more PR firms away from deniers, in the same way that some environmentally reputable companies are greening their supply chain and hence helping to improve the environmental and social responsibility performance of more and more companies.

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