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Talk the talk or walk the walk?

21 January, 2022

Edelman, the largest PR agency in the world, recently announced it would walk away from clients whose approach to climate action was incompatible with its own position. This follows a review of its operations and client base, in turn stemming from campaigns for Edelman to cut ties with climate polluters, such as Exxon Mobil.

Two months on, Edelman has identified 20 clients with which it is holding discussions to determine if they are climate compatible but has not committed to dropping anyone yet.

Edelman’s lack of concrete action on this to date has received criticism from many, including Clean Creatives campaign director Duncan Meisel, who reiterated calls for the firm to drop all fossil fuel clients that plan to expand their production of oil, gas or coal, and end work that “perpetuates climate deception” and “hinders climate legislation.”

The Edelman counter argument is that, if every company stopped working with fossil fuel companies tomorrow, we would find ourselves in a bit of a pickle to say the least. Of course, the fossil fuel industry needs to demonstrate a speedy pivot towards clean energy sources, and they will need help to make this transition – if Edelman are able to assist this in some way, and accelerate progress, then is it not a positive?

Whilst the Edelman debate is a nuanced one, the principle is sound. It forces companies to stop and pay attention to their climate impacts. If all agencies that make a profit from promoting corporate actions and helping companies craft their public messaging adopted this strategy, very soon we’d identify the sinking ships and would be able to throw them the life jackets.

By Budd Nicholson

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