239 Agencies Landed on Clean Creatives’ Second ‘F-List’
Steve’s breakdown: Time to rethink your priorities if you landed on this list . . .
EVERYWHERE, USA: The report, released in partnership with Comms Declare, charts 15 years of activists’ efforts urging the industry to drop major polluters
Announced from New York, where brands, agencies and nonprofits are gathering this week for Climate Week, Clean Creatives‘ report charts over 15 years of activism urging public relations and advertising agencies to cut ties with fossil fuel companies because of their central role in climate change.
“The time of half-measures is over,” Duncan Meisel, director of Clean Creatives, said during the group’s news conference after acknowledging the reality facing Puerto Rico today after Hurricane Fiona hit, cutting power to the entire island—a stark example of the kind of extreme weather that’s getting worse as the climate warms.
“After more than a decade—nearly 15 years of really active campaigning around this—there’s no reason for agencies to be still sitting and making up their minds and thinking twice,” Meisel told Adweek. “It is extremely clear that it’s harming their interests. It’s harming their reputation. And it’s really time to get on it.”
To catch the attention of Climate Week attendees, Clean Creatives has installed posters around Manhattan that highlight the ties between major advertising and PR agencies and their fossil fuel clients. This year’s F-List was created with the help of Comms Declare, an Australian-based climate advocacy group.
Climate activism in the ad industry
Beginning in 2006 with the launch of PR professional James Hoggan’s DeSmog blog, the report points to Greenpeace’s 2008 anti-greenwashing campaign and Climate Camp’s protests at Edelman‘s office in 2009 as early action on the issue. The narrative arc continues through Inside Climate News’ 2015 investigation showing how PR companies helped ExxonMobil to cover up its detailed understanding of climate change, all the way to this summer at Cannes Lions when a Greenpeace protesters crashed the opening ceremony and scaled the Palais calling for a ban on fossil fuel advertising.
Clean Creatives, which was formed as a campaign by Fossil Free Media in 2020 in response to the fossil fuel advertising around the U.S. presidential election, put together its first F-List report last year. In comparison, this year’s edition is backed by a larger coalition of industry players—over 400 agencies have signed the group’s pledge to refuse work with fossil fuel companies due to their impact on the planet.
All the agencies listed in the report have had active contracts with fossil fuel companies within the last four years, Meisel said. In that regard, this year’s list focuses on a more narrow, current view of agency work. The 2021 F-List, by contrast, included contracts going back to 2008.
But in terms of total number of agency-fossil fuel company contracts identified, this year’s report is much bigger. Last year’s list highlighted over 90 agencies; this year it’s grown to more than 230 (view the full report here). That’s because the group has grown globally, Meisel said, and has been able to incorporate more in-depth research and support from industry players and activists in Asia and Latin America, specifically.
“This is the most comprehensive review of advertising and PR industries have worked with fossil fuel companies ever assembled,” Meisel said, noting that there are PR and ad agencies from six continents, spanning all major holding companies and more than 100 independent agencies.
The report also includes case studies that charts the impact of Saudi Aramco as the world’s largest producer of fossil fuel companies, Australia’s global energy and minerals company Glencore and South Africa’s chemical and energy company Sasol.
Fingerprints are the new footprints
Eco-friendly cleaning products company Seventh Generation joined the press event alongside Clean Creatives to announce a separate report that the Unilever-owned company released today titled “Fingerprints.” The report proposes that in addition to their climate footprint, corporations need to address their climate “fingerprint,” which is shaped by where and how its corporate dollars are spent—from agency and production partners to other ancillary services in the financial, insurance and business operations realms.
“We hope that more companies join us in following and understanding the impact of their corporate cash,” Kate Ogden, advocacy and movement building manager at Seventh Generation, said.