World’s biggest PR firm says high risk clients threaten its reputation, following criticism for its work on behalf of fossil fuel companies
The world’s biggest public relations company has decided it will no longer work with coal producers and climate change deniers. Edelman said it believes such clients pose a threat to the company’s legitimacy and its bottom line.
The exclusion of coal and climate denial, as well as fake front groups that oppose action on global warming, is outlined in internal communications obtained by the Guardian and confirmed by company executives. It signals an important shift in a company that reported earnings of $833m (£540m) and has played a critical role in shaping public opinion in the US and globally about climate change.
The new approach follows a two-year review of Edelman’s operations aimed at protecting what the company calls its “licence to lead”, following negative publicity about its work on behalf of the oil lobby and pipeline companies.
The conclusion was that coal producers and climate denial, as well as tactics such as greenwashing, were high-risk.
“On climate denial and coal those are where we just said this is absolutely a no-go area,” Michael Stewart, the president and chief executive for Europe, who led the review, told the Guardian.
The company was also taking a stand against spreading doubt about climate change, and the use of fake front groups to influence elected officials, Stewart said.
“When you are trying in some way to obfuscate the truth or use misinformation and half-truths that is what we would consider getting into the work of greenwashing, and that is something we would never propose or work we would support our client doing,” he went on. “Greenwashing, fake front groups, anything like that is completely inappropriate.”
The company made no promises on representing companies that have fought against regulations cutting carbon pollution. However, clients involved in Arctic drilling and the Alberta tar sands will not be excluded, and there was no discussion about dropping other oil and gas producers, Stewart said.
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