Extinction Rebellion tells PR company Edelman to #TellTheTruth about fossil fuel ties
March 07, 2023 by Extinction Rebellion
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Extinction Rebellion (XR) targeted Edelman, the world’s largest PR agency, at its UK offices in London today to call out greenwashing and deliver a message loud and clear directly to its employees. It is part of XR’s ‘Cut The Ties’ campaign.
The protesters went to Edelman’s offices, based in Victoria, to talk directly with the firm’s workers and hand-deliver letters to them. They put up a “green-washing line” and signs calling out Edelman’s sharp practices and shady clients outside the office of the PR supremos.
The protest highlights the oily hypocrisy of Edelman producing its annual “Trust Barometer” report – which measures people’s trust in different institutions – while continuing to take money from big oil to greenwash their dangerous business with a PR makeover. Greenwashing distracts the public and delays governments from taking action against these polluters. It helps fossil fuel companies pretend they’re not the number one cause of the climate crisis.
One of the protesters, ex-Edelman employee Lucy Bridgewater, quit due to the agency’s ongoing relationship with oil majors and the impending climate catastrophe. Lucy said: “Edelman is a fine one to talk in its Trust Barometer about politicians misleading the public, when Edelman itself has been misleading us all for decades – first as lobbyists for the tobacco industry, and now the fossil fuel industry. Edelman uses its profound understanding of trust to manipulate public perception of our most pressing issues. We desperately need the great thinking and fresh ideas of our creative industries channelled into solving our greatest challenges – not actively and knowingly make them worse.”
Arthur Harding, a software developer from Stockton on Tees, said: “Edelman might be a big firm but, ultimately, it’s made up of hundreds of individual people. I know from speaking to some of them today that they’re frightened for the future and want change too. Firms need to start listening to their people, listening to the science and cut the ties with fossil fuel companies.”
Ben Mango, a website builder from South London, said: “Without the imagination and cleverness of slick PR firms like Edelman, fossil fuel companies couldn’t greenwash their planet-killing business as usual. We’re just a small group of people, terrified for our future. We might not have the budget or the teams or the expertise to reach mass audiences like Edelman and other greenwashers, but we hope our action today will help people think again. Greenwashing will kill us all – there’s no PR on a dead planet.”
Today’s action is part of a series of ‘Cut the Ties’ actions which targets the organisations propping up the fossil fuel economy.
This latest wave of Cut The Ties actions is part of the countdown to The Big One which will see thousands of people come and stand together to demand the UK Government to take real action to serve and protect their citizens and to put people at the heart of decision-making. Extinction Rebellion will be calling for an end to the fossil fuel era and a fair transition through a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice. Other organisations will be adding their specific needs to the demand as well. Groups and their supporters coming to be counted at Parliament in April will be announced soon.
Notes to editors
Edelman is a global communications firm and has produced its annual Trust Barometer report since 2000. Edelman’s current clients include, Shell, Exxon Mobil, and Sultan Al Jaber, president of the COP28 climate summit and head of Dubai’s state oil producer https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/03/uae-oil-company-cop28
Key reference points were taken from Clean Creatives, a movement of advertisers, PR professionals, and their clients cutting ties with fossil fuels. Read more about Clean Creatives and Edelman: https://cleancreatives.org/edelman
The hand-delivered letters to Edelman employees reads:
Dear Edelman Employees,
This is a letter asking you to cut the ties with oil majors. And if you’re not able to do that, then quit. If you refuse to work on projects supporting big oil, or quit, there can be a better future. You and your colleagues are bright sparks of creativity. You can change the world if you apply your fresh thinking, creative ideas, and influence to catalyse positive change, not exacerbate the climate crisis.
We hope you’ll listen again to 450 scientists last year declaring that the work Edelman does for big oil “represent one of the biggest barriers to the government action science shows is necessary to mitigate the ongoing climate emergency.”
Knowing what you know, are you proud of who you work for? How do you feel when someone asks, “What do you do?” Given people are more informed than ever about the climate and nature emergency, you may even feel embarrassed about being associated with industries causing it. So stop. Don’t let Edelman put you in the position fellow employees were in during the 70s and 80s when it helped the tobacco industry attack and undermine perceptions of the health hazards of smoking. That same corrupt playbook is being waged as a weapon against the planet.
The Edelman family may very easily square away its role in the climate emergency given the fame, fortune, and legacy of the agency. But what’s in it for the rest of you? No-one will remember a CEO, a co-CEO, a director, the brilliant creatives, the support teams, etc. It’s not your name above the door.
Edelman must pay handsomely for parents to sacrifice the lives of their children. How can any adult look a child in the eye knowing the company they work for is actively causing the destruction of their future?
Because the fact remains, Edelman is actively contributing to fossil-fuel emissions through the campaign strategies you create for clients. You are not just facilitating the message on behalf of your clients. You are handing them permission to continue to extract and pollute.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Please pass on our frigid regards to Richard and the family for doing a bang tidy job at screwing up the future.
PS: “We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place – or not bother.” — Jane Goodall
About Extinction Rebellion
Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a decentralised, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.
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Time has almost entirely run out to address the climate and ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, leading to societal collapse and mass loss of life. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.