Extinction Rebellion and indigenous leaders disrupt Shell’s new Greenwasher-in-Chief
October 11, 2023 by Extinction Rebellion
Action pictures: https://tinyurl.com/yhj5h9b2
Mass die-in action by climate activist movement kickstarts an ongoing campaign to force media agency to dump Shell as clients
Giant media agency Havas was held to account today (Wednesday October 11) for becoming Shell’s new chief greenwasher as Extinction Rebellion activists and representatives of indigenous groups disrupted its London offices.
Dozens of activists staged a die-in to block the main doors of the agency’s offices to symbolise the deaths that have happened – and the millions more that will happen in the future – as the result of the climate-wrecking activities of Havas’ latest client.
Havas was appointed media agency to Shell in September 2023, immediately becoming responsible for convincing the public that one of the worst climate criminal companies is actually doing good for the planet. The agency faced protests in the run up to the award, begging them not to pitch for the business – a plea they ignored.
Activists say that the status of four Havas Media subsidiaries as B Corps – a certification that supposedly signals they are operating in the best interests of the environment – is completely at odds with the parent company’s new role with Shell.
Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Katie Burrell, 51, one of the activists taking part in the action, said:
“Without the skill and creativity of agencies like Havas, Shell and the other fossil fuel companies driving the accelerating climate crisis with their supplies of oil, gas and coal would be revealed for what they really are – criminals who are destroying our future.
“Shell spends more on advertising than on renewable energy like wind and solar. But now Havas will help them produce communications and media campaigns to convince the world that they are part of the solution to the climate emergency, not one of the main causes.
“We’ve heard from people inside Havas that many of them are really unhappy about doing Shell’s dirty business.
“They know companies like Shell are driving the climate crisis and have been funding climate denialism for years. We encourage the people of Havas to use their voice and join our new campaign to Rebel For Truth.
“Imagine how powerful it would be if their discontent got Shell off the Havas books – we believe the strength of dissatisfaction within Havas could achieve this.”
Also at the action, Lazarus Tamana, 66, President of the indigenous rights group, Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) spoke to Havas workers at the action, “Shell has poisoned our land with their oil, their lies, their bribes and their violence dressed up as economic advancement.
“We know companies have to make money but it must not be at the expense of indigenous people. I came here to speak to the people who will listen. I appeal to my brothers and sisters in Havas and tell them that when you work with Shell you are part of the harm – if you do their dirty work you’re destroying our land too.
“My people are suffering pain and indignity from pollution. We lived on our land well for hundreds of years. Now our babies suffer birth defects, our livelihoods and fishing rights are threatened by the oil and chemicals seeping into our beautiful river delta and groundwater.”
Princewill Chikakpobi Chukwure, 41, from Ibaa community in the Niger Delta, via recorded message, spoke powerfully about Shell’s pollution of his groundwater and land and its impact on his family.
He appealed to colleagues at Havas not to support Shell. “Whosoever is supporting Shell is helping them to poison my land, to damage the future of my children, to destroy our environment.” Mr Chukwure is calling on Shell to clean up oil and other contaminants from its oil business that he says started soaking into his land in 2016 and has led to long-term damage to the family’s health and livelihood.
Extinction Rebellion has been targeting the enablers of fossil fuel companies since November 2022 but only recently put Havas in its sights. Previously, global public relationships firms Hill + Knowlton and Edelman have both been subject to actions by the environmental protest group for greenwashing for climate criminals.
Havas Media, the parent company of the Havas Media Group, is not B Corp certified, but four of its subsidiaries New York, London, Lemz and Immerse are. As B Corp’s Executive Director Chris Turner has stated, Havas Media’s work for Shell could bring the certification of the entire Havas group into question.
In September, Turner told The Drum: “As with any company looking to become a B Corp, when the parent goes for certification, if they are not meeting our standards (for example, material work with clients that operate in sensitive industries such as the fossil fuel industry), then the eligibility of the entire group for certification would be reviewed.”
A spokesperson for B Lab UK, which is home to the B Corp movement in the UK, said: “We are aware of news that Havas, which has certified B Corp subsidiaries New York, London, Lemz, and Immerse, has been appointed as the media buying agency for Shell.
“B Lab Global is currently reviewing the implications of this as part of B Lab’s Public Complaint Process. We’re committed to following due process and appreciate your patience as we follow the procedures we have in place.”
Notes to editors
Protesters already targeted Havas in June 2023 asking them not to pitch
Extinction Rebellion has run its Cut the Ties actions since November 2022 to challenge the enablers of fossil fuel companies.
The Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) shares the voices of Ogoni people whose land in the Niger Delta has been devastated by Shell’s oil extraction there.
In Q4 of 2022, Shell spent nearly double (1.85x) the amount on marketing as it invested through its “Renewable and Energy Solutions” (RES) division, at £1.7bn and £0.9bn, respectively. https://www.common-wealth.org/publications/shells-exceptional-profits-are-yet-another-reminder-that-big-oil-wont-deliver-the-green-transition
Shell is a repeat offender at greenwashing https://www.clientearth.org/projects/the-greenwashing-files/shell/