Extinction Rebellion spoofs greenwashing PR Week Awards ceremony - Extinction Rebellion UK

Extinction Rebellion spoofs greenwashing PR Week Awards ceremony

Hypocritical public relations firms, nominated for awards at PR Week ceremony, exposed for their work with the fossil fuel industry

Extinction Rebellion disrupted the prestigious 2023 PR Week Awards, last night (18 October), holding its colourful, alternative ‘Charred Earth’ awards, to shine a light on the hypocrisy and ghastly greenwashing activities of the public relations companies that hide their work with some of the world’s worst polluters and their funders.

As those attending the PR Week Awards ceremony arrived, the activists, many in black tie, hosted a competing Charred Earth Communication Awards outside the entrance to the prestigious Park Lane’s Marriot Grosvenor House hotel, complete with their own trophies and bottles of crude oil ‘champagne’. 

They handed awards to the worst offending agencies and holding companies and distributed hundreds of copies of Clean Creative’s devastating F-List 2023 report – which lists the agencies involved.

They also appealed to those attending to ‘work their conscience’, either by whistleblowing through XR’s TruthTeller.Life site, only working for agencies that have signed Clean Creatives’ Pledge, or by working to improve their agency internally.

The protest highlighted how global communicators such as Havas, Edelmann, IPG and WPP are doing vast quantities of work defending the reputations of the most dangerous companies in the world, including Shell and Saudi Aramco, and are hugely complicit in enabling climate breakdown. None of thislucrative work for fossil fuel companies, which garners them millions of pounds in fees, has been submitted for prizes at the PR Week Awards.

The campaigners also highlighted the ridiculous, disingenuous claims of PR giants to be aiming for carbon neutrality in their own offices, while ignoring the enormous emissions of their clients, whose catastrophic products they are trying to push.

The high-profile PR Week Awards highlighted the best work of the industry, but made no mention of massive contracts with oil majors, refiners and their trade associations. 

After previous criticism, agencies now try to hide this work, deleting fossil fuel clients from their websites and even keeping details from many of their own staff.  This is after an Edelmann PR report found that up to 60% of staff would leave an ‘unethical’ firm. 

According to Ian McDermott, a former PR and now science teacher, who attended the protest: “On the one hand agencies celebrate how they’ve changed public opinion at the PR Week Awards, while simultaneously claiming that the greenwashing they do for fossil fuel companies doesn’t really make any difference, even though fossil fuel companies pay a fortune for the service.

“It’s this cognitive dissonance that is killing us.  PR contracts with fossil fuel companies and climate-destroying banks are morally indefensible and utterly destructive, and until holding companies openly refuse this work, putting their creative genius to work on the right side of history, rapid change will be delayed and the goal of preserving a habitable climate will stay out of reach.”

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, said: “The massive public relations machine [is] raking in billions to shield the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny. Just as they did for the tobacco industry decades before, lobbyists and spin doctors have spewed harmful misinformation.  Fossil fuel interests need to spend less time averting a PR disaster – and more time averting a planetary one.”

Last year, more than 450 climate scientists wrote an open letter to Edelman and fellow advertising companies WPP and IPG, urging them to cut off their work with fossil fuel clients. They wrote that these image-burnishing campaigns “represent one of the biggest barriers to the government action science shows is necessary to mitigate the ongoing climate emergency”.

The winners of this year’s Charred Earth Communication Awards are:

Maximum Filth Holding Company of the Year: WPP, for work with just about every mass-polluter on the planet, including: Saudi Aramco, Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, Equinor, Peabody Energy, Total, British Gas, Petrobras, PetroChina, Indian Oil.

Climate Gigolo Agency of the Year: Hill and Knowlton, for managing to find time to work with Saudi Aramco, Shell, ExxonMobil, Imperial Oil, Chevron and the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, all within a single agency

Don’t Look Here Award: Havas, for nominating parts of their business for B-Corp status and an award for their work with autism, while conveniently neglecting to mention their vast new global marketing contract with Shell

Let’s Double Down on Disaster Award: IPG, for making so much money greenwashing Saudi Aramco through at least five existing agencies that they needed to start another ‘secret’ agency – Well7 – to handle all the work

Lifetime Achievement Gaslighting Award: Ogilvy, for their Personal Carbon Footprint calculator, deflecting blame for the climate crisis from their client BP

Lifetime Achievement in Shortening Lifetimes: Edelman, for decades of work for Shell, Exxon, Chevron, American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, National Mining Association, TransCanada and Task Force on Shale Gas amongst others.

For further information contact: press@extinctionrebellion.uk

Related topics

Edelman Extinction Rebellion Havas Shell WPP

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