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Cop27 Scientists target PR and ad firms they accuse of spreading disinformation

January 19, 2022


WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - More than 450 scientists on Wednesday called on the executives of major advertising and public relations firms to drop their fossil fuel clients and stop what the scientists said was their spread of disinformation around climate change.

They sent a letter to the executives of major global public relations and advertising firms, including conglomerate WPP, Edelman and IPG, as well as the CEOs of their clients who tout sustainability goals including Unilever, Amazon and Microsoft.

"As scientists who study and communicate the realities of climate change, we are consistently faced with a major and needless challenge: overcoming advertising and PR efforts by fossil fuel companies that seek to obfuscate or downplay our data and the risks posed by the climate crisis," the scientists wrote.

None of the advertising and PR firms or their clients were immediately available to comment on the letter.

There has been increasing scrutiny of the role that PR and advertising firms play in helping oil and gas companies to play down their role in exacerbating climate change or "greenwashing" with claims the companies offer climate solutions.

A U.S. House panel questioned oil company CEOs in October about their role in spreading climate change misinformation and subpoenaed them for documents related to money they spent on PR and marketing firms as well as social media firms.

The panel's investigation is expected to dig into these third party companies.

Several lawsuits accuse major oil and gas companies of "greenwashing," citing ad campaigns that make what the suits allege are unsubstantiated claims meant to deceive customers into believing products are environmentally friendly.

Climate scientist Michael Mann, a signatory to the letter, said the ad campaigns minimize environmental risks.

“We climate scientists have been trying to raise the climate crisis alarm for decades, but we've been drowned out by these fossil fuel industry-funded PR campaigns,” said Mann.

A campaign led by Clean Creatives, a group pressuring ad and PR firms to drop fossil fuel clients, had called on Edelman to drop its oil and gas clients. Edelman said earlier this month it would not but said it would set up a panel of "external climate experts to offer input and guidance on strategy and on assignments and client situations of concern.”

In a statement to Reuters in December 2020, WPP said: “WPP recognizes the importance of its role in addressing climate change by applying rigorous standards to the content we produce and helping clients to accelerate the world’s transition to a lower-carbon economy.”

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Howard Goller


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