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PR Firm Edelman Dropping Climate Change Deniers

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm, representing well-known companies, including those in the energy sector. Last week, Edelman said it won’t work with coal companies and climate change deniers, the Guardian reports.

This is a PR firm that reported $833 million worth of earnings. In the words of the Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg, Edelman “has played a critical role in shaping public opinion in the U.S. and globally about climate change.” So, the company’s shift is huge.

“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 Edelman Europe, told the Guardian.

“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 added. “Greenwashing, fake front groups, anything like that is completely inappropriate.”

The shift comes after Edelman lost four of its corporate responsibility executives earlier this summer. As the Guardian reported, the PR firm lost them “at least in part because of the company’s unwillingness to take a strong stand on climate change.” Edelman also lost two “influential clients,” according to the Guardian, over climate change.

In addition to losing executives and clients, the coalition We Mean Business ended a contract with Edelman over the PR firm’s representation of companies in the fossil fuel sector. According to the Guardian, Nike also opted not to go with Edelman to work on a climate-related project.

Last year, a survey came out conducted by the Climate Investigations Center. As a result of the survey, some of the world’s top 25 PR firms said they would no longer represent clients who deny climate change. That included Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. “We would not knowingly partner with a client who denies the existence of climate change,” Rhian Rotz, a spokesman for the firm, told the Guardian.

By contrast, Edelman said at the time that it wasn’t ruling out working with climate change deniers. “Expanding the dialogue in a constructive manner, and driving productive outcomes to solve energy challenges are the key criteria for evaluating client engagements,” said spokesman Michael Bush.

So, what changed? Probably the combined force of losing executives and clients, plus the knowledge of public perception. This is a PR firm, after all. Consider a survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, which found that 63 percent of Americans think climate change is happening. About 2 in 3 (68 percent) think corporations and industry should be doing “much more” or “more” to address climate change.

In other words, the majority of Americans think businesses should be doing something to address climate change. Clearly, public opinion is not in favor of PR firms like Edelman working with climate change deniers -- and firms are taking notice. 

Image credit: Flickr/Matt Brown

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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