‘Go and work for someone with ethics’: Comms Declare’s brutal message for adland staff

Staff working for advertising companies still taking on fossil fuel clients should “go and work for someone with ethics” if they want to make a difference, according to Belinda Noble, the founder of Comms Declare.

Comms Declare and Clean Creative has released the 2023 F-list, an investigation into advertising companies with climate-polluting partners. Coincidentally, the list was published the same day as Havas announced its global win of the Shell media account.

This year, apart from creative, media, PR and communications agencies, the local list included outdoor media companies for the first time.

A Santos OOH campaign carried by JCDecaux. Photo: Comms Declare

The 2023 F-list found that more than 90 Australian agencies are believed to currently have fossil fuel clients, almost doubling the 54 agencies in 2022. Four agencies were removed.

Local agencies at the top of the list were JSW Research and SEC Newgate, each with seven fossil fuel companies. Globally, WPP has the most fossil fuel contracts with 55, followed by Omnicom with 39 contracts.

“In Australia, I think we just need to work more on education,” Noble told Mumbrella about this year’s list. “Agencies need to drill down into [fossil fuel] companies’ actual business and not take any headline promises as fact when they’re not backed up by rigorously funded business cases and plans.”

Taking today’s news from Havas as an example, Noble questioned how the agency group can work with clients like Shell while also committing to a goal like achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.

“The holding companies are really holding the industry back, and there are plenty of people working for smaller agencies or staff members in these big companies that are very uncomfortable with what’s going on in the top level,” she said.

Mumbrella contacted Havas Australia for comment.

Belinda Noble

Speaking of what employees can do on an individual level if that’s the case, Noble said there are two simple things they can do.

“One is advocating within the agency, and the second one is to go and work for someone with ethics.”

Comms Declare currently has more than 95 member agencies in Australia who have declared that they will not promote the growth of fossil fuels, and high greenhouse gas pollution as ‘business as usual’, and conduct deception, distraction or spin around science or climate actions.

“I can tell you that our member agencies are overwhelmed with people that want to work with them, because people want to do ethical work, and they don’t want these dirty clients on their portfolio,” she said.

“That’s a retention issue for bigger agencies as well. They’re going to lose their staff if they don’t start dropping these clients.”

OOH media companies Torch Media, JCDecaux and oOh!media were also named for running big brand campaigns for the likes of Ampol, Glencore, Santos and APPEA in this year’s list.

The list also included in-house teams lobbying for itself and its partners, such as Woodside whose team lobbies on behalf of partners including PetroChina International Investment, the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation, the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company.


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