Report asks agencies to drop fossil fuel clients to keep staff

Comms Declare has released its 2021 Fuelling Fantasies report, and within it Comms Declare is asking agencies and creatives to divest from fossil fuel clients, following the results of a survey conducted that shows those under 30 in adland are interested in working somewhere that acknowledges climate change.

The conclusion of the report stated that: “Our surveys have shown that agency heads are out-of-step with the climate concerns of their younger workers and that those aged under 30 are being asked to work for highly polluting companies against their better judgement. These workers will vote with their feet, as 70% are actively wanting to work with a company that shares their concerns about global warming.

“Worryingly, some agencies have responded to the growing concern about their fossil fuel clients by hiding them. Many agencies promote their work for ethical causes while keeping quiet about polluting clients.

“Many corporate procurement policies now explicitly factor in the climate and environment. Companies with significant advertising budgets such as Telstra, Woolworths and IAG are now vowing to de-carbonise their supply chains, and agencies are advised to clean up their acts.”

For the responses from agencies for the report, marketing and research consultant The Navigators surveyed 200 of Australia’s agencies in 2020 and 2021 with 103 responses received. The survey for people under 30 was online and received 221 responses.

In its survey of under 30s, the report found that a majority of under 30 works are reluctant to work for greenhouse gas polluters.

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303 MullenLowe senior creative Maya Halilovic said: “I think agencies should play a massive role in confronting climate change, if only because we are part of the reason that it exists. It’s kind of a difficult one to stomach, because if you think about it, BP and Shell Oil and Chevron and whatnot – the sort of giant polluters of the world – have and will continue to rely on agencies to lift their profile, and to talk about a ‘cleaner and greener’ future that is increasingly just a vaguer and vaguer concept.

“If we’re not working towards a future that is sustainable, what are we doing? Where are we going? What’s the point? It’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible, it’s unethical. I understand that not everyone feels that way, and there’s probably education that needs to be had around certain areas. But really, where we’re at now is pretty crucial.”

In terms of agencies, 78% responded that they think climate action is important to attract employees but only 39% have an accurate understanding of their own creative footprint.

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The Fulling Fantasies report also published a report ranking agencies of their public disclosure of working with fossil fuel clients, on a scale of A to C.

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The agencies listed are split amongst the various agency holding groups.

Comms Declare president and founder Belinda Noble said: “In light of the lukewarm approach taken by the government on climate change, we have an opportunity to take charge, persuade and become accountable for the advertising, communications and marketing industries’ pivotal role.

“The divestment movement, which campaigns investors to move funds out of fossil fuel projects, is 10 years old, and has succeeded in removing more than $US15 trillion from fossil fuel investments.

“In the creative industries, talent is the main currency. In recognition of this, Comms Declare is asking agencies and creatives to divest their talents from fossil fuels. In addition, we want to influence clients to treat their advertising or marketing or media agency like any other company in their supply chain, and demand that their operations and clients engage in activity that will keep the planet within 1.5 degrees warming.”

Comms Declare’s 2021 industry survey also named Benedictus Media as the 2021 Climate Comms Champion 2021, with Republic of Everyone as the runner up. The Large Agency award went to Leo Burnett and the Green Employer Award went to Alchemy One.

In September, a joint global report from Comms Declare and Clean Creatives entitled The F-List 2021: 90 Ad and PR Companies Working for the Fossil Fuel Industry has highlighted Australia as being “uniquely compromised” by agencies lobbying for oil, gas and coal. Following the release of the report, PR firm Edelman announced a global client review to establish science and values-based criteria for client engagement, to formalise clear criteria for climate communications, and to create a task force for internal climate conversations. Edelman denies that the client review is related to the report.


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