It is time to call BS: spin has no place in being green
In this episode of Smoke Signal I continue to take a deep dive into climate communications. I am joined by Belinda Noble, who is President and Founder of Comms Declare – an Australian coalition across the communication, marketing, media and advertising sectors united to drive positive climate action.
Belinda first took up arms against the role of PR and communications in promoting fossil fuel clients post the Black Friday Bushfires in 2019. She decided it was time for action and founded Comms Declare which today is very much part of a global push to call out the PR, marketing and advertising sectors for their role in helping shape the climate change debate.
The focus on the PR sector in particular has gained significant momentum over the past year:
- Edelman – the world’s largest independent PR agency – handed a petition at the time of COP26 calling on it to resign all fossil fuel clients
- A US Congressional hearing was held earlier this year into the role of public relations firms in preventing climate action with an accompanying a report detailing “deceptive” and “misleading” tactics they use for their client campaigns
- And just in recent weeks the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres used a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York to call out the “public relations machine raking in billions to shield the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny”
Comms Declare recently released a report that quantified the impact of the PR, comms and advertising industry on climate change. The F-List named GRACosway as the PR/Lobbyist agency responsible for the highest volume of scope 3 emissions – that is the emissions of their clients, which include the likes of Santos, BHP, and Glencore – totalling 20,612,667 tonnes of CO2 equivalent which is on par with Kenya.
In this discussion, we discuss one of the key issues and challenges for PR practitioners – greenwashing: that is providing misleading, or outright false, information about the impact a company is having on the environment.
Comms Declare is tackling that head on and calling out culprits such as: Santos which is currently being taken to court to prove its claims to be reaching net zero by 2040; Ampol for claiming to offer a carbon neutral fuel; and Glencore’s recent brand campaign titled “Advancing Everyday Life” – which Belinda explains is co-opting all the imagery of the renewable industry but does not mention their main commodity, coal – as just a few of the many examples So we would see that as greenwashing as well.
“When it comes to green claims, and particularly emissions, which is so serious and the implications of inaction are so hideous and almost can’t be contemplated to be leaving out half the picture and putting yourself forward as an environmentally friendly company I would say is quite a misrepresentation of the facts… No one is perfect and no one is expecting perfection but if you say you are going to hit net zero you better.” – Belinda Noble
Published by Paul
Paul Cheal is an experienced financial and corporate communications leader with over 20 years’ experience working with Australian and global brands to build and protect their reputation.
He is a former journalist and an experienced academic, having been a casual tutor and lecturer at University of Technology, Sydney, teaching PR and communication to undergraduate and post graduate students. With a Masters of Public Communication from UTS as well as a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), Paul is passionate about Public Relations, this podcast is an opportunity to speak with key practitioners, academics, leaders and influencers from across the profession.