Jamie Kendricken and Mark Allegrini
Published 3 weeks ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Collectively, the communications industry can be a catalyst for change; and it’s our hope that we can use our power to focus on climate solutions, clean energy and promoting initiatives that help us carve a just transition and path forward.
that took dozens of lives and inflicted untold economic and physical damage in
Mexico. A scabies
in Malawi. Record heat
across the globe. Communities worldwide are suffering the loss and costs caused
by climate change every day. Consumers, understandably, increasingly expect not
only their governments and elected officials to address climate change but their
favorite brands, too. This was a hot topic at Climate Week 2023 — including
the push for marketing and communications agencies to sign the Clean Creatives
Pledge, committing to not work with fossil fuel
companies or their interests that stand to worsen this crisis.
For any organization, considering the Pledge needs to be about more than optics.
Agencies need to ask themselves a simple question: What type of work do they
want to do to help solve the climate crisis and which clients do they want to
partner with to achieve that goal? Choosing not to amplify the false narrative
that we can continue to burn fossil fuels without consequences is the strongest,
most direct lever we have to contribute to change. Communications agencies are
in a unique position because aligning around these values increasingly matters to their clients, too. Consumer research bears this out: 82 percent
want a brand’s value to align with their own; and they’re willing to act on it —
with three-quarters of surveyed shoppers saying they have parted ways with a
brand over a conflict in values. A brand can’t meet its consumers’ expectations
around climate change without holding their communications and marketing
agencies to that standard, as well.
We have entered an era of increased transparency and understanding around the
drivers of the climate crisis, and corporations are starting to learn from other
industries and movements about how to scale impact. The concept of fossil fuel
divestment is a great example of activists following the money to tackle climate
impact and push investors to move capital out of the fossil fuel industry. Only
recently have leading companies such as Seventh Generation started to pioneer
methodologies to apply a similar
exploring how every dollar spent impacts the climate across all their financial
relationships — including who they work with for marketing and public relations
Savvy consumers are also quick to uncover and call out brands that make
commitments to address climate change but whose receipts tell a different story.
At the Purpose Center of Excellence, a
collaborative effort between sister Stagwell
agencies Allison and
Headstand, we’re seeing more and more clients
asking us about connections to fossil fuels. Why? Because they can’t achieve
their clean commitments or authentically demonstrate progress to stakeholders
if they’re working with partner agencies representing and helping to grow the
fossil fuel industry. It becomes clearer with each passing year: The marketing
community needs to step up its efforts to meet expectations and drive change.
Unlock customer insights on sustainability & your brand’s unique performance! Submit your brand (or any brand) into the 2024 annual study and receive unparalleled insights on customer perception of that brand’s performance. Benchmark how your customers rate your brand on social and environmental sustainability and overall brand trust, while seeing how your brand compares to others in the study. Space is limited! The deadline to become part of the study is January 15, 2024.
That’s why, this fall, Allison became the largest communications agency to sign
the Clean Creatives Pledge. The Purpose Center of Excellence is where clients
including Ceres and the We Mean Business
Coalition have turned to accelerate
the just transition to a climate-stable economy through economic action and
where organizations and brands including Stonyfield, the Goldman
Environmental Prize and Seventh Generation have looked to tell their stories
of leading climate impact. We’re the group of brand-builders and communications
executives who have helped shape the business narrative at COP, and who have
helped investors hold industry leaders accountable for reducing emissions and
protecting fresh water around the world. In short, we knew we needed to be the
change we want to see in the industry.
First, we examined our values and what we stand for as agency teams. We’re
driven by values-based leadership and understand how communications decisions
have exponential potential to affect communities and the environment. We also
recognize that climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing society
and our collective future and that curbing environmental effects by limiting
fossil fuels is better for our health, economy and communities.
We also considered our stakeholders’ convictions. Our own clients’ questions
factored in, as did the ethics of our own people: Creatives across the industry
due to assignments that clash with their closely held beliefs.
But most importantly, we identified an authenticity issue — one that is perhaps
unique to the field of communications. While other industries may be able to
partner with fossil fuel companies to help them transition to alternatives —
assuming this is done in good faith — communications professionals run the risk
Good communicators always strive to avoid greenwashing; but its ongoing
proliferation is problematic. The number of Europe and North
America-headquartered companies involved in an ESG-risk
rose 43 percent over the last year, and that number was 70 percent for financial
institutions — half of which involved oil and gas activities.
Communicators have a responsibility to avoid perpetuating the myth that the
world needs to rely on fossil fuels, but it’s up to each agency to determine the
most authentic actions through which to engage and drive change. Collectively,
the communications industry can be a catalyst for change; and it’s our hope that
we can use our power to focus on climate solutions, clean energy and promoting
initiatives that help us carve a just transition and path forward.
Published Nov 7, 2023 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET