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Edelman formally declares it will not accept climate denial campaigns


Richard Edelman

Richard Edelman, chief executive of America’s biggest PR firm, has said business should be involved in seeking market solutions to climate change. Photograph: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images


Powered by article titled “Edelman formally declares it will not accept climate denial campaigns” was written by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, for on Thursday 7th August 2014 11.44 UTC

Edelman, America’s biggest public relations firm, has for the first time formally declared it will not take on campaigns that deny global warming, in response to an investigation by the Guardian. However, it is unclear on its commitment to existing clients that have been involved in spreading doubt about climate change and fighting regulations to cut carbon pollution.

The explicit rejection comes in response to a story earlier this week that saw a number of top firms in the industry – but not Edelman – declare as a matter of company policy that they viewed climate change as a threat, and that they would not take on clients or campaigns that deny climate change.

In an apparent damage control exercise, the PR firm alerted the Guardian to what may be the industry’s first official position on climate change denial.

A statement on its website reads: “Edelman fully recognises the reality of, and science behind, climate change, and believes it represents one of the most important global challenges facing society, business and government today. To be clear, we do not accept client assignments that aim to deny climate change.”

Michael Bush, a spokesman for Edelman, expressed regret for the company’s earlier response. “Unfortunately, that position was not fully shared … when [the Guardian] initially reached out to us.”

Edelman and other top PR firms earn millions every year crafting messages and campaigns surrounding climate change. Edelman reportedly had earnings of $747m last year, and has represented the powerful oil industry lobby, the American Petroleum Institute (API), as well as conservative groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), that oppose Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

After other industry leaders such as WPP and Weber Shandwick came out against climate deniers, an Edelman executive, Ben Boyd, told a Chicago radio programme: “we do not work for deniers”. Boyd also said the company would “scrub, on a daily basis, our client roster and look at the behaviours of our clients”.

The commitment was a departure for Edelman, which earlier told the Guardian it took on clients on a case-by-case basis.

“Expanding the dialogue in a constructive manner, and driving productive outcomes to solve energy challenges are the key criteria for evaluating client engagements,”Bush added in an email.

Edelman had also been reluctant to respond to an earlier survey by the Climate Investigations Centre, inadvertently emailing researchers: “There are only wrong answers to this guy”.

Kert Davies, the founder of Climate Investigations, said the Edelman’s position was an important shift. “Edelman’s position on climate change before this statement was at best opaque. Now they might be the first big PR firm to actually have a published ‘position’ on climate change and rejecting climate science denial,” he wrote in an email. “This is a big step … and it might pull the rest of the industry along to take a firm stance on climate change.”

However, Edelman still left itself room for manoeuvre. Bush later backpedalled on Boyd’s commitment to “scrub” the client roster, writing in an email: “We did not intend to suggest that we have launched a ‘scrubbing’ operation of our client roster, but that we continually look at our client portfolio. As you might imagine with thousands of clients it’s an ongoing exercise.”

He also declined to say whether Edelman had let go or “scrubbed” clients – such as API and Alec that have been involved in spreading doubt about climate change and fighting regulations to cut carbon pollution.

Edelman has a rigorous in-house carbon accounting system. In a blogpost last month, its chief executive, Richard Edelman, wrote that business should be involved in seeking market solutions to climate change and expressed concern that some 40% of Americans believe that humans are not changing the climate. “There is a significant failure of communications regarding the environment,” Edelman wrote.


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