An article earlier this week on Motherboard, a channel of VICE Media, by Brian Merchant completely misrepresented our firm’s position on climate change. This followed a similar piece in The Guardian that took Edelman to task for work on behalf of companies denying climate change. I want to set the record straight.
Edelman recognizes the reality of climate change and accepts the science behind the claim. We do not accept clients that seek to deny climate change. Our long-standing position on the issue is available on our site.
Further, we work with clients to promote their efforts to cut emissions from operations, improve energy efficiency, use alternative energy sources and build sustainable business models. We arrange meetings for clients with environmental NGOs, to construct mutually advantageous programs that reduce costs and cut carbon emissions.
As a personal matter, I am helping long-time friend professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, on messaging to get nations behind the Paris 2015 goals on emissions. Please note my blog on this subject two weeks ago.
There are a few specific points in the Motherboard article that demand correction. The piece significantly overstates the scope of work for a client. The journalist alleges that Edelman helps polluting companies to use astroturf groups and slick websites to promote climate change denial. We do not work with astroturf groups and we have never created a website for a client with the intent to deny climate change.
But my most important difference with the piece is the supposition that work for one client, unfairly characterized as noted above, is in some way indicative of the general stance of the firm. To condemn an agency for work with one client is unfair and fails to acknowledge the work we have done in the areas of sustainability and environmental communications. We have partnered with many of the world’s largest companies on pioneering environmental programs, going back more than 20 years to Dolphin-Safe Tuna for Heinz StarKist.
As for the Motherboard and Guardian articles, I accept responsibility for incomplete briefings of the journalists who were not given sufficient access to senior management. Further, we did a poor job of filling out a form for the Climate Investigations Center (CIC), an NGO seeking information on our stance on climate change. These shortcomings have been fixed. We have resubmitted the CIC survey and The Guardian has since done a follow up piece asserting that Edelman’s stance on climate change is possibly “the industry’s first official position on climate denial.”
Sustainability has moved from philanthropy/CSR to green marketing to sustainable supply chain. The next phase, and it is one where PR can play a massive role, is changing consumer behavior. It is our job as effective PR counselors to make that happen. We are advising our clients to operate in the smart zone, beyond minimum legal standards and above public expectations, because this is where business actually can make a big difference.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.
Image by Lance Cheung.