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A big screen flashes commercials on the exterior of an office building in Xi’an in north-west China as the air quality index reaches 282 due to pollution. Photograph: Mayi Wong/EPA

World’s top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers

Some of the world’s top PR companies have for the first time publicly ruled out working with climate change deniers, marking a fundamental shift in the multi-billion dollar industry that has grown up around the issue of global warming.

Public relations firms have played a critical role over the years in framing the debate on climate change and its solutions – as well as the extensive disinformation campaigns launched to block those initiatives.

Now a number of the top 25 global PR firms have told the Guardian they will not represent clients who deny man-made climate change, or take campaigns seeking to block regulations limiting carbon pollution. Companies include WPP, Waggener Edstrom (WE) Worldwide, Weber Shandwick, Text100, and Finn Partners.

“We would not knowingly partner with a client who denies the existence of climate change,” said Rhian Rotz, spokesman for WE.

Weber Shandwick would also not take any campaign to block regulations cutting carbon emissions or promoting renewable energy. “We would not support a campaign that denies the existence and the threat posed by climate change, or efforts to obstruct regulations cutting greenhouse gas emissions and/or renewable energy standards,” spokeswoman Michelle Selesky said.

“There may be scenarios in which we could represent a client that has different views on climate change, just not on this issue.”

The UK-based WPP, the world’s largest advertising firm by revenue and parent company of Burson Marsteller and Oglivy Public Relations, said taking on a client or campaign disputing climate change would violate company guidelines.

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On Sept 19, 2023 ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City, climate activists gathered for a rally and civil disobedience outside Bank of America Tower in Midtown Manhattan as part of the March to End Fossil Fuels wave of actions resulting in multiple arrests. Activists demand Bank of America to “Defund Climate Chaos and Defend Human Rights” Photo: Erik McGregor (CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed)

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Illustration by Stephanie McMillan. Used with permission