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    Greenwashing is not going away: here’s what you can do about it
    By SWS staff

    In June, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, called on PR firms, media outlets and tech companies to stop promoting fossil fuel advertisements that lie to the public and hide the role the industry plays in the climate crisis. 

    HEATED wasted no time in jumping on the speech to assess which organizations are the biggest purveyors of fossil fuel adverts, finding the New York Times, Edelman, Glover Part, Cerrell and Ogilvy some of the worst offenders.

    A report released by The Intercept and partners in December 2023 found that Bloomberg, The Economist, the Financial Times, the New York Times, Politico, Reuters and the Washington Post – seven of the world’s most trusted media companies – all have internal brand studios that create advertising content for major oil and gas companies. This revealing analysis focuses on the period 2020 to 2023 to reveal the huge profits being made, despite repeated calls for media companies and others to cut commercial ties with fossil fuel clients. 

    And it’s not just ‘old media’ that’s at it. The Center for Countering Digital Hate describes the eye-watering sums that Google gets from greenwashing, earning US$23.7 million from oil and gas companies over two years for Google search ads, nearly half of which targeted search terms on environmental sustainability. 

    Also worth checking out is DeSmog’s Advertising & Public Relations Database where you can see the advertising and PR industry firms that continue to protect the reputation of their fossil fuel clients.

    In the face of seemingly unrelenting greenwashing, what can climate communicators do to counter it?

    For those in advertising who want things to change, Good Life 2030 is worth checking out. This project is designed to help the advertising industry transform both itself and society by reimagining and redefining what a ‘good life’ looks and feels like, informed by real everyday people – and what achieving this vision could mean for the advertising industry itself.

    Also worth a look is Eleonor Ross’ Communicating Climate: How to Transmit Your Climate Message and Avoid Greenwashing. This engaging read explains how to achieve cut-through, whether you’re trying to inspire your clients, get your shareholders on board, or simply showcase your progress in greening the world. It is packed with case studies, examples, tips and interviews from those leading the charge towards sustainability in many different sectors, including the creative industries.

    Another tactic is to utilize traditional marketing and advertising approaches for the public good. Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing can help you do just that. This book contains a wealth of new research, behaviour change tools and case studies to help communicators target unsustainable behaviours and identify the barriers to change, communicate effective messages, enhance motivation and invite participation. This is a good resource for anyone interested in promoting sustainable behaviour, including environmental conservation, recycling and waste reduction, water and energy efficiency and alternative transportation.

    Whatever type of climate communicator you are, Futerra’s Sell The Sizzle will make sure your messages land right. This toolkit will show you how to devise compelling climate communications that actually change attitudes and behaviours and take marketing approaches that are both engaging and relatable. A similar approach can be seen in 6 Ways to Change Hearts and Minds, a smart, bite-sized guide that outlines six tips to framing climate change in ways that inspire action.


    All of the resources mentioned in this blog – and many more – can be found on the Climate Communications Resources Hub, a collaborative initiative led by Small World Stories to help everyone communicate more effectively about the climate crisis and its solutions.