BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Green groups PR arms unite to take on Esso

UK branches of global environmental pressure groups Greenpeace,

Friends of the Earth and People & Planet have combined PR forces for a

media assault on Esso, the British brand name of the world's largest oil

corporation, Exxon Mobil.

The organisations took the opportunity to disturb the Bank Holiday peace

of Esso's senior media adviser David Eglinton and his team to roll out

their 'Stop Esso' campaign.

They are asking consumers to stop buying petrol and other products from

Esso until Exxon Mobil changes its stance on climate change.

The boycott is backed by celebrities including Damien Hurst, Rory

Bremner, Bianca Jagger and Annie Lennox. Body Shop founder Anita Roddick

is planning to publicise the campaign in her UK stores.

Last weekend, newspapers carried articles featuring Jagger, who was

quoted as saying that Esso had 'never invested a single penny in

renewable energy' - a claim reiterated by Roddick on the Today programme

on Tuesday.

Esso quickly sought to counter the claims, issuing a statement and

offering interviews. 'We are trying to put the facts out and get them

across to the media and the public following these untruths,' said


The cat-and-mouse tactics employed by both lobby groups and oil

companies have led to an air of secrecy with both parties unwilling to

reveal specific details of their media strategies.

Eglinton reluctantly conceded a team of 'four or five' press officers

were fielding scores of calls, and that 'several' broadcast media

interviews had been given on Monday and Tuesday.

The Esso spokesman sought to rubbish the boycott campaign, by claiming

it would be 'counter-productive'. He also offered a warning that it

could harm the 'thousands of independent British businessmen and women

and their staff' who operate Esso petrol stations.

The combined campaign of the environmentalists also includes the support

of some MPs, who have signed a pledge to boycott forecourts.

The media strategy and teams are being led by experienced climate

campaigners, Greenpeace spokesman Rob Gueterbock and FoE senior

campaigner Roger Higman.

'We are adopting many obvious ways to encourage people to join the

campaign, which will last until Bush and Exxon Mobil decide to change

their policies on climate change,' said Gueterbock.

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