The world is at a crossroads as we face the need to reduce global carbon emissions to zero by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Despite this fact, many, if not most, oil companies are not moving quickly, or at all, to wind down their carbon-polluting businesses and shift to clean energy, as the International Energy Agency and a global chorus of climate scientists insist must happen now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
As wildfires, mega-storms and extreme weather worsen due to climate change, people are growing more frustrated with the lack of action on climate, and this ire is increasingly directed at Big Oil.
This anger is the force behind the current backlash against PR giant Edelman, which has been accused of greenwashing on behalf of its client, Exxon Mobil, and is gaining notoriety for its longtime work for the oil and gas industry.
More than 100 celebrities and influencers signed a November letter asking Edelman to drop Exxon and other fossil fuel companies. And a new study from Brown University researchers found that PR firms, working on behalf of oil companies, have helped shape and obstruct public discussion about climate change.
As Exxon’s agency of record, Edelman does what all communications firms do for their clients: they tell the world a story that puts their client's best foot forward. Five years ago, representing Exxon would not have been controversial. Today, it is and should be.
For those of us who have invested in the roller coaster ride of clean energy and climate tech industries, the past year has been incredibly gratifying as clean energy and climate tech companies have grown and investors are taking these sectors much more seriously. Since the early 2000s, clean energy and mobility industries have commercialized a breathtaking array of innovative technologies including more affordable renewables, energy storage, energy efficiency, grid tech, electric vehicles, agtech and countless other clean products and services that are making a positive impact on our planet. With greater scale has come higher valuations and rising investment, with Tesla’s $1 trillion valuation creating a benchmark for clean energy and climate tech.
Today, there are many incentives and zero business risks in embracing sustainability and climate change mitigation. Investors around the world are demanding that companies take action on climate and the public markets are richly rewarding climate-tech companies that choose to go public. The public sector is investing billions of dollars to ensure that today’s sustainable technology breakthroughs scale to become tomorrow’s norms. As the shift toward zero-emission energy accelerates, fossil-fuel companies are under increasing pressure from investors, governments and the public to join this transition, invest their vast financial resources in clean energy and wind down their greenhouse-gas-producing businesses.
Unfortunately, U.S. oil heavyweights have been lagging far behind. Just one oil company, BP, has pledged not to develop any new oil and gas fields, which is a central requirement of the IEA’s recent Net Zero By 2050 Roadmap to avoid a global temperature increase of more than 1.5 C, according to a July study by the World Benchmarking Alliance.
Even as we expand to work with more clean energy and climate-tech companies, whose technologies will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, we are doubling down on our commitment to fight climate change. Starting January 1, our firm will require all new clients to sign a climate pledge that includes a commitment to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.
While we are open to working with climate-tech companies whose technologies may be used to mitigate carbon emissions and environmental degradation of oil companies, we will not serve as an AOR for any company that is in the business of extracting fossil fuels. Firms like Antenna believe our 100% renewable-energy future is coming, and we want to be on the side of the companies and innovators who are making it happen.
Keith Zakheim is CEO of Antenna Group.