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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Edelman, the world's largest PR firm, is vowing to make climate change a bedrock focus even as it rejects activist pressure to sever ties with Big Oil.

Driving the news: The company on Monday unveiled new principles and plans, along with new hires to guide the efforts.

  • Edelman said it's committed to working with clients focused on "accelerating action" on climate and vowed to "put science and facts first" in its output.
  • They're doing a 60-day review of their portfolio and also plan to "formalize clear criteria for climate communications." Edelman launched a new practice called Edelman Impact to direct its ESG and sustainability offerings.
  • Robert Casamento has joined the firm as its first global head of climate. His prior gigs include founding director of the World Economic Forum's global climate initiatives and top climate and sustainability roles at Deloitte and EY.

What they're saying: CEO Richard Edelman, in an interview, said this year's disasters — including flooding in Bangladesh and Germany and the California wildfires — helped spur the new efforts.

  • So did the UN climate science body's sobering August report. Edelman also said he's motivated by "disappointment" with the just-concluded UN climate summit, noting that countries' emissions pledges remain far off Paris agreement goals.
  • "I think the private sector is going to have to lead now," he said. "I'm really excited about the challenge that we have in front of us." He sees their work at the intersection of clean product development and consumer uptake, giving agriculture as an example.
  • "There may be product changes, and formulation changes, and ultimately, the producers will respond to consumer signals. And so I think we have a very important role to play ... it's on both supply side and demand side that we want to work," he said.

The intrigue: The climate push comes as PR and ad agencies are under growing pressure over their work with fossil fuel companies, including oil majors like Exxon. The group Clean Creatives launched last year.

  • An open letter last week with over 100 signatures from actors, advocates and others called on Edelman to drop those clients because "ending advertising and PR for fossil-fuel companies is a crucial step toward climate justice." Clean Creatives and the group Slow Factory organized it.
  • Advocates bashed Edelman yesterday because their new plan does not call for severing ties with Exxon and others. Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a climate expert who corralled signatures, said "the only reason not to drop them is greed — and lack of respect for our shared future on this planet."

The other side: "I believe in the energy industry. I think that they are making the transition. They are absolutely in a change mentality, in part because of shareholder pressure. And in part I think they see the business opportunity," Edelman told Axios.

  • "We work with oil majors. I'm proud of our work. I think that bigger question over time is, how we can help them express their transitions," he said.
  • However, asked broadly about the 60-day review, Edelman said that if clients are not committed to the new principles they announced, "then I think we'll withdraw from those relationships."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
14 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Oil industry CEOs on clean energy transition: You still need us

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pitch from CEOs of oil giants at a major industry gathering in Houston seems pretty clear — you need us.

Driving the news: Here's what Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said at the big World Petroleum Congress in Houston on Monday, via the Financial Times:

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Dec 6, 2021 - Energy & Environment

A fraught and rocky energy transition pathway

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Two wide-angle new essays explore how the global movement away from fossil fuels could be wrenching and geopolitically messy.

Driving the news: Adam Tooze's piece in Foreign Policy covers a lot of ground. One key takeaway: He warns that it's not clear if the red-blue U.S. political and policy divide will ever be successfully bridged, despite clean energy's growth in conservative states, its growing economic importance and Wall Street's increasing buy-in.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.