In an era where environmental concerns demand urgent action, the need for transparency and genuine commitment to climate issues is paramount. Recent allegations surrounding global communications firm Edelman and its alleged involvement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have raised concerns about greenwashing and the credibility of PR agencies in the fight against the climate crisis. As UAE allegedly employed public relations and lobbying firms to promote their upcoming role even before this year’s COP28 started.
Edelman allegedly publishes its annual “Trust Barometer” report, which gauges public trust in various institutions, while accepting money from major oil companies to provide them with a PR facelift and conceal their detrimental practices.
Greenwashing serves as a distraction for the public and hinders governments from taking necessary actions against these polluting entities. It enables fossil fuel companies to feign innocence regarding their significant contribution to the climate crisis.
Enhancing Perceptions: A Glance on UAE’s Strategy:
With the upcoming hosting of Cop28 in November 2023, the UAE is strategically positioning itself as a leading force in addressing climate-related matters. Notably, the Emirates allegedly sought the assistance of public relations and lobbying firms well in advance of the conference, surpassing the promotional efforts of previous host nations. This proactive engagement raises questions about the underlying intentions and credibility of these endeavors, suggesting an intensified Emirati influence on both Cop27 and Cop28.
An indication of the UAE’s commitment to shaping its image as a host country for Cop28 is reflected in the actions of Masdar, a renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi and led by Jaber. In September 2022, Masdar reportedly hired three PR strategists to support the UAE’s role in hosting Cop28. While the exact details of this arrangement remain undisclosed, it underscores the UAE’s efforts to bolster its position as a climate leader.
Documents submitted to the US Department of Justice shed light on the UAE’s comprehensive approach to enhancing the perception of its climate-related efforts. The UAE reached out to media entities with the explicit aim of positively shaping public perception. Concurrently, they targeted senators and congresspeople, acknowledging their diverse voting histories on legislation related to the climate crisis and fossil fuels. This multi-pronged strategy demonstrates the UAE’s proactive engagement in lobbying and public relations activities to consolidate support for its climate-related initiatives.
In addition to their ongoing contracts valued at a minimum of $10 million with US-based firms for lobbying and public relations, the UAE has directed lobbying efforts specifically towards Cop28. These endeavors seek to cultivate a favorable perception of the UAE and its political and economic relationships during the conference. By investing in various avenues to enhance their image, the UAE aims to leverage its position as the host country to solidify its standing as a global leader in addressing climate challenges.
Edelman’s Alleged Role and Fossil Fuel Connections:
Recent reports indicate that Edelman, a prominent PR firm known for its extensive contracts with Saudi Arabia, has allegedly been enlisted to work for Masdar, a UAE renewables company, during Cop28. This association raises questions about the firm’s role in promoting the UAE’s hosting of the conference.
In light of Jaber’s appointment as the Cop28 president, Edelman, a US-based public relations agency, sent out an email to numerous journalists, emphasizing the UAE’s investments in renewable energy. This indicates that Edelman is actively defending the UAE’s position as the host of Cop28. However, specific details regarding the payment for Edelman’s services remain undisclosed.
Eleanor O’Keeffe, Edelman’s senior director of corporate sustainability for the EMEA region, expressed that while expectations for Egypt’s COP27 might be modest, they will be considerably higher for the UAE’s Cop28. This statement by a senior Edelman representative further suggests that the firm’s involvement with the UAE is aimed at supporting its role as the host of Cop28.
Last year, we made a commitment to be the agency of choice for organizations dedicated to climate action,” said Michael Bush, a spokesperson for Edelman. Bush also said the agency had been hired to work on Cop28 through its engagement with the Emirati renewable energy company Masdar. However, the source of payment has not been disclosed.
The firm’s association with fossil fuel companies like Shell and ExxonMobil raises doubts about Edelman’s genuine commitment to climate action. This discrepancy between its client portfolio and stated values calls into question the sincerity of Edelman’s efforts in addressing environmental concerns.
It is imperative for Edelman to address these concerns and reconcile any perceived conflicts of interest. Transparency and clear alignment with genuine climate action are essential in building trust and ensuring the effectiveness of PR efforts in combating the climate crisis.
The Trust Barometer Paradox:
Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report, which measures public trust in institutions, carries significant weight in shaping perceptions and influencing decision-making. However, the irony arises when Edelman accepts payments from major oil companies while attempting to evaluate public trust. This paradox undermines the integrity of the Trust Barometer report and raises concerns about the potential greenwashing of Edelman’s clients’ harmful practices.
Greenwashing’s Impact and Hindrance:
Greenwashing, as a deceptive practice, not only misleads the public but also delays essential governmental action against polluting entities. By obscuring their actual contributions to the climate crisis, fossil fuel companies continue to evade accountability. Edelman’s involvement in greenwashing not only distracts the public but also undermines genuine efforts to combat the root causes of the environmental crisis.
Protests against Edelman:
Extinction Rebellion, a UK-based movement, has demanded that global communications firm Edelman, which has been producing its annual Trust Barometer report since 2000, reveal the truth about its connections to fossil fuel companies. Notably, Edelman’s current clients include Shell, Exxon Mobil, and Sultan Al Jaber, the president of COP28 and the head of Dubai’s state oil producer, who supports the UAE’s hosting of Cop28 in 2023. The Extinction Rebellion staged a protest at Edelman’s UK offices in London today to expose greenwashing and directly convey their message to the agency’s employees. The demonstration highlights the irony of Edelman publishing its annual “Trust Barometer” report, which gauges public trust in various institutions, while accepting money from major oil companies to provide them with a PR facelift and conceal their detrimental practices.
As the world faces an escalating climate crisis, holding institutions accountable for their actions
is crucial. The alleged alliance between Edelman and the UAE, along with existing ties to fossil fuel companies, raises concerns about the firm’s commitment to authentic climate action. Extinction Rebellion’s demand for transparency highlights the importance of integrity and the need for PR agencies to align their practices with the urgent global efforts to combat climate change. Only through genuine accountability and decisive action can we pave the way for a sustainable future free from greenwashing and deception.