Would you work on repositioning a fossil fuel brand?

Protesters outside the entrance to the COP26 summit on November 1, 2021 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (Credit: Getty)
Protesters outside the entrance to the COP26 summit on November 1, 2021 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (Credit: Getty)

As COP26 kicks off in Glasgow, global leaders plea for immediate action against the climate emergency.

Global leaders from more than 120 countries convened in Glasgow on Monday to kick off the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, with urgent pleas for action on the climate crisis.

The annual conference has drawn more attention this year as scientists warn that nations must take immediate, drastic action to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

At this year’s conference, global leaders aim to set new targets to achieve green energy consumption in an effort to stop the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with levels before the Industrial Revolution. It’s a benchmark which scientists say, if crossed, can lead to the worst effects of climate change.

In an address to delegates on Monday, President Biden touted the possible reduction of fossil fuel usage in the U.S. if a climate spending bill passes through the House and Senate. The prospects of the bill passing are unclear, however, despite the U.S. being the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gasses.

On the other hand, countries including China, Australia, India, Russia and Brazil have been called out for failing to set adequate targets for cutting emissions.

In light of the urgency, sustainability has become a bigger topic among U.S. companies, many of which have committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions or converting to clean energy in an effort to slow the crisis.

Big Oil companies are also attempting to adapt. BP, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, announced in 2020 it would scale back its oil and gas operations and invest in its offshore wind power and solar energy business, including possibly installing electric car charging stations at U.S. gas stations to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Shell has also committed to reducing carbon emissions from its operations, fuels and other energy products to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The oil company has started to offer electric vehicle charging stations, is generating electricity through solar and wind power, and has set a target to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

But fossil fuel companies, proven contributors to climate change, have been at the forefront of controversy surrounding the climate crisis. ExxonMobil and other oil giants appeared before congressional Democrats on Thursday after being accused of concealing evidence about the dangers of global warming.

In the advertising industry, oil and gas clients are big business. BP, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Shell have spent nearly $3.6 billion on advertising since 1986, according to a 2020 report led by Robert Brulle, a visiting professor of environment and society at Brown University. ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron spent a combined $223 million on digital and television advertising in 2019 alone, according to Kantar estimates.

But like Big Tobacco companies of the 20th century, Big Oil brands are losing their appeal, especially among younger workers who will have to live with the worst consequences of climate change.

Others have been put off by tactics used by energy giants to spin the climate narrative in their favor, spreading disinformation about climate change in the process.

In 2020, for instance, a coalition of ad industry employees called Clean Creatives called out individual agencies and PR firms that have worked with energy companies. Under WPP, for instance, Ogilvy was called out for working with BP and Mediacom for Shell. At Omnicom, agencies including BBDO and Ketchum have worked for ExxonMobil.

As energy consumption shifts, marketers are in a unique position to either lead the narrative or distance themselves from fossil fuel companies as they reinvent.

What would you do? Let us know in our latest Twitter poll.

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.com , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free