Even as climate change becomes more devastatingly apparent—and Big Oil’s role in it increasingly irrefutable—major polluters like Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron and Saudi Aramco still have the world’s biggest advertising and public relations firms in their corner.
Industry activist group Clean Creatives today released its third annual F-List, which names 294 agencies that worked for fossil fuel companies in 2022 and 2023. It identified those relationships through public disclosures, lobbying reports, agency websites, awards submissions, portfolio sites and LinkedIn.
The F-List is “proof that we still have a problem that needs to be solved,” said Nayantara Dutta, researcher for Clean Creatives and author of the report. “Despite all of the carbon targets and net zero pledges, the advertising and marketing industry still promotes fossil fuel polluters.”
Building fossil-free momentum
Founded in 2020 as a campaign of Fossil Free Media, Clean Creatives aims to cut fossil fuel companies off from the talent and expertise of the advertising and PR industry.
It argues that given Big Oil’s track record of involving its ad and PR partners in its efforts to hide critical science from the public, lie about its impact on climate, and intentionally sow disinformation related to global warming, agencies that care about climate would do well to stay away.
So far, over 700 agencies, 1,900 individual creatives and 55 creators have signed Clean Creatives’ pledge to turn down work for fossil fuel companies, trade associations or front groups.
As the group was researching this year’s F-List, it noticed several changes. First, agencies were removing webpages highlighting their work for fossil fuel clients. Second, that work for carbon-intensive clients is migrating from big agencies to smaller, boutique, regional shops.
“Both of those trends are just a sign of the stigma increasing,” said Duncan Meisel, executive director of Clean Creatives. “[Working for fossil fuel clients is] less palatable, less exciting, less interesting to young creatives. And so you kind of have to hide it.”
The report demonstrates progress toward its goal in some areas. VaynerMedia and Media.Monks split with all fossil fuel clients after they were named in the 2021 and 2022 F-List reports.