Bailey Calfee
Oct 22, 2023

Clean Creatives, agencies urge B Lab to rethink B Corp certifications for agencies with fossil fuel clients

In the wake of Havas’ appointment as Shell’s media agency of record, Clean Creatives and other B Corp-certified agencies are demanding that B Lab strip accreditation from agencies with fossil fuel clients.

Greenpeace activists hold a billboard during a protest outside Shell headquarters in July, 2023. (Photo: Getty Images).
Greenpeace activists hold a billboard during a protest outside Shell headquarters in July, 2023. (Photo: Getty Images).

In partnership with anti-fossil fuel industry group Clean Creatives, 26 communications and advertising agencies have banded together to file an official complaint letter to B Lab, the nonprofit organisation which provides businesses with B Corp certification, demanding that agencies with fossil fuel clients lose their eligibility for accreditation.

Specifically, the letter asks B Lab to immediately declare and apply the same criteria that are used for fossil fuel and high polluting companies to the advertising and PR agencies that work with those clients, as well as the agencies’ parent companies. 

Clean Creatives noted this action is in direct response to Havas winning Shell’s media account in September. Four of Havas’ subsidiaries are B Corp certified, which has drawn criticism in the wake of the Shell win. Noting that Havas’ B Corp-certified subsidiaries will have to work on Shell, the letter argues that they will “play a vital role in the business of one of the world’s worst polluters.”

It adds that two other B Corp-certified companies, MSQ and Tam-Tam/TBWA, provide services for Shell and PetroCanada, respectively. 

“We believe certifying these agencies that directly support fossil fuel polluters devalues the principles and public image of B Corp agencies worldwide,” reads the letter.

According to Clean Creatives, allowing these agencies to retain their B Corp status weakens the value of a certification that many companies work hard to obtain and maintain. It adds, “allowing advertising and PR agencies with B Corp status to work with fossil fuel polluters undermines all of the listed core values of the Declaration of Interdependence.”

“B Corp certification stands for the highest standards of integrity in business, which is incompatible with providing advertising and PR services to fossil fuel polluters,” said Clean Creatives executive director Duncan Meisel in a press release. “It’s clear that a small number of agencies are undermining the true meaning and purpose of B Corp status to greenwash their work with fossil fuel polluters.”

Meiesel further noted that the complaint “provides B Lab with an opportunity to clarify their standards and protect the hundreds of B Corp agencies whose hard work and strong principles are being undermined by the cynicism of a small number of bad actors.”

The call-to-action builds upon an initiative started by UK-based Good Agency, which wrote to B Lab UK for clarity regarding the organisation’s stance on accrediting agencies with fossil fuel clients upon Havas’ Shell account win. 

“We are deeply disappointed by B Lab’s inability to clarify their position on B Corp agencies that take on fossil fuel clients or any B Corp that works with fossil fuel clients,” said Good Agency’s founder and CEO Chris Norman in the release. “This complaint demands immediate action and asks B Lab to not wait until they next review the standards, as in that time, those fossil fuel clients will have caused immeasurable and unmitigable damage.”

B Corp-certified companies must renew their accreditation every three years, meaning for now, Havas subsidiaries’ certifications will maintain their validity under the current guidelines, even if they work for Shell.

“It is important to clarify that we are not against B Lab: we want to build with them,” said Marian Ventura, founder of co-signing agency Done! Communications, in the release. “We are very proud of being a B Corporation, proud of being part of an ecosystem of inspiring business leaders, and we want to honor that seal of integrity that we work so hard to maintain every day.”

All of the letter’s 26 signees are B Corp certified and have taken the Clean Creatives pledge. Clean Creatives noted that overall agency pledges have increased since the release of this year’s F-List in September, now totaling more than 800, up from 500 in April.


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