Climate activists Tolmeia Gregory and Francesca Willow, attending Cannes Lions with Clean Creatives yesterday (21 June), held placards that read: “This person works with fossil fuel clients” and “This agency is happy to greenwash fossil fuels”, pointing towards Edelman chief executive Richard Edelman.
The pair followed Edelman with the signs and were photographed walking behind him on Boulevard de la Croisette when the Edelman chief executive is thought to have been walking to the Palais for a session about his PR firm’s research on brands and sustainability.
Willow said: “When we got word that Richard would be speaking at an event in Cannes with only one exit, we knew it would be a chance to provide essential transparency and visibility for this issue.”
“More than any other work he has done, this image represents Richard Edelman’s legacy,” said Duncan Meisel, executive director of Clean Creatives.
He added: “Unless he undertakes a major change now, Edelman will be remembered for his advocacy for major fossil fuel polluters at a time when scientific leaders, the UN Secretary-General, and his peers in the industry called for an end to fossil fuel advertising.
“Instead of walking away from young creators asking for change, Richard Edelman should be walking away from his fossil fuel clients.”
In response, an Edelman spokesperson told PRWeek: “Some groups may question our commitments to addressing climate change, but we strongly disagree with this characterisation of our work.
“Edelman is committed to supporting our clients on their sustainability journeys, including those in the energy sector.”
They added: “Our climate principles are a core foundation of our vetting process, and we only work with businesses and organisations who are aligned with the Paris Agreement and have published net-zero plans. We have parted ways with several clients and regularly decline new business opportunities because of this principled approach.”
In another act of disruption, Gregory addressed Amanda Edelman, chief operating officer of Edelman’s Gen Z Lab, and Edelman’s global chief operating officer, Allison Cirullo, at a panel talk. The activist asked Edelman to explain how it justifies the firm's ongoing work with fossil fuel clients.
“Edelman continues to prove that it is not taking the climate crisis seriously and is unwilling to discuss its impact openly,” said Gregory. “As a 23-year-old from Gen Z, it is my duty to advocate for my generation and ensure that companies like Edelman cannot get away without scrutiny.”
Clean Creatives is a campaign calling for an industry-wide pledge for creative agencies to refuse to work with fossil fuel corporations.
The group has gathered young climate activists and creators at Cannes Lions for the second year running, with the aim of increasing awareness of “how implicit the advertising industry is with the climate crisis”, according to the campaign group.
Over 600 agencies and 2,000 creatives and freelancers globally have committed to the Clean Creatives pledge.