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How PR Agencies Are Greenwashing The Climate Crisis Via Disinformation Campaigns

Some public relations (PR) agencies are greenwashing the climate crisis through widespread disinformation campaigns in Ireland, according to Irish EVs.

Image courtesy PlugShare

Some public relations (PR) agencies are greenwashing the climate crisis through widespread disinformation campaigns in Ireland, according to Irish EVs. Irish EVs pointed out that it has previously named the PR agencies that are working with Irish brands to help with “supposed sustainability campaigns, which are often nothing more than greenwashing,” and in its latest post, the article takes a hard look at the ethics of the approach of naming and shaming of those who reinforce greenwashing and how it impacts corporate accountability as well as transparency in regards to the climate crisis.

The creator of Irish EVs pointed out that their background was in PR and communications, and they’ve spent many years working in agencies that specialized in creating promotional campaigns for various brands and products. One thing the author noted is that these agencies have incredibly high-pressure environments where the workers are being pushed hard to bring in new clients and income while being told to be creative. It is a work culture that puts the worker as the middle-man between the brand and the agency’s owner, which pretty much makes the needs of the worker the lowest priority of the agency. So, keep this in mind as we continue on.

Why Transparency & Accountability Are Critical

The author pointed out that the issue with this is that you, the consumer, never actually interact with the brand itself, and you are also less likely to get any type of answer to a question you are asking them. The brand is also protected from ever facing public inquiries into the ethics of what the brand is doing. The power is in the hands of the PR agency, which lowers the ability of the average consumer to hold corporations accountable for the harm they may be doing.

One example of this is an incident involving the Irish Car Carbon Reduction Alliance’s (ICCRA) campaign of misinformation being run by Weber Shandwick in Dublin, Ireland. Irish EVs pointed out that the ICCRA’s E-Way 2040 initiative is promoting several factually inaccurate myths in order to lobby the Irish government to delay emissions regulations by a decade. This is to enable Irish car dealerships to increase their profit margins by selling higher polluting vehicles for an even longer period of time.

When Irish EVs reached out to the ICCRA for an explanation, Weber Shandwick sent them an email with an already prepared statement that didn’t answer any of their questions. Also, their emails for requests to speak directly with ICCRA as well as further inquiries went without an answer for many weeks. These included requests for comment from Weber Shandwick on why they were promoting a disinformation campaign when their website states “no fake news here, without truth there’s no trust.” You’ll have to scroll down some, but it’s there as of today.

Irish EVs pointed out that the ICCRA claimed the following for a bit, before changing it after their conversation:

“While they (internal combustion engine cars) do release emissions, new technological advances mean the levels are getting lower and lower and will disappear by 2030.”

The new statement still promotes the idea that ICE (internal combustion engine) car emissions are not as bad now as they were before.

“While they do release emissions, new technological advances mean the levels are getting lower and lower and will disappear altogether by 2030.”

The ICCRA also made this claim on their website:

“Just over 9,170 electric cars are on Irish roads at start of 2020. Reaching one million by 2030 is unrealistic. Let’s target 2040.”

It’s as if this organization is intentionally trying to convince the Irish government to procrastinate an extra decade when the reality is, we don’t have that luxury. Irish EVs pointed out that the changes were made by Weber Shandwich for ICCRA, which has no website, no publicly accessible email address, and is completely unaccountable, lacking transparency despite being given regular coverage in leading Irish publications.

These Campaigns Seem Like They Aim To Kill You And The Planet

IrishEVs gave two more examples of greenwashing by Irish fuel firms, Applegreen and Maxol. Each brand is running a PR exercise that presents the brand as “green” to the public while actively promoting the purchase of their most expensive fuel products.

These brands are, in essence, hiding behind the misinformation being spread by these PR agencies. In Applegreen’s case, its PR agency, Cullen Communications, told Irish EVs that their questions “cover areas beyond the topic of the current campaign,” despite the fact that they do.

Questions included:

  • Does Applegreen’s “Carbon Neutral PowerPlus” project offset the full carbon cycle of the fuel – from extraction to consumption – or will/does your project only offset the emissions created by the cars using your fuel?
  • Given that all current climate models demonstrate that offsetting is a redundant tactic without reducing carbon emissions entering the atmosphere, how can Applegreen justify this as anything more than greenwashing?
  • Will this project be audited by an independent body, and how often will the carbon offsetting be reported on?
  • What is the carbon footprint of your “PowerPlus” fuel from extraction to consumption, and how does this compare with the other fuels in your range?
  • Why was your “PowerPlus” fuel selected above the other fuels that you offer? And does this project extend to both the petrol and diesel “PowerPlus” options?
  • How many liters of “PowerPlus” fuel do you sell in Ireland each year? (Preferably a breakdown of petrol vs diesel if available) Are you working with a dedicated carbon offsetting partner, or is this being exclusively managed by Applegreen?
  • If using a partner, who is this? Where will your trees be planted, and what age and types of trees will you be planting? Is there a particular methodology behind your tree selection?
  • Aside from your “Carbon Neutral PowerPlus” project what measures are you taking to support electric car adoption across Ireland?
  • Will you be funding the roll-out of more EV chargers at Applegreen stations?
  • Can you provide any statistics on the number of planned chargers and when you expect these to come online?
  • Your “Achievements to date” list that your operations are run on 100% green electricity in Ireland. Where is this sourced from?
  • How much electricity does Applegreen produce in Ireland?
  • Are you planning to invest in renewable energy, such as roof-top solar, at any of your sites in Ireland?

Applegreen’s PR firm refused to answer any of those questions. Irish EVs noted that Maxo’s PR firm, Sherry Communications, was much more communicative and responsive, yet danced around the questions and didn’t really provide any answers.

I think Irish EVs was right to call out these PR firms for their part in greenwashing.

In these types of situations, I think that one should do as Elon Musk recently said in an interview: “Ask yourself, what does your heart say?” In other words, listen to your heart and go from there. If your heart is telling you that speaking out is the right thing to do, then trust that.

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Written By

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok


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