PR agencies must look inward amid race to counsel brands on climate

Understanding your carbon footprint and taking steps to neutralize climate impact are complex problems—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

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The PR industry is facing some important choices as it navigates the growing distaste for companies that have a draconian impact on climate and sustainability issues.

Some of the biggest PR firms are touting their reputations as climate advocates while still taking money from notorious polluters and organizations that have been aggressive climate change deniers. It’s a dilemma that has been growing for PR pros who have traditionally worked to repair the reputations of entities that the public found unpalatable. Now, consumers are also learning about the PR companies working to launder the reputations of controversial firms such as American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturer—and the reputational harm is metastasizing.

Can a PR firm still claim to champion the climate and green policy while taking money from oil lobby groups?

“The short answer is no,” says Eric Yaverbaum, president of Ericho Communications. “It’s entirely possible for a firm to have clients who run counter to their own personal values (though that’s something each firm has to decide for itself), but a firm cannot brand itself on values that it’s also working against.”

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