January 13, 2022

How Oil Companies Greenwash (and the Campaign To Make Them Stop)

by How to Save a Planet

Background show artwork for How to Save a Planet

For decades, fossil fuel companies have fought action on climate change. They've done so directly – by challenging legislation that would help reign in emissions. But they've also done it indirectly, by funding organizations who lobby congress, launching fake grassroots campaigns, and perhaps most importantly, through advertising. These ads, according to Martin Watters at the nonprofit firm ClientEarth, are greenwashing. They help sow doubt about the fossil fuel industry's role in warming the planet. This week, we take a look at those ads and examine how they stymy the conversation on climate. We also talk to some people working hard to get rid of these types of ads. They aren't going after the fossil fuel companies directly. Instead, they're targeting the people who help fossil fuel companies greenwash their image: the ad creators. 

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This episode of How to Save a Planet was produced by Anna Ladd and Kendra Pierre-Louis. The rest of our reporting and producing team includes Rachel Waldholz, Hannah Chin, and Daniel Ackerman. Our supervising producer is Katelyn Bogucki. Our editor is Caitlin Kenney. Our intern is Nicole Welch. Sound design and mixing by Peter Leonard and Lonnie Ro with original music from Peter Leonard, Emma Munger, and Catharine Anderson. Our fact checker for this episode was James Gaines.

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Alex Blumberg: Welcome to How to Save a Planet. I'm Alex Blumberg, and this is the show where we talk about what we need to do to address climate change and how we make those things happen.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Exxon promo: Today, ExxonMobil is advancing climate solutions to help reduce emissions in high-emitting sectors, developing technology that can help address the growing global need for energy while managing the risks of climate change.]

Alex: And today's episode is brought to you by ExxonMobil. I'm just kidding. Kidding! This is still How to Save a Planet. What you're hearing right now, though, is an actual ExxonMobil ad.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Exxon promo: We can't solve climate change alone, so we're working with a global network of energy researchers.]

Alex: And this ad is an example of what Exxon and a bunch of other fossil fuel companies are saying right now, which is climate change is real, but we are part of the solution. And let's just consider the sheer chutzpah of that message right now. [laughs] So Exxon's internal documents, revealed in 2015 by Inside Climate News, show that they knew climate change was probably gonna be a problem going all the way back to at least 1977. But despite that, they spent decades fighting efforts to tackle climate change, and they helped fund a long industry campaign that sowed doubt about the science behind climate change.

Alex: And there's this one example of these types of efforts that I find so brazen: this was a document from an industry meeting that was leaked to the Times in the late 1990s. And the document lays out this proposal to cast doubt about climate change. In the document it says quote, "Victory will be achieved when average citizens recognize uncertainties in climate science." And quote, "Recognition of uncertainties becomes part of conventional wisdom." Also it goes on to say, victory will be achieved when quote, "Those promoting the Kyoto treaty—" which was the big climate treaty at the time "—appear to be out of touch with the mainstream."

Alex: So this was a big piece of the industry strategy throughout the '90s and early 2000s: cast doubt on climate science, raise questions, muddy the waters, delay any kind of serious climate action. And Exxon spent millions of dollars funding groups that were doing this stuff. And now they're spending millions of dollars telling us in ads like the one we just played, "No, no, no. Climate change is here, and we're a part of the solution!"

Alex: So what is going on here? That is what a man named Martin Watters and his colleagues at ClientEarth, an environmental nonprofit, wanted to know. They were seeing all these oil and gas industry ads touting green energy and climate solutions, and had the same question that a lot of us might have: are these ads BS or what?

Martin Watters: Essentially, we started this project, this research project called "The Greenwashing Files," where we looked at a number of big fossil fuel producers and polluters. And we wanted to see what they were saying in their advertising, and whether it stacked up.

Alex: And today on the program, we are going to dive deep into those greenwashing files. We're gonna talk about what Martin and his colleagues found when they looked behind those oil and gas ads. And we're gonna hear about a novel plan to get advertising firms to stop making these ads altogether. Greenwashing ads: what they are, and how some people are trying to end them by going after the people who make them. That's coming up after the break.


Alex: Welcome back. So greenwashing, as many people may know, is the practice of making something that isn't necessarily green or sustainable seem green or sustainable with marketing. And that guy we heard from before the break, Martin Watters, and the team at ClientEarth reviewed the advertising from nine of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world. And they compared what those companies were saying in their ads to what they were saying in other places, like to their investors in various filings and annual reports. And if the ads didn't match the reality, if what the company was saying didn't match what it was doing, they labeled the ads "Greenwashing." Martin and I watched one of the ads together that ClientEarth reviewed, an ad from Exxon called "Growing Fuel."

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Exxon promo: Some farms grow food. This one grows fuel. ExxonMobil is growing algae for biofuels that could one day power planes, propel ships, and fuel trucks, and cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half. Algae—its potential just keeps growing.]

Alex: Martin Watters, is this greenwashing?

Martin Watters: We would say yes. [laughs] Without a doubt, yes.

Alex: So let me ask you a question: is ExxonMobil growing algae to make biofuels that could one day power planes and trucks?

Martin Watters: Yes, they are.

Alex: And would that algae biofuel cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent?

Martin Watters: In the selected uses that it finds itself? Possibly.

Alex: In other words, the uses it talks about in the ad: powering planes, propelling ships, fueling trucks.

Alex: So those are the claims that they're making in the ad. Why then is this greenwashing?

Martin Watters: When we look at the figures, let's really drill down into the figures. ExxonMobil has been spending less than 0.2 percent of its total investments on biofuels like this algae each year. So that's nearly half of what it spends on green marketing.

Alex: A nonprofit called InfluenceMap estimated that Exxon spent $56-million on green marketing in 2018, which is almost twice as much as what ClientEarth says Exxon's average annual spend on biofuels has been for the last decade—around $30-million a year.

Martin Watters: So yeah, if we really, like, take a step back, it's spending more on its marketing, like ads like this, than what it is actually spending on growing the algae that is supposed to be solving the great energy crises of tomorrow. They're not lying necessarily.

Alex: Right.

Martin Watters: They're just maybe being misleading by omission. All good greenwashing has truth in it. There has to be some element of truth, but I mean, in Exxon's case, I mean, the algae that it's developing possibly could be an incredible new biofuel, but does it really intend for that biofuel that it's spending, like, such a minuscule amount compared to its overall budget, like, does it really expect that it's going to supplant all of the oil and gas production that it has and expansion that it has planned for the next, you know, 10 to 50 years? Is it going to replace all of that with algae?

Alex: So is Exxon planning to replace oil and gas with fuel from algae? The answer, according to Exxon's own documents, is no. We reached out to them, we reviewed various documents, and at the time this ad came out in 2019, Exxon had spent $300-million over the previous decade on biofuels. That's a lot, but not really compared to the amount a massive multinational oil company spends. By that point, Exxon had announced plans to spend 700 times more than that over the next seven years, mostly on expanding oil and gas production.

Alex: Now Exxon told us in an email that those numbers have since changed. Exxon is committing $15-billion over the next six years to what it calls lower-emissions technologies. This is stuff like reducing methane emissions on natural gas drilling sites, and investing in new technologies like carbon capture and hydrogen. Things that are needed definitely, but also a lot of this stuff that is complementary to their oil and gas business, and not a fundamental shift away from it.

Alex: The point is, if you go to Exxon's YouTube channel, you won't find many ads touting the fact that they plan to spend $120-150-billion through 2027 in new investment—most of which is still going towards fossil fuels.

Alex: And Martin Watters has a theory about why Exxon and other fossil fuel companies are focusing on the advertising messages that they're focusing on—messages that have switched from sowing doubt to claiming to be part of the solution.

Martin Watters: We think it is really, a lot of it is around having a social license to operate.

Alex: So a social license? This is simply the idea that the public accepts a company's right to exist and do business. And we don't really think about a social license that often because most companies just have one implicitly. But occasionally, companies—and sometimes entire industries—lose them. And a big example of this is the tobacco industry.

Alex: So in the '90s, it became clear that tobacco products were addictive and caused serious diseases. And so Congress held a bunch of hearings where they grilled tobacco industry executives and asked them point blank were their products addictive?

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Congressional hearing: I don't believe that nicotine or our products are addictive.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Congressional hearing: I believe nicotine is not addictive.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Congressional hearing: I believe that nicotine is not addictive.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Congressional hearing: I believe that nicotine is not addictive.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Congressional hearing: And I too believe that nicotine is not addictive.]

Alex: The problem was the industry had internal documents which showed that it did know that nicotine was in fact addictive, and that tobacco products caused serious diseases. And that they'd known about it for decades and lied about it to the public, and lied about it to the congresspeople in these hearings. This opened the door to increased regulation, massive lawsuits which cost the tobacco companies hundreds of billions of dollars, and forced them to pay for ads telling people on national TV that their products were deadly and addictive. You may have seen some of these ads like this one, which is just black text on a white background with a voiceover.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, tobacco advertisement: Smoking kills on average 1,200 Americans every day. Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukemia and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder and pancreas.]

Alex: Again, the tobacco industry had to pay for these ads saying that their product might kill you. Over the last two decades, cigarette sales in the US have dropped by almost half. Cigarette advertising has pretty much disappeared. Cigarettes have been banned from almost every public space. And tobacco went from being the '50s and '60s paragon of cool to a pariah. That is losing your social license.

Alex: And Martin Watters from ClientEarth says that he sees this marketing direction by the big fossil fuel companies emphasizing that they are part of the solution as an attempt to avoid the fate of the tobacco industry.

Martin Watters: Some companies are seeing the writing on the wall. And I suppose some of them are trying to maybe advertise their way so that they're not getting regulated out of business, trying to position themselves as we are, you know, on the right side of history, we are part of the solution. So therefore, this is the reason why we should exist.

Alex: We're not that bad. You don't have to come for us.

Martin Watters: Exactly, exactly.

Alex: We get it now. We're helping. We're not—yeah.

Martin Watters: And they're essentially saying that you don't need to focus on us because we've got it in hand. We are part of the solution in terms of when it comes to climate change.

Alex: No regulation needed.

Martin Watters: Exactly. Exactly.

Alex: And it makes sense that the fossil fuel companies pushing to avoid the fate of the tobacco industry would shell out for ads like this, but they aren't the only people involved in this process. What about the people making the ads? What responsibility do they bear? What if the people that the Exxons and BPs were shelling out money for these ads to, what if they refused to take it? That is the audacious dream of the person we'll be hearing from after the break—the man who's trying to convince the advertising industry to just say no to fossil fuel money. And we'll hear from an advertising creative who did say no, and got his whole agency to go along with him. That's all coming up after the break.


Alex: Welcome back. Before the break, we talked about the ways in which fossil fuel companies use ads to greenwash their image. And one person who found this trend especially disturbing was a guy named Duncan Meisel. He's a climate activist, and for years he'd worked with the international climate group 350.org. And he remembers in the run-up to the 2020 election, there was this flood of ads from fossil fuel companies. And one of the most chilling things to Duncan about these ads was how good they were.

Duncan Meisel: Almost like a little twee, a little hipster. Like, you saw these, like, young, hip people playing records. And then the ads would be like, "Didn't you know that your records are made of oil?"

[ARCHIVE CLIP, API advertisement: This is natural gas and oil. This is natural gas and oil. Whoo! This is natural gas and oil.]

Alex: That ad was one of several from the American Petroleum Institute. They're a trade group for the fossil fuel industry.

Duncan Meisel: These ads about how the American petroleum industry has reduced emissions by X percentage. And, you know, it's lower than ever, and things like that. Just kind of like, either don't worry about this or we've got it handled.

Alex: And all of these ads, says Duncan, were well produced, high budget and effective at what he sees as their very specific purpose.

Duncan Meisel: Which is to demobilize people, to make them think that climate action isn't a priority or is unrealistic enough that you could just let Exxon or whoever handle it. And therefore, don't go march, don't worry about who you're voting for. Think about other stuff, basically. And I think that's a really effective message. Like, I think that's a thing that a lot of people would be very comfortable to hear.

Alex: So Duncan and his friend Jamie Henn, who he had worked with at 350.org, are witnessing this and wondering what to do about it. And then they see another ad from a different industry.

Duncan Meisel: Jamie came across an ad for Phillip Morris about the quote "Smoke-free future."

Alex: This ad was nothing like the fossil fuel ads. It featured stock videos and images with text popping up on the screen—not even a voiceover. It looked like something anyone with a laptop and basic video editing software could make. And the message of this ad was sort of the tobacco industry equivalent to what the fossil fuel ads were saying: we know smoking is bad for you, and we want to help transition to a smoke-free future. We're creating new smoke-free products. We're part of the solution. But to Duncan, there was one big difference between the fossil fuel ads and this Phillip Morris ad.

Duncan Meisel: The ad was so poorly made, I actually thought it was a joke. I remember seeing this and being like, "Oh, they have terrible creatives. They don't have anyone sitting down and being like, 'This is how you'd actually persuade people that you're gonna transform your company.'" They didn't have anything credible to actually make the case for the transformation of their company. And as a result, I don't think they have a lot of credibility, and I think it's actually undermined their ability to persuade the public.

Alex: So you saw this ad and you were like, "This ad is so bad it must've been made by sort of like a very bottom-of-the-barrel creative agency.

Duncan Meisel: Essentially, yeah.

Alex: Uh-huh.

Duncan Meisel: And this has actually been a real transformation in the ad industry.

Alex: Right.

Duncan Meisel: Where companies are taking themselves out of working for tobacco companies, and they're doing it also just because it's icky. It's like people don't want to see this on their resume.

Alex: And this led Duncan to a question: can we get the creative community and the advertising community to feel about fossil fuels the same way they feel about the tobacco industry?

Alex: And then the hope would be and then fossil fuel ads will be as crappy as tobacco ads. [laughs]

Duncan Meisel: [laughs] Well, yeah. And the thought that I had with Jamie was that if we can go directly to creatives in the ad and public relations industry and get them to recognize the impact of creativity on fossil fuel pollution and climate change, and get them to commit themselves and then their companies to not work with the biggest polluters, then we can actually sort of drain talent out of working for the most destructive industries. That was the thought.

Alex: So Duncan and Jamie started a campaign called Clean Creatives, to try and make this happen. They set out on a persuasion campaign with some of the biggest and most successful ad agencies out there—ad agencies that had big oil and gas companies as clients, as well as those that didn't. And in the beginning it was a little rocky.

Duncan Meisel: We started with a really kind of classic activist approach of, like, you shouldn't work for oil companies because climate change is bad. And, like, tah-dah! Message over.

Alex: Right. [laughs]

Duncan Meisel: And I think what we really learned is that, like, the first target of oil industry propaganda is their agency. They have to believe the message on some level that they're putting out. I don't think anyone at an agency actually sets out to send a misleading message. I think they kind of talk themselves into. It's like, "Oh, we really do think that Shell has net-zero ambition, and we're willing to do this communication with them because we trust them now. And we've had these communications and sat down with them." So figuring out that there's that element of, like, propaganda that sort of like has to be spread to your agencies in order to persuade them to work on this stuff was a light bulb.

Alex: Because your thinking was like, probably the agencies are just sort of holding their nose and taking the money, but they know that it's sort of BS what they're doing.

Duncan Meisel: Yeah.

Alex: And that actually wasn't what you were finding. What you were finding was sort of like, the oil companies are pitching the agencies and saying, "No, this is real, this is legitimate. And you can feel good about spreading this message because we've seen the light and we're trying to change."

Duncan Meisel: And if it's not always a hundred percent feeling good, it's sort of enough to take the edge off.

Alex: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Duncan Meisel: "Okay, fine. We'll do this. It may not be the thing we love most, but we'll work with it." That kind of energy.

Alex: Once Duncan and Jamie figured this out, they changed their approach to one that resonated with the core values of the agencies they were talking to.

Duncan Meisel: You know, these companies? A lot of them have sustainability pledges of one kind or another, where they're, like, reducing the impact of waste in their offices, or they want to power their offices with renewable energy, they want to reduce travel. Things like that.

Alex: The advertising companies do?

Duncan Meisel: Yes, exactly. And learning to connect the dots between those commitments and the work that fossil fuel companies are doing with their ads, and just sort of like recognizing, like, that has an impact. Great, use less disposable cups. Your clients? The impact of that is much greater, and here's how you're actually impacting the pollution. And building those connections.

Alex: Right.

Alex: Duncan and Jamie have been at this for a little over a year—they launched Clean Creatives in November of 2020. And at this point, they've gotten more than 700 creatives to sign what they call the "Clean Creatives Pledge," which says I will decline future work from the fossil fuel industry. Advertising works under a star system, and the talent or creatives drive that system. If ad companies have clients that the most talented creatives refuse to work with, that can affect those companies' ability to do business.

Alex: And the more advertising professionals they talk to, the more arguments they come up with that add to their persuasion campaign. For example, another argument Duncan and his team started to use: being associated with these oil and gas companies might not be in an advertising agency's long-term business interest.

Duncan Meisel: The example I like to give is that, in 2011 when I first really started working on climate issues with 350, Exxon was the richest company in the history of money.

Alex: Right.

Duncan Meisel: And then, you know, they were removed from the DOW. And that's an incredible change of fortune. And I really think it's indicative of, like, where this industry is going. And if you're thinking about, like, what is the future? It's not Exxon anymore. They don't have the same economic weight that they once did.

Alex: Right.

Duncan Meisel: And then the other thing we started to point out is like, really the places of tension with other companies. And so, you know, there's a huge ad company, McCann, that for a long time was Exxon's, you know, agency of record, and now works for like Aramco and still Exxon in some places. And one of their big clients is GM, and GM made a $10-million ad buy where they put, you know, Will Ferrell in the Super Bowl, and it was all about their electric vehicles.

Alex: That was the Norway is beating us in electric vehicles ad?

Duncan Meisel: Exactly. Right.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Will Ferrell: Did you know that Norway sells way more electric cars per capita than the US? Norway! [laughs] Well, I won't stand for it!]

Duncan Meisel: GM, like, needs a lot of public policy to be able to do that, right? They need huge investments in charging infrastructure. They need huge investments in the grid.

Alex: Right.

Duncan Meisel: And all those investments that GM needs are the things that Exxon and Aramco need to stop. And if you have both those sets of clients, like, there's a real tension there. Like, you are actually making GM's main business priority a lot harder when you are working for Exxon and Aramco. And, like, I don't know. I think if you asked someone who worked at McCann would you rather work for Exxon or GM? The answer is GM a hundred percent of the time. It's a consumer-facing brand, they get to, like, do fun, creative stuff with Will Ferrell. It's not just like, isn't it great that Exxon is investing in carbon capture and storage? Like, it's actually interesting work.

Duncan Meisel: And I just think that that's a business question. That's not just like a moralizing question. That's like a "Which side of this do I want to be on?"

Alex: Which is not to say that GM is the Sierra Club or anything, right? This ad is also greenwashing to an extent, highlighting the EVs. GM also has its own history of fighting climate-friendly fuel efficiency standards for cars, for example. But GM does seem to be committing real resources to transitioning to electric vehicles. And Duncan's point is simply: you can't choose GM and Exxon anymore. You have to choose GM or Exxon.

Duncan Meisel: Right. It's a choice that you have to make.

Alex: [laughs] And how does that argument go over?

Duncan Meisel: It is something that people chew on, and I think it really is, like, thought provoking. And the way that we try to approach this is we are polite but we are pointed. And our goal is always to keep the conversation going. We really just want to recognize that it may be a journey for some agencies that have built their business with this assumption in mind. But we'll put the argument out there, and the door's always open to circle back and chat some more. And it really, I think, actually kind of sticks with people. This is not just, you know, kind of the cranky activist thing, but this is something that has now reached 700, 1,000 people who've taken the pledge that we've put out. I mean, the call's coming from inside the house at this point. This is something that advertising and creative professionals want to see happen. And agencies can choose to be a part of that transition or not.

Alex: One person who heard Duncan's message and took up the call was an associate creative director named Adam Lerman. Adam works at a mid-sized creative agency called Mustache Media, and about halfway through my conversation with Duncan, Adam hopped on the Zoom call to join us. And Adam said that before joining Clean Creatives, his firm didn't do a lot of work for big oil and gas companies, but there were some projects that he'd worked on that he wasn't that proud of.

Adam Lerman: We have done some engagements with these kinds of companies. I personally was involved in two projects where we were creating these mini-documentaries about people doing great things. One of them was we were looking at a regenerative farmer, and there were really positive things about the way they've changed their lives. Or look at this engineer who's changing the face of transportation in some ways. Yes, there are products from a very large petrochemical company that happens to play a role in these people's lives, which is why that company is funding this documentary. And there was a lot of conversation about do we do this? And at that moment, the company made a decision to take this work. And so I participated in this job, and it was a very frustrating experience. And we at Mustache recognized the mistake that we made then, and have had some very healthy and honest conversation about that.

Alex: What was the mistake, if you had to put it into words?

Adam Lerman: The mistake is you are deceiving the public by building a false association with climate-positive entrepreneurs or practitioners, and connecting them with a company whose mission is inherently the opposite.

Alex: Yeah.

Alex: So Adam started working on his company leadership, trying to convince them to sign Duncan's pledge to join Clean Creatives. And he said it was very important to make his argument in a way that would resonate with his leadership. He wanted to make the case that signing up with Clean Creatives was already in line with their values as a company. In particular, the pledges his company Mustache had made around equity and anti-racism. And so he laid out how oil and gas companies contribute to environmental racism, how refineries are typically located in communities of color.

Adam Lerman: In looking at our larger mission to be an anti-racist company, we had to discuss the intersectional relationship of environmental racism with social injustice and connect those dots. So if you are going to be an anti-racist company, you don't get to cherry pick what kinds of racism you do or do not stand against. You're anti-racist? You stand against all forms of racism. Environmental racism is one of those forms. It seems then that if you were standing against social injustice, you would stand against the work of those companies.

Alex: Mm-hmm.

Adam Lerman: Obviously, every industry has problems of social and environmental wrongdoing. We can't say no to everything all at once, right? We need to keep the lights on, we need to keep our employees paid. But let's start at the top of the funnel, the worst perpetrators of environmental racism, and let's say no starting there. That's a very big decision to make. Even though it's not necessarily at any given point a large amount of our revenue, it's still, you know, a possibility. You never know when someone's gonna come around the corner and go, "Hey, can I give you $8-million to do this big activation?" You're a business. It's very hard to say no to money.

Alex: It took a year of conversations for Adam's leadership to get comfortable with the idea. But they did. And a few months ago they signed the Clean Creatives Pledge, formally declaring they will not take money from the oil and gas industry.

Adam Lerman: So I'm very proud to have been able to be a part of a measurable action that in some way achieves aligning actions with values at the company. What I'm more excited about is not how that impacts this agency, what's more important is that other agencies see this as a nod of permission.

Alex: And also, there's this.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Carolyn Maloney: This is a historic hearing. For the first time, top fossil fuel executives are testifying together before Congress, under oath, about the industry's role in causing climate change and their efforts to cover it up.]

Alex: That was representative Carolyn Maloney from New York. And she, along with representative Ro Khanna from California, recently co-chaired a hearing to address climate misinformation by oil and gas companies. They called on the leaders of ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron, Shell and yes, the American Petroleum Institute to testify. Here's representative Ro Khanna.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Ro Khanna: Today, the CEOs of the largest oil companies in the world have a choice: you can either come clean, admit your misrepresentations and ongoing inconsistencies, and stop supporting climate disinformation. Or you can sit there in front of the American public and lie under oath.]

Alex: After the hearing, the House subpoenaed those companies for more information, citing the quote "Industry's ongoing efforts at climate disinformation and preventing meaningful climate action." And many people think that hearing was just the first in what will likely become a series of hearings, reminiscent of the tobacco industry hearings. Is there, in other words, a tobacco moment coming for oil and gas? And if there is, will the advertising firms who helped spread their messaging be caught up in it? Adam Lerman at the ad agency Mustache says that for people who work in advertising, this last question could be a real concern.

Adam Lerman: We're seeing in court cases on an international stage, on a national stage, on a state level, there are now lawsuits that are beginning to look at the role of agencies in this work, and breaking the law. And there's essentially a rule that we will not lie or misinform the public, right? You can't deceive the public. You can't say, "Oh, these chips have no trans fats in them," and then you're selling them and the chips have trans fats in them, right?

Alex: We will be following closely these hearings in congress, and what impact they may have on fossil fuel companies and the creative agencies and PR firms that work with them.

Alex: That is our episode for today. We have just one thing left, of course, the patented How to Save a Planet calls to action—which aren't actually patented. Here they are: if you are an ad professional, you can consider signing the Clean Creatives Pledge yourself, or even maybe do what Adam did and push your company to sign the pledge as well. You can learn more at CleanCreatives.org.

Alex: For those of us who do not work in advertising, there are still actions we can take. If you work for a company that is, by chance, a client of the influential PR firm Edelman, Clean Creatives is running a campaign to get Edelman clients to pressure the company to drop their fossil fuel work. In recent years, Edelman has been responsible for promoting the oil-carrying Keystone XL pipeline, and has for years worked with the American Petroleum Institute.

Alex: There's also growing pressure to stop publications from running ads. A campaign called Ads Not Fit To Print is a campaign to get the New York Times to stop running fossil fuel ads. There's precedent for this. In 1999, the New York Times pledged to stop running cigarette ads. You can learn more about this at AdsNotFitToPrint.com.

Alex: And as always, we'll put links to all of these in our show notes and in our newsletter, where you can learn more about climate disinformation and the role of advertising and climate. You can sign up for our newsletter at HowToSaveAPlanet.show. You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter @how2saveaplanet with the number 2.

Alex: How to Save a Planet is a Spotify original podcast and Gimlet production. It's hosted by me, Alex Blumberg.

Alex: This episode was produced by Kendra Pierre Louis and Anna Ladd. The rest of our reporting and producing team includes Rachel Waldholz, Hannah Chinn and Daniel Ackerman—welcome Daniel! Our supervising producer is Katelyn Bogucki. Our editor is Caitlin Kenney. Our intern is Nicole Welch. Sound design and mixing by Peter Leonard and Lonnie Ro, with original music by Peter Leonard, Emma Munger and Catherine Anderson. Our fact checker for this episode is James Gaines. Thanks to all of you for listening. We'll see you next week.

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