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In one of the most significant incidents of corporate morality in recent times, Edelman announced that it would no longer be using authors or photographs associated with Shell, Chevron and other oil companies.
All of the photographic content related to the five oil companies that Edelman uses in its app and on its website, plus all written content, is subject to review for compliance.
The move comes after weeks of vocal backlash, including from top politicians, journalists and others, urging the public relations firm to drop its ties to the companies.
The sudden switch has been made as part of Edelman’s commitment to “be ethical,” published last week on its website.
Bruno Sundin, vice president and director of global communications at Edelman, said in a statement: “Edelman is proud to share the values of advocacy, inspiration and empathy as a core component of our DNA. Ethics inspires all aspects of our business, and you will find that all we do is with an eye toward growth, change and positive impact.”
But this latest news is seen by others as a step backward for Edelman.
Daniela Sarré, global head of communications and business initiatives at the environmental nonprofit Water.org, which frequently speaks out against the economic practices of oil companies, said she welcomed the move.
“I am pleased that Edelman has listened to the loud voices calling for a comprehensive review of our relationship with these companies,” she said. “Having a clear and ethical contract with the companies we work with is crucial.”
Her organization has collected endorsements from more than 250 people demanding that Edelman drop Chevron, Shell and other oil companies from its clients.
“For decades, environmental groups have been fighting to clean up the world’s major oil and gas fields, including those around the world,” said David Comerford, an attorney for Water.org. “Edelman was complicit in business practices that harmed the environment, and now it should be called on to end these relationships.”
Edelman’s content and ability to communicate its messages will be felt most acutely on the mobile platform, where it represents nearly 20 percent of the app and website’s traffic.
The move comes on the heels of heavy criticism directed at the company in recent months, which was prompted in part by its involvement with the companies. In February, the environmental group Greenpeace accused Edelman of being in bed with polluters, citing the oil industry agency’s role as an influencer on campaigns linked to the daily press.
The company has remained silent on other oil industry issues such as resource extraction in the Middle East. Greenpeace cites its work with the Wahat al-Sahafa oil project as an example. The joint-venture between state-owned Saudi Aramco and oil giant Saudi Aramco is known as the Arabian Gulf Petrochemical Company, which has over 1 million barrels of crude oil storage and generating capacity.