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Media group takes hit

Guardian takes green stand with ban on fossil fuel adverts

The Guardian

Green guardian: the news group is taking a stand

The Guardian media group will no longer accept advertising from oil and gas companies in a stand against fossil fuels.

Its decision, which is effective immediately, is the first by a major global news organisation and the company has admitted that it will take a hit to its revenue.

The ban will apply to any business primarily involved in extracting fossil fuels, including many of the world’s largest polluters.

It will no longer accept advertising from fossil fuel extractive companies on any of the Guardian’s websites and apps, nor in the Guardian, Observer and Guardian Weekly in print.

In a joint statement, acting chief executive, Anna Bateson, and chief revenue officer, Hamish Nicklin, said: “Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world.”

It is thought the group has responded to claims that energy companies use expensive advertising campaigns to “greenwash” their activities.

Five years ago GMG shifted the investment portfolio of the Scott Trust Endowment fund — which supports the Guardian — away from fossil fuel investments, which now represent less than one per cent of its total funds.

It’s true that rejecting some adverts might make our lives a tiny bit tougher in the very short term

– Guardian statement

Advertising makes up 40% of Guardian Media Group revenue and Bateson and Nicklin said the ban would affect group income.

“The funding model for the Guardian – like most high-quality media companies – is going to remain precarious over the next few years,” they said. “It’s true that rejecting some adverts might make our lives a tiny bit tougher in the very short term. Nonetheless, we believe building a more purposeful organisation and remaining financially sustainable have to go hand in hand.”

They acknowledged that some readers would like the company to turn down advertising for any product with a significant carbon footprint, such as cars or holidays, but said this was not financially sustainable.

“Stopping those ads would be a severe financial blow, and might force us to make significant cuts to Guardian and Observer journalism around the world,” they said.

“We believe many brands will agree with our stance, and might be persuaded to choose to work with us more as a result. The future of advertising lies in building trust with consumers, and demonstrating a real commitment to values and purpose.”

Greenpeace welcomed the move. “This is a watershed moment, and the Guardian must be applauded for this bold move to end the legitimacy of fossil fuels,” said Mel Evans, senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK.

“Oil and gas firms now find themselves alongside tobacco companies as businesses that threaten the health and wellbeing of everyone on this planet.

“Other media outlets, arts and sports organisations must now follow suit and end fossil fuel company advertising and sponsorship.”

A number of major UK organisations have distanced themselves from fossil fuel firms.

The British Museum and the Royal Shakespeare Company have both dropped oil giant BP as sponsors, while the National Theatre has cut its partnership with Shell.

However, Channel 4 this month stood by its decision to partner with BP for its coverage of the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Energy companies diversify

The world’s 15 biggest oil and gas majors are currently investing 3% of capex budgets into renewables, according to new research.

As the world’s largest oil and gas companies face mounting pressure to address the climate emergency, new research from global law firm CMS reveals that a significant majority of the sample – equivalent to half of worldwide production – are adapting their strategy to invest in a more diverse energy portfolio. 

CMS worked with Capital Economics to examine the energy transition strategies of 15 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies to assess how far they are committed to new and alternative energy.

The research found that $209 billion could be invested by oil and gas majors by 2030 – an increase from 3% to 10% of capex budgets – if policies and commitments to the energy transition ramp up.

If existing policies continue, annual investment into renewables and carbon capture could rise from $7 billion currently to $10 billion by 2030 – totalling $100 billion over the period. 

In a rapid energy transformation, majors could invest $209 billion between 2019 and 2030. The annual investment figure could rise to $31 billion by 2030 – equivalent to 10% of their total combined annual capital expenditure.

Majors’ share of all investment in renewables would rise from the current 2.3% to 5.9% by 2030.

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