Household Brands Opt for Lower Profile at COP28


Over 200 private businesses—including major brands like Google, LVMH, Mastercard, Microsoft and Unilever—will have a presence at this year’s 28th annual United Nations climate summit, which kicks off today in Dubai.

But after climate activists criticized Coca-Cola’s sponsorship last year, many household names have chosen to keep a lower profile at the event—participating in panels and discussions but opting out of sponsor slots that would plaster their name across the summit’s signage.

“The focus this year is more heads down, getting the work done, than it is about branding opportunities,” Aron Cramer, CEO and president of sustainability consultancy BSR, told Adweek.

The summit, called the Conference of the Parties (COP) in reference to all the states that are party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is intended for world leaders to get together and agree on a way forward that avoids climate catastrophe, which, given the latest Emissions Gap Report 2023, is what we’re currently headed for. Greenhouse gas emissions hit an all-time high in 2022 and 2023 is looking to be the Earth’s hottest on record.

An oil-soaked summit

While the summit has faced criticism for years due to the outsized influence that fossil fuel lobbyists have had on negotiations, this year takes it a bit further.

The host country, the United Arab Emirates, is a petrostate—meaning that its economy is heavily dependent on the extraction of oil and gas. The president of COP28, Sultan al-Jaber, is the CEO of the country’s state-run oil business, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).

“The selection of the UAE as host was controversial when it happened, it’s been controversial in the run-up to COP, and it’s controversial now,” Cramer said.

The clear conflict of interest at the center of this year’s COP has led many climate advocates to approach the summit with cynicism. Some say it should be completely rethought, and others have pointed out that of the 24 brand sponsors, just one has set a net zero emissions target using the UN-backed methodology.

Compared to last year, which saw around 20 brand sponsors of the summit, this year’s list of sponsors are primarily banks, energy companies and government entities—many from the UAE itself. Siemens, IBM and global consultancy EY are listed as “pathway partners,” according to the COP28 website. The organizers did not immediately respond to Adweek’s questions regarding the different tiers of sponsorship.

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