The Long History of PR-Led Climate Obstruction


Public relations firms have been working alongside the fossil fuel industry to obstruct climate policy for decades, and Edelman’s recent connection with the Koch network is the latest example.

Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, was working with the Koch network as recently as 2022—the same year that Edelman committed to a more robust climate strategy—according to publicly available tax documents first reported on by The Guardian. Known for funding climate denial front groups and its deep connections to the fossil fuel industry, Koch Industries and its sprawling network have been peddling climate disinformation for decades.

“PR and environmentally destructive companies—that’s a 100-year-old relationship,” said Melissa Aronczyk, media studies professor at Rutgers University. “So we shouldn’t be surprised that the PR industry is not at all neutral, and that it is very much committed to supporting fossil fuel interests if [the fossil fuel industry is] paying their bills.”

Despite the potential contradictions between Edelman’s climate commitments and its client roster, which includes “Big Oil” firms like Chevron and Shell, the relationship is not an anomaly. Rather, it falls in line with a long history of PR-led climate policy obstruction from local to global levels, said Aronczyk, who authored a 2022 book on the topic, A Strategic Nature: Public Relations and the Politics of American Environmentalism.

The trust illusion

The Koch network is a sprawling empire that includes oil extraction and refining, paper products, packaging materials, logistics, shipping and electronics.

While Edelman’s connection to the Koch Foundation was publicly disclosed in an IRS document required due to the foundation’s tax-exempt status, any relationships between Edelman and the network’s private counterparts would likely be kept confidential. Edelman did not answer Adweek’s question regarding whether it maintains relationships with other companies within the Koch network.

“We strongly disagree with the characterization of our work in recent articles and the ongoing campaign to undermine our public climate commitments and policies,” an Edelman spokesperson told Adweek via email. “Our work with the Koch Foundation ended in 2022. We are committed to our climate policy and playing an important role in the transition to net zero.”

1 2 3Next page

Related Articles

Back to top button