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The Guardian Bans Ads From the Fossil Fuel Industry

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A man reads a copy of The Guardian newspaper on Sept. 12, 2005 in London, England. Scott Barbour / Getty Images

The Guardian became the first major international newspaper to put an outright ban on accepting money from the fossil fuel industry, citing the industry's "decades-long effort" to subvert, undermine and prevent action to stop the climate crisis, according to The Hill.


The move was announced on Wednesday and went into effect immediately. It is the latest step in the Guardian Media Group's effort to reduce its carbon footprint, according to The Guardian. The Guardian has pledged to get its emissions down to net zero by 2030.

The new policy extends to all its publications, including the newspaper's British edition digital versions in the U.S. and Australia, print editions of The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, and The Guardian's digital apps, as The Hill reported.

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

The Guardian has some of the most robust and comprehensive policies regarding the climate crisis in the newspaper industry. It was one of the first to challenge the nebulous term "climate change" and replace it with language that expresses the urgency of the topic: "climate crisis" and "climate urgency."

"We need to tackle it now, and every day matters," Katharine Viner, the editor in chief, said when the policy on their language became official, as The New York Times reported.

To date, only a handful of small newspapers have stopped accepting money from the fossil fuel industry. The Guardian's move may force other large papers to rethink its revenue stream and activists have used the announcement to gather momentum to petition other news sources to stop from taking fossil fuel money.

The group 350.org, which asks for divestment from fossil fuels, has started an online petition to ask Reuters to follow The Guardian. It asks people who sign their petition to tweet out:

"Call on @Reuters to drop all fossil fuel advertising, following the @guardian's groundbreaking announcement! Sign the petition now:"

Environmental groups have argued that fossil fuel companies "green wash" their activities through expensive advertising campaigns that highlight their fairly small investments in renewable energies, according to The Guardian.

"For too long fossil fuel giants like BP and Shell, who are causing our climate emergency, have been able to get away with green wash advertising while investing 97 percent of their business in oil and gas," said Mel Evans, a senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, in a statement, as The New York Times reported. "Oil and gas firms now find themselves alongside tobacco companies as businesses that threaten the health and well-being of everyone on this planet."

Greenpeace had petitioned for an end to advertising in the media by oil companies. The activist group said other media, arts and sports organizations should follow suit.

Advertising makes up 40 percent of the Guardian Media Group's revenue. The fossil fuel industry's contribution to that is about $655,000. BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Total spent about $4.9 million on print advertising in Britain in 2019, according to Nielsen AdIntel, as The New York Times reported.

"It's true that rejecting some adverts might make our lives a tiny bit tougher in the very short term," the company said, as The Hill reported. "Nonetheless, we believe building a more purposeful organization and remaining financially sustainable have to go hand in hand."

The statement also added an optimistic note that some companies will be drawn to advertise with The Guardian because of their policy.

"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," as The Guardian reported.

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