The Guardian will become the first major global news organization to ban outright advertising from oil and gas companies that extract fossil fuels. It will no longer accept advertising and take money from fossil fuel firms.
The company announced the move on Wednesday following the efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and increase reporting on the climate emergency, and that will be implemented with immediate effect. Businesses, including many of the world’s largest polluters that are primarily involved in extracting fossil fuels, will come under the purview of this ban.
“Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world,” the company’s acting chief executive, Anna Bateson, and the chief revenue officer, Hamish Nicklin, said in a joint statement.
According to them, the response to global heating was the “most important challenge of our times,” and it highlighted the Guardian’s reporting on how energy companies’ lobbying has explicitly harmed the environmental cause.
Environmental groups have long argued about the expensive advertising campaigns that energy companies use to “greenwash” their activities by highlighting their relatively small investments in renewable energy while continuing to make the most of their revenue from fossil fuel extraction. Although they have called for news outlets to reject such advertising, until now, only a handful of small outlets have adopted this approach.
Last year, Katharine Viner, the editor-in-chief, announced, the Guardian would adjust its style guide using terms like “climate emergency” and “global heating” rather than “climate change” and “global warming” for representing the scale of the environmental challenge facing the Earth. The company has emphasized the commitment of becoming carbon-neutral by 2030 at a corporate level while divesting its Scott Trust endowment fund almost entirely from fossil fuel investments.
While the business is facing substantial headwinds this year as the Guardian Media Group (GMG) board warns, the decision to reject the advertising money from fossil fuel firms comes at a crucial time for the media industry. Advertising makes up 40% of GMG revenue, which is a critical way to fund the journalism produced by Guardian and Observer journalists worldwide.
Bateson and Nicklin said the ban would result in a financial hit. “The funding model for the Guardian – like most high-quality media companies – is going to remain precarious over the next few years. 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 organization and remaining financially sustainable have to go hand in hand.”
Guardian acknowledged that several readers would like the company to refuse advertising for any product having a significant carbon footprint, including cars or holidays; however, it said this was not financially sustainable as the media industry’s business model remained in crisis.
“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.
Hoping the readers would support the Guardian’s journalism by continuing to sign up as members, they added, though, for years to come, advertising would remain a key source of funding. As a result, the pair hoped that the decision to ban fossil fuel adverts would appeal to other companies that wanted to advertise with the Guardian.
“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, the campaign group, 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 organizations must now follow suit and end fossil fuel company advertising and sponsorship.”