Guardian becomes world's first major media company to ban oil and gas adverts

Simon Austin's picture

The Guardian has banned advertising from oil and gas companies, becoming the first major global news organisation to do so.

The move was announced on Wednesday and will be implemented with immediate effect. The ban will apply to any business primarily involved in extracting fossil fuels, including many of the world’s largest polluters.

“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 acting chief executive, Anna Bateson, and chief revenue officer, Hamish Nicklin, said in a joint statement.

Environmental groups argue that energy companies use expensive advertising campaigns to “greenwash” their activities.

Advertising makes up 40% of Guardian Media Group revenue and Bateson and Nicklin said the ban would mean 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,” 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.”