United Nations chief backs ban on fossil-fuel advertising

Sportswashing is the practice of high-carbon companies using the positive image of sport to deflect from their problematic practices. It’s rife in football and is gaining an increasing foothold in running. 

We don’t want our sport to be a billboard for the fossil fuel industry, nor do we want to see the events we love doped with oily cash. That’s why we’ve campaigned for sportswashing to be kicked out of running. So, we were delighted when, on 5 June 2024, UN Secretary General António Guterres gave a hard-hitting speech calling time on greenwashing. We could have extracted a few quotes but that would do Mr Guterres an injustice, so here’s what he had to say about greenwashing in full:

“Dear friends,

“Many in the fossil fuel industry have shamelessly greenwashed, even as they have sought to delay climate action – with lobbying, legal threats, and massive ad campaigns. 

They have been aided and abetted by advertising and PR companies – Mad Men – remember the TV series – fuelling the madness. I call on these companies to stop acting as enablers to planetary destruction. Stop taking on new fossil fuel clients, from today, and set out plans to drop your existing ones.

“Fossil fuels are not only poisoning our planet – they’re toxic for your brand. Your sector is full of creative minds who are already mobilising around this cause. They are gravitating towards companies that are fighting for our planet – not trashing it.

“I also call on countries to act. Many governments restrict or prohibit advertising for products that harm human health – like tobacco. Some are now doing the same with fossil fuels.

“I urge every country to ban advertising from fossil fuel companies. And I urge news media and tech companies to stop taking fossil fuel advertising.”

The UN Secretary General may not be able to force governments, corporations and advertising agencies to pay heed, but he has sent out a clear message – the looming climate breakdown requires a rapid end to the advertising of fossil fuels industries. The good news is that change is happening (just take a look at Edinburgh City Council’s recent ban on fossil fuel advertising). Let’s keep the pressure on.

Thank you Mr Gutteres. This is why we will continue to take a stand against sportswashing.

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