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The Guardian ends advertising from fossil fuel companies because of climate change

Jan 29. 2020
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By The Washington Post · Kim Bellware

The Guardian will no longer accept advertising from oil and gas companies and, in doing so, becomes the first major news organization to divest from industries that extract fossil fuels, company executives announced Wednesday.

Anna Bateson, the Guardian's acting CEO, and Hamish Nicklin, chief revenue officer, shared the news in a joint statement and said the move was driven in part by their own newspaper's reporting on the urgency of climate change and a need to be true to the company's values - particularly, they said, as fossil fuel companies continue to use their power to influence policies that harm the planet.

"Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world," Bateson and Nicklin said.

The policy takes effect immediately and applies to the Guardian's flagship paper in Britain; its American and Australian digital imprints, the Observer and Guardian Weekly print publications and all Guardian digital applications.

Company leaders admitted that the ban on fossil fuel advertising will test the company financially, although it wasn't immediately clear how much of a hit to revenue the new policy will account for; last year, 40% of the company's revenue came from advertising.

The Guardian's leaders also said they hope their decision will attract new, like-minded advertising partners and reader support and potentially balance the loss of revenue from the fossil fuel industry ban.

The new policy will not apply to what are considered high carbon-emitting industries, such as car manufacturing and travel. The Guardian said the decision to keep advertising with such industries may disappoint some readers, but ending those partnerships would be a "severe financial blow" that could force major cuts to the news product.

Environmental groups praised the news. Greenpeace called Wednesday's announcement "a huge moment in the battle against oil and gas for all of us!"

The Guardian's move is unique among traditional news organizations, where revenue models remain heavily reliant on advertising dollars, but the movement to divest from fossil fuel industries has gained traction in all corners of academic, religious, corporate and philanthropic spheres.

Heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune in 2014 announced that the Rockefeller Brothers Fund would divest from fossil fuel industries. The University of California system last year cut fossil fuel companies from its $70 billion pension fund and $13.4 billion endowment. Earlier this month, BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, said it would divest $500 million in coal interests.

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