Past Work

Over the past fifteen years, we worked to radicalise environmental debate in the UK, giving others the space to push for deeper change in policy, attitudes and values. This has ranged from highlighting the urgency of the problems we face (in Climate Safety and The Green Investment Gap) to producing pioneering research into the potential for transforming our energy system (in Zero Carbon Britain and The Offshore Valuation) to advocating radical policy solutions (in Energy Bonds and Carbon Omissions).

Media round-up: ECC demand coalition tackle outsourced emissions

The report of the Energy & Climate Change select committee – whose findings we’ve summarised here – has been receiving some good media coverage:

It’s now incumbent on the Government to respond with a convincing plan of action…

PIRC Radio 5 Live interview

Insomniac followers of PIRC may have already caught this, but at around 3am last night Radio 5 live’s programme ‘Up All Night’ featured a slot on the topic of outsourced carbon emissions by Julian O’Hallaran – including some (fortunately pre-recorded) comments by PIRC’s Guy Shrubsole.

You can listen again here (relevant programme is 2 hrs 5 mins in).

Select committee calls on coalition to tackle Britain’s outsourced emissions

This piece originally appeared on Left Foot Forward.

The influential Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Parliamentary select committee have today demanded the government take responsibility for the UK’s still-rising emissions, stating Britain “has to address its consumption if it is to make an effective contribution to a global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Whilst on paper, Britain’s carbon emissions have fallen by 19% since 1990, when measured on a consumption basis – by factoring in imported goods that the UK consumes – they have risen by 20% over the past 20 years.

As the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRCshowed through an investigation using Freedom of Information requests last year, ministers and civil servants have been fully aware of this extremely concerning trend for many years, yet done nothing – content to maintain a conspiracy of silence.

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Marketing and advertising that respects children’s rights

This piece by Guy Shrubsole originally appeared on the Guardian’s Sustainable Business Blog.

“Every day… some businesses are dumping a waste that is toxic on our children. Products and marketing that can warp their minds and their bodies and harm their future.” Not the words of some zealous activist, but those of David Cameron, just before the last election. They’re worth recalling today as Unicef launch their Children’s Rights and Business Principles.

Principle 6 states that businesses should “use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights”. That this ethic even needs spelling out speaks to the huge impact the commercial world increasingly has on children around the globe. Marketing to children is an increasingly lucrative industry – in the US, companies are estimated to spend $17bn a year targeting kids – and the means used to ensnare them in the consumerist net are increasingly pervasive.

From online ‘advertgames’ that blur the boundaries between commercials and entertainment, to recruiting children as peer-to-peer marketers, companies’ efforts at selling to kids are growing more insidious. The UN Principles recognise this concerning trend in stating that marketers must “consider factors such as… children’s greater susceptibility to manipulation” when conducting their business. And with good reason: as marketing academic and children’s campaigner Dr Agnes Nairn puts it, much marketing “operates darkly, beyond the light of consciousness”.

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IPA host debate on ethics of advertising

The IPA’s 44 Club are hosting a debate tonight entitled ‘Is advertising out of control?’, sparked by the questions raised in our report Think Of Me As Evil?.

Does advertising fuel consumerism or is consumerism just evolution? Join us on 20th February for a lively debate surrounding the social and cultural impacts of advertising on society.

Advertising is a form of communication that is used for the greater good of society, right!? Public service advertising has certainly proven to be an effective way to increase stroke awareness, promote energy saving and fight domestic violence for example, and yet the advertising industry is forever under threat as ad campaigns continue to push the boundaries between what’s acceptable and what’s not.

The ad industry should be held more accountable for its actions states the ‘Think of me as Evil?’report recently published by WWF-UK/Public Interest Research Centre. The report is aimed at opening up the key ethical debates in advertising. It suggests that the deeper impacts of advertising, particularly on social and cultural values, have not been called out and debated. But in the face of social, financial and environmental crises, the industry cannot bury its head in the sand on these issues any longer and must take on its responsibilities. As Avner Offer, Professor of Economic History at Oxford University put it, “despite its alarmist title, this is a careful evaluation of the costs and benefits of advertising. It makes a good case, on economic, social, and cultural grounds, for respite from the all-pervasive advocacy of consumerism.”

On 20th February at the IPA, Jon Alexander, co-author of the report; Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy & Mather UK; Guy Champniss, ex advisor to CEO of Havas and to World Business Council on Sustainable Development, and author of Brand Valuedand Jamie Whyte, Head of Research and Publishing at Oliver Wyman and ex philosophy lecturer at Cambridge University will battle it out on stage at a 44 Club event to answer the queston: Do the ill-effects of advertising outweigh the benefits? The panel will also touch on subjects such as, does advertising merely redistribute consumption? Is it simply a mirror of cultural values and one that enhances choice?

The event will start at 6.00pm with a drinks reception. The debate will begin at 6.30pm, followed by Q&A. The event will close at 8.00pm.

Cost: £24 (£20 plus £4 VAT) for members, £48 (£40 plus £8 VAT) for non-members

Advertising is everywhere – and greens need to take it seriously

This piece by Guy Shrubsole was originally published on Green Alliance’s Greener Living Blog.

What did you watch over Christmas? Sky’s new production of Treasure Island? A catch-up of season two of The Killing? Or… lots of adverts?

Whatever you watched, it’s very likely that you got treated to a high volume of advertisements. The average Briton is exposed to 250 TV commercials every week[1], and that’s just broadcast ads. Environmental campaigners and behaviour-change analysts rightly focus much of their attention on influencing editorial agendas – getting a cause into the news or ensuring a documentary about an issue is accurate. But to keep on ignoring the commercial advertising that surrounds such editorial agendas (and thanks to product placement, increasingly pervades them) would be a big mistake.

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Advertisers and activists respond to Think Of Me As Evil?

A round-up of various responses to our report from advertisers and activists – some enthusiastic endorsements, some, er, less so…