Havas London Targeted by Climate Activists Over Agency’s Relationship with Shell 

The protest followed a tip-off that the global comms agency may take on more work for the oil major.
Ellen Ormesher
on
Extinction Rebellion protested ad agency Havas's relationship with Shell on Jan. 25, 2024. Credit: Extinction Rebellion

For the second time in four months, climate activists have gathered at the headquarters of Havas London to protest the ad agency’s relationship with Shell.

According to the group, Extinction Rebellion or XR, Thursday’s protest was spurred by a whistleblower’s tip-off that Havas would be meeting with Shell to discuss new work for the fossil fuel giant.

The trade publication Campaign recently reported that Shell’s global PR account is up for review this quarter. 

Caroline from Scientists for XR said that the group received a positive reception from Havas employees, “who are by and large young creatives.”

“At least two employees told us they had handed in their notice and resigned over the company’s association with Shell and the threat of it losing its B Corp status,” she said.

Ben, who was among the activists occupying the Havas foyer, added that there were lots of comments of support from employees as they came in. “Many thanked us for our action.”

Both protestors declined to provide their last names in order to protect their identities. 

In September, following the news that Havas had won Shell’s global strategic media buying contract, XR staged a die-off in the Havas London reception area. 

The revelation of the Shell deal put Havas under fierce scrutiny both inside and outside the advertising industry, as it appeared to undermine multiple public statements by Havas CEO Yannick Bolloré that climate change is among his major concerns as the head of one of the world’s largest ad agencies.

Shell, the world’s fifth largest oil company, spent around 220 million euros ($240 million) on this type of advertising in 2022, according to AdWeek. 

Shell has been moving away from previous commitments to boost clean energy spending in recent years and instead plans to invest $40bn in oil and gas production between 2023 and 2035.

Havas had previously staked much of its reputation on prioritising sustainability, pledging to reduce its carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and boasting four B Corp certified agencies under its umbrella, including Havas London.

However, a recent investigation by DeSmog detailed longtime ties between the Bolloré family’s business empire — which includes Havas — and the global fossil fuel industry. These have included oil and gas shipping and logistics services in several African nations, as well as currently supporting the construction of Canada’s first liquid natural gas (LNG) export terminal, LNG Canada — a project being led by Shell.

According to insiders who spoke with DeSmog, Havas UK staff were largely unhappy about the agency’s Shell deal last year, and the deal was opposed by Havas’s UK leadership.  

Havas declined DeSmog’s request for comment.

Ellen Ormesher
Ellen is a reporter with interests across climate, culture and industry. She was previously a senior reporter covering sustainability at The Drum. Her work has also been featured in The Guardian.

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