DeSmog

Red Flag Consulting

Background

Red Flag Consulting is an Ireland-based PR firm. The firm was founded in 2013 by Karl Brophy and reportedly promotes itself as the “‘eyes and ears in Europe’ for US-based clients.”1Clients watch firm in legal glare,” Independent.IE, March 25, 2018. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/OaOX2

A report by the consultancy on what a hard Brexit would mean for the agriculture sector said Red Flag “informs significant decisions for major multinational companies and sectoral organisations” by “partnering with think-tanks, academics and other experts”.2The EU Meat Industry in a Hard Brexit Scenario,” UECBV – Red Flag. Archived November 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In 2017, the company reportedly hired former Trump White House advisor Andy Hemming, who had also previously served as “research director” for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.3Ciarán Hancock. “PR agency Red Flag hires former White House adviser,” The Irish Times, September 23, 2017. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/XFuoO

Stance on Climate Change 

In 2019, Farming Independent reported that a collection of Irish agricultural organizations had hired Red Flag for “public relations and lobbying advice to counteract negative sentiment about farming in relation to climate change.” The PR firm’s work for US agricultural interests was cited in that report, which indicated that “Red Flag won a competitive tender to spearhead the operation, with its experience of working with the meat industry in the US a key factor for the alliance.”4Margaret Donnelly, Claire Fox. “Agri-food alliance brings in big guns to fight negative press,” Farming Independent, September 17, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/UYIeI

Red Flag was instrumental in setting up the astroturf Freedom To Farm campaign to demand the controversial weedkiller produced by Monsanto, glyphosate, not be banned by the EU, it was reported in 2018.5James Moore. “PR company accused of using ‘tobacco lobbyist tactics’ to promote weedkiller linked to cancer,” The Independent, October 16, 2018. Archived November 6, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/wPfH2

Red Flag drew attention from environmental activists Extinction Rebellion in October 2019, who protested outside Red Flag’s Dublin office. An Extinction Rebellion statement objected to Red Flag’s work for the meat and dairy industry on climate change.6Aoife Moore. “Extinction Rebellion carry out fourth day of protest in Dublin,” Independent.IE, October 10, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/lNbso

In February 2020, Farming Independent reported that Meat and Dairy Facts, a group made up of several industry companies, had chosen a new PR agency and was no longer represented by Red Flag, following “internal clashes.” The two had worked together to “promote positive messages around meat and dairy.”7Margaret Donnelly. “Meat and Dairy Facts changes PR advisors,” Farming Independent, February 4, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/vClqC

In April 2020, a Red Flag Consulting Director praised the European Commission for moving slowly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Politico. The report said  “a significant number of items will be delayed, including the Farm to Fork strategy that aims to set targets for organic farming and pesticide use… and maybe even the bloc’s new 2030 climate targets”, quoting a Red Flag director as saying “it’s good that they are giving more time to ensure proper due diligence, process and feedback.”8Christina Gonzalez, Laurens Cerulus, Eline Schaart. “Lobbyists ask EU to pause new laws,” Politico, April 21, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/eLvYN

Role in Pesticides Controversy

In 2018, Unearthed reported that Monsanto had paid up to €200,000 for a ‘grassroots’ farmers campaign to defend the chemical glyphosate, used to make Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. “Dublin-based political firm Red Flag Consulting led the pro-glyphosate campaign, quietly launching a wide-reaching PR drive and enlisting the support of thousands of farmers from stands at agricultural fairs in ‘the eight most important EU countries,’” Unearthed wrote.9Zach Boren, Arthur Neslen. “How lobbyists for Monsanto led a ‘grassroots farmers’ movement against an EU glyphosate ban,” Unearthed, October 17, 2018. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/Ci4yv

Red Flag reportedly established groups like the now-defunct Agriculture et Liberte in France, the Free to Farm organization in the UK, Liberta di coltivare in Italy, Raum für Landwirtschaft in Germany, Libertad para consultar in Spain, Rolnictwo Dobrej Praktyki in Poland and Vrijheid om te Boeren in the Netherlands, which Unearthed connected to 33 different public events in 2017.10Red Flag glyphosate groups (spreadsheet),” Unearthed. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Lobbying

Red Flag spent between €300,000 – €399,999 on EU lobbying in 2019, according to data from LobbyFacts.eu.11Red Flag,” LobbyFactsEU. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/K2un6

Red Flag is registered on the EU Transparency Register, where Monsanto is listed as a client that has paid €100,000 – €199,999 for lobbying.12Red Flag,” EU Transparency Register. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/gVMRC Another listed client is the Consumer Choice Center, which was set up in March 2017 and was promoted as “a grassroots-led movement” that “empowers consumers” across the globe, but has been shown to be working on behalf of organisations that have lobbied against climate action including London-based think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and US oil billionaire Charles Koch.13Mat Hope. “New Lobby Group Tied to Brexit Climate Deniers and Koch Industries Pushes for Deregulation in Europe,” DeSmog, July 20, 2017. 14Harry Cooper and Quentin Ariès. “POLITICO Brussels Influence: Consumersa for liberty – EU breaches justice rules,” Politico, March 24, 2017. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/so3Zf 15Home,” Consumer Choice Center. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/Hi3dj

“Climate action”, “environment”, “food safety”, and “agriculture and rural development” are listed among its lobbying fields of interest.16Red Flag,” EU Transparency Register. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/gVMRC

Other Red Flag clients have included the tobacco giant British American Tobacco, and reportedly include “a number of other agri-chemical companies.”17Margaret Donnelly, Claire Fox. “Agri-food alliance brings in big guns to fight negative press,” Farming Independent, September 17, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/UYIeI

Affiliations

LobbyFacts.EU lists the following as clients of Red Flag:18Red Flag,” LobbyFactsEU. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/K2un6

  • British American Tobacco
  • Monsanto
  • CEMBUREAU
  • EDiMA
  • Consumer Choice Center
  • spiritsEUROPE
  • Google
  • ESTA
  • Aurora Cannabis
  • Irish Distillers Limited (Pernod Ricard)
  • ResMed
  • Lithuanian Chamber of Agriculture

Resources

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