Comms industry must be brave and embrace leadership role in fight for climate truth – PRCA research

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  • More than 9 out of ten (96%) of PR professionals now advise their clients and colleagues to understand the climate crisis and how they can effectively communicate the part they play – up from 82% last year
  • Almost half (45%) have noticed their clients or organisation attempting to greenwash, however 89% have pushed back on this and 57% managed to change the approach as a result
  • Almost all (97%) said they have taken action to address the climate crisis but only 48% measure their carbon footprint
  • 71% of consumers say they would stop buying from a brand if they knew it had misled its customers about having a positive environmental impact
  • 57% of the general public don’t know the outcome of COP26 and a third (33%) felt the agreements made at the conference didn’t affect them

The launch of the second annual research report from the PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group and Opinium reveals an industry increasingly confident in its ability to guide organisations towards meaningful action on climate issues.

The study of more than 200 UK PR and communications professionals – conducted six months on from COP26 – explored the attitudes and perceptions of practitioners towards the climate crisis. This year’s study provided comms practitioners with the opportunity to reveal the specific measures taken by clients and organisations to tackle climate change.

The research uncovers the scale of the PR’s industry’s ethical responsibility, with almost every respondent (96%) advising their clients and colleagues on the climate crisis – a 14 percentage point jump since last year’s research.

Crucially, there was further evidence of the industry’s growing confidence in calling out climate mistruths. While almost half of respondents encountered greenwashing, the vast majority of this group (89%) pushed back on false claims, and almost six in ten (57%) successfully changed an organisation’s response as a result.

Despite these trends, PR professionals continue to face challenges in helping organisations move beyond intent towards action; only a quarter (24%) of organisations set science-based targets and 59% do not measure carbon footprints.

In a complementary study of 2,000 nationally representative UK adults, also conducted by Opinium, more than half (57%) of consumers admitted to not knowing the outcome of COP26, with a third (33%) believing its agreements had no effect on them.

Data from the consumer report also shows 31% of the public consider poverty to be the most pressing issue and only half (50%) believe the planet faces an existential threat due to the man made climate crisis. These trends highlight urgent need for PR professionals to use relatable and inclusive language when discussing the climate crisis.


PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group representative Laura Sutherland FPRCA commented:

“It’s encouraging to see a rise in the number of PR and communication professionals helping their clients and colleagues understand the climate crisis and how they can effectively communicate the part they play. It’s also great that we’re growing in confidence when we spot greenwashing and feel comfortable pushing back.

“We have a responsibility to ensure any unethical communication or attempts are challenged. The call to action to industry is this: be more brave – learn about ESG, learn how to approach a difficult situation with your boss or your client, start setting your own agency targets and communicate the action you’re taking.

“We know we’re not doing enough and we’re not doing enough to make it all relatable at a grassroots level. People need to hear the same accurate messages about climate change over and over again in order for it to have a lasting impact.

“Finally, please don’t forget your internal stakeholders. I talk a lot about ‘bringing everyone along on the journey’ and this starts with your team and staff. After all, what’s going on, on the inside, will reflect on the outside. Let’s lead by example and be the change we want to see.”

Chief Executive of Opinium James Endersby said:

“With 7 in 10 consumers saying they would stop buying from a brand if they knew it had misled its customers about having a positive environmental impact, it is more important than ever that PR and Communications professionals support, consult and walk hand-in-hand with their clients on their journey to being better forces of good for our planet.”

About the study

Opinium interviewed 226 members of the PR industry between 6th-26th May 2022, and a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults between 24th-26th May 2022. Data for the sample of 2,000 UK adults were weighted to be nationally representative of the population by age and region. Opinium is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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