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Climate pledge ads make up a case that CEOs have ignored for years


First, it is a culturally diverse group of British school children. Then a peasant girl with braces. Next up is a Scandinavian model, a stylish Italian hypebeast and a bevy of middle school students pedaling through a junkyard like Stranger Things. If you’ve muted it, it could be an ad for the Gap or Levi’s jeans. But this roster of key casting youngsters is actually sending a message to global CEOs on behalf of Amazon’s climate promise.

The kids reach out to business leaders around the world and introduce them to the common sense behind things like wind and solar power, sustainable agriculture, and more local supply chains. An adorable 6 year old delivers the required line in the style of Kevin McCallister, “I’m only 6. You will find out,” prompting two young girls wading on a flooded city street dropping the guilt standard, “this is” your chance to do something good. ”It’s a good looking spot that is remarkably light. After all, these are not breaking news; All of these are measures that world leaders have absolutely known about for decades and that simply have not been implemented.

The climate pledge was announced by Amazon’s then CEO Jeff Bezos in September 2019. It calls on signatories to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 and to agree to measure, reduce and offset carbon emissions. The promise is not legally binding and there is no penalty for not meeting its standards. Since the start, 112 companies have registered, including Microsoft, Unilever, IBM, JetBlue, Mercedes-Benz, Best Buy, Uber and Verizon. Notable absences include Amazon competitors such as Apple and Google, who have made their own climate commitments in recent years.

Jennifer Rushlow, assistant dean of environmental programs at Vermont Law School, says the ad appears to position Amazon and the Climate Pledge to listen to young people, value their contributions, and take their advice. “Future generations are skeptical of American companies and are concerned that it will destroy the environment and human rights,” she says. “This ad looks like it is targeting young people by acknowledging their concerns about their futures, as an acknowledgment that Amazon and other signatories are doing their part to make things right, and therefore buying things from us and not from the other. ”

When this ad lacks substance, it reflects the promise itself, which is little more than a “branding exercise” called. Bezos conveniently announced the Climate Pledge when Amazon employees were planning a strike over what they believed to be inadequate environmental stewardship of the company.

Jamie Henn, founder of the nonprofit media lab Fossil Free Media, says that while a credible net-zero emission plan is a big deal, he views some of those commitments as little more than a PR stunt. “I’m concerned that the intended audiences for these ads are mostly other CEOs who are trying to impress Amazon or politicians who they fear may start holding them accountable,” said Henn, who was previously at the non-profit climate organization 350.org has worked. “These ads have a Davos-like quality: They are angular, but I haven’t heard anything specific. If Amazon in DC were lobbying Congress to get all of the US job plan’s climate codes passed, I would be more impressed. But as far as I can tell, their CEO has spent more time in space than on the bypass. “

This criticism is underscored by the behavior of the signatories of the pledge. The advertising agency holding Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) is on the list, but continues to count ExxonMobil as a customer. Amazon itself saw its CO2 emissions increase by 19% in 2020. Rushlow says it’s important to focus on the details of that pledge, specific decarbonization strategies, and how they work in greenwashing. “

As for the ad itself, children’s use is a well-known climatic tropic aimed at getting people to change their behavior to save future generations. We had kids explaining climate change to us for Earth Hour. Mothers who take on the revolutionary act of voting to save their child’s future. And Apple’s whisper-quiet climate promise to a sleeping baby.

“The advertising is definitely slick, but I would have preferred some CEOs to talk about how to make their business emission-free rather than using young people as props,” says Henn. “We really don’t need any corporations telling us that young people want climate protection – young people have been marching on the streets for years. What we need is that companies start to act themselves. “


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