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Tax disclosure form raises questions about one of the world's largest PR firms: 'Out of step with their ... commitments'

"What we've seen consistently is a mismatch between what [it] says and what's actually done."

"What we've seen consistently is a mismatch between what [it] says and what's actually done."

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It has been said that death and taxes are two of the only certainties in life, and for public relations company Edelman, a tax form showing it as one of the Charles Koch Foundation's highest-paid vendors in 2022 has led to the death of belief in the company's climate pledges. 

Edelman is a global PR powerhouse that, as reported by The Guardian, has made multiple climate pledges spanning the last 10 years, including one to steer clear of projects that promote climate denial. However, a 990 tax disclosure form reveals a partnership between the PR firm and the Koch network, which has long worked to sow climate doubt

The revelation has rightfully led climate activists to doubt the truth of the PR firm's claims. 

"A relationship with the Koch network … puts them totally out of step with their stated climate commitments," said Duncan Meisel, the executive director of Clean Creatives.  

While an Edelman spokesperson said the company ended its contract with the Koch Foundation in 2023, in 2021, a year before its contract with the foundation, Edelman released an updated environmental pledge that excluded its commitment to avoid climate denial.

Edelman has also put its weight behind a plethora of projects that directly contribute to the overheating of our planet. 

"What we've seen consistently is a mismatch between what Edelman says and what's actually done," said Christine Arena, a former executive vice president at Edelman and climate advocate.

What Arena is describing is greenwashing — the act of making false or misleading statements about a product or practice's environmental benefits  — which is incredibly harmful to the environment. 

Greenwashing in everyday life — such as falsely advertising something as being compostable or making polluting packaging look like a green choice — can be hard to spot and lead well-intended people to think they're making choices that are helping the environment when really they are not. 

"A climate policy is what you do, how you behave, business decisions you make," Arena said. "In practice … Edelman's policy is to say one thing and do another."

While it's frustrating to hear about such cases, individuals can help to hold corporations like Edelman accountable for doing what they say they're going to by educating ourselves about greenwashing. We can also vote for pro-climate candidates and donate to climate-related organizations such as those working to enact change within companies like Edelman.

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