The owner of the Radio Times is facing staff protests over adverts by oil and gas companies as it comes under pressure to improve its green credentials and raise the media profile of climate news across its publications.
More than 100 employees at Immediate Media, which also owns the BBC’s Good Food brand and Gardeners’ World, have demanded in a public letter to the chief executive Tom Bureau that the group stops fossil fuel advertising.
They also urge the company to go carbon-neutral by increasing the proportion of renewables in its energy supply chain and offsetting “unavoidable” emissions.
The letter, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, could herald a new era of employee-driven pressure for corporate action on climate change.
A similar letter signed by 8,000 Amazon employees in the US in May demanded Jeff Bezos release a company-wide climate plan.
In the letter published on Medium, the online publishing platform, 120 employees said the company, which was bought by German tech and media company Hubert Burda in 2017, “has the enviable position of being an important part of millions of people’s lives in the UK”. They added it has “a historic and unique opportunity to become one of the UK’s inspiring climate leading businesses”.
Alice Pickthall, media analyst at Enders Analysis, said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the start of a lot of staff at companies beginning to speak out on climate change. Immediate’s leaders have a real opportunity to lead on this and consumers would see that in a positive light.”
Immediate Media said in a statement. “The letter raises hugely important and complex questions which we have promised to explore as a matter of priority and report back on our next steps to all our staff in the autumn. We already have a sustainability action group within Immediate, making good progress on a number of environmental issues, but realise we can do more.”
The action by the Immediate staff follows a pledge by more than 20 advertising agencies to avoid working on fossil fuel campaigns, which also promised to disclose the percentage of their turnover that comes from carbon-intensive clients.
They acted after an open letter to advertisers and agencies from the climate campaign movement Extinction Rebellion, urging them to use their marketing prowess to tackle climate change.
“People feel that they’re doing their bit in their personal lives and they have difficulty reconciling that with the fact that they get to work and don’t see their employers doing the same thing,” said Chris Ouellette, head of corporate social responsibility at BNP Paribas Asset Management. “They realise that their employers have bigger levers to pull than they do.”
Climate strikes are planned across the UK on September 20 demanding employers switch to a sustainable economy. The strikes have support from several of the UK’s biggest unions.
At some organisations, however, the bosses are taking the initiative. Tate, which runs four prestigious art galleries in the UK, declared a climate emergency last week as it committed to reduce its carbon footprint by 10 per cent by 2023 and switch to a green electricity tariff across all four galleries.
“You need grassroots pressure but you also need people in boardrooms listening and taking these things on as a serious issue,” said Mrs Pickthall.