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May 20, 2015

The Guardian says it’s divesting, but continues to accept ad dollars from companies being targeted

The same “news” outlet that brought you the “Keep It in the Ground” campaign, which seeks to “delegitimise the business models of companies” that produce and deliver the energy supplies needed to run the international economy, has been caught red-handed accepting ad dollars (or pounds sterling) from some of the same companies its campaign is attempting to undermine.

As first reported by UK political blogger Guido Fawkes, the (UK) Guardian is advocating for large institutions to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel assets, while at the same time it hosts the “Anglo American Partner Zone” within the paper’s online “Sustainable Business” section. Of course, Anglo is the world’s third largest exporter of metallurgical coal. As of this writing, you can still enjoy the hypocrisy HERE.

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Image curtesy of the Guia Fawkes page.

Notably, we weren’t able to spot a logo for Anglo American among the slew of other energy companies highlighted in the Guardian’s coming-out graphic for the Keep It in the Ground campaign. But there is a logo for Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world, which has been a target of the Guardian’s as recently as today. Nowhere in the campaign manifesto does the paper provide any details on how it has decided to differentiate between companies that operate in the same general business. Perhaps – just maybe — the fact that one company is an advertiser with the Guardian and one is not has something to do it with?

It didn’t take long to identify yet another conflict of interest on the Guardian site: advertisements for Renault (that’s a car company). The promoted Renault Captur is full of environmentally-friendly, fuel-efficient technology, but the Guardian seems to forget that cars – even crossovers – run on fossil fuel derivatives that the paper has clearly stated it would prefer to eradicate.

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These recent incidences come off the back of a re-discovery reported by UK commentator Iain Martin, who raised the fact that the Guardian is largely propped up by the £600m sale of its stake in Trader Media Group, publisher of AutoTrader magazine. The Guardian again shows its propensity to mistake cars for something that that runs on “organic, fair-trade pomegranate juice”, and is able to support its paper for three decades because of it. As Martin clearly puts it, “In this way the Guardian lectures others about fossil fuels while living off the proceeds of a business that made its money from fossil fuels.”

As Guido Fawkes points out, , Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger attempted to dodge a direct question during a recent online Q&A regarding its advertisers by saying his commercial director “didn’t think we took vast sums from fossil fuel companies.” Is it the “vastness” of the sums that the Guardian really cares about, or the investment in fossil fuels itself? The lines apparently get muddled between the editorial and marketing departments.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is quoted on the Guardian’s website, said, “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.” While countless academics, climate experts, and economists have argued that divestment is not a viable strategy to influence the environmental policies of fossil fuel-intensive companies, perhaps the Guardian can at least feign an honest fight by practicing what it preaches.