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‘Brand responsibility’: Major advertiser backs News Corp climate shift

One of Australia’s largest advertisers, supermarket giant Coles, has welcomed signs of an imminent shift on coverage of climate change by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and declared that it expects its media partners to share its commitment to protecting the environment.

Coles controls one of the biggest advertising budgets in Australia and has moved to position itself as Australia’s most sustainable supermarket. Its advertisements, which have run in News Corp publications and elsewhere, have in recent times focused on zero waste, zero emissions and zero hunger.

Coles said it expects its media partners to reflect its brand values

Coles said it expects its media partners to reflect its brand valuesCredit:Janie Barrett

Asked whether it would support moves by News Corp to shift its stance on climate change, the company said it welcomed any efforts to encourage climate action.“Our mission, Together to Zero, understands our responsibility as one of Australia’s largest brands in taking the action to protect our planet and climate,” a Coles spokesperson said. “Coles media strategy evolves beyond brand safety and brand suitability and extends to brand responsibility. We always endeavour to ensure media placement reflects our brand and campaign values.”

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed on Monday News Corp’s plans for a company-wide campaign to promote the benefits of a carbon-neutral economy, a decision which could end its long-standing editorial hostility towards action on climate change.

Sky News boss Paul Whittaker said at a Senate hearing on Monday that Sky would air a documentary to coincide with the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November as part of the effort. A campaign fronted by columnist Joe Hildebrand is expected to run in News Corp’s tabloids including The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph from late October, which is expected to focus heavily on jobs in a decarbonised economy, particularly blue-collar industries such as mining, resources and agriculture.

The reasons for the shift in perspective are unclear, but News Corp insiders have indicated that pressure from advertisers may have played a major part. Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire has faced growing international condemnation and pressure from advertisers over its editorial stance on climate change, which has long cast doubt over the science behind global warming.

This stance has proven difficult to uphold as leading corporations such as Woolworths, Macquarie Group and Telstra start to aggressively push their green credentials. Mining companies have also backed in targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 as a growing number of banks, insurers and institutional investors accelerate moves to divest coal assets. Woolworths and Coles used the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to broadcast advertisements that focused on their green credentials.

Australia is one of five countries that have not committed to be carbon neutral by 2050. Like Australia, Singapore has not committed to a net-zero date while Ukraine, Kazakhstan and China have agreed to be net-zero by 2060.

Like most media organisations, News Corp is still reliant on money made from advertising, despite growth in subscriptions to its newspapers.

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