With climate change being one of the hottest topics of our time, big corporates and their marketing teams are keen to be seen aligning themselves with credible efforts to combat the problem. But it seems the road to corporate responsibility – or at least to be viewed as such – can be a rocky one.
With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, scheduled to be held in the Scottish city of Glasgow at the end of October, major European and global companies have paid significant amounts – in some cases apparently millions of dollars – to be corporate sponsors.
Among the biggest names are Microsoft, Hitachi, Jaguar Land Rover, Unilever and broadcaster Sky.
Event planning has been ‘very last minute’
But, according to a report by the London-based Guardian newspaper, paying sponsors are said to be unhappy and have complained that planning is “mismanaged” and “very last minute”.
Several companies are believed to have co-signed a letter raising concerns about inexperienced civil servants delayed decisions, poor communication and a breakdown in relations between the organisers and the sponsoring firms.
Reported the Guardian: “One source, employed by a COP26 sponsor, said that ‘the biggest frustration’ was the lack of information about how the event will run, and the role for its key backers, because important questions have gone unanswered and planning decisions have been delayed’.
The newspaper added: “They had an extra year to prepare for Cop due to Covid, but it doesn’t feel like this time was used to make better progress. Everything feels very last minute, the source said.”
Big sponsors promised ‘unique benefits’
Organisers of COP26 apparently promised sponsors an ‘outstanding opportunity’ and ‘unique benefits’ in exchange for their support, including a chance to promote their brands at the conference Green Zone exhibition space and the participation of government ministers at their events.
But in multiple emails and official letters the companies have complained to organisers about unmet expectations, and deepening concerns over delays to the Green Zone plans. They have also raised complaints that ministers have not always been available for their events in the run-up to COP26, as agreed as part of the sponsor deals.
However, not everyone is sympathetic to the sponsors’ complaints, it seems. According to the Guardian, an unnamed UK Government veteran of COP summits commented: “It feels like some of these sponsors have forgotten the actual reason we’re in Glasgow. COP isn’t about branding, it’s about tackling climate change. Keeping 1.5C in reach is the best thing you can do for your bottom line: they would do well to remember this.”