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  • Writer's pictureQuinlan Grim

The Doerr School Just Hired a Big Oil PR Firm

Stanford Doerr School
A shot of campus from the Doerr School's "Ways to Give" page.

While activists at the Coalition for a True School of Sustainability have been hard at work spreading awareness about the Doerr School's fossil fuel ties, another tie has formed. Stanford's sustainability school just hired the Brunswick Group, a PR firm with a sticky history of greenwashing the fossil fuel industry.

What does this mean for the call for divestment at Stanford? Two things: first, the Doerr School knows its reputation is at risk. Pressure from students and off-campus organizers is being heard. Second, the school is more concerned with protecting its reputation than actually divesting from fossil fuels.

Stanford has tried to keep this new partnership quiet. We, along with the Coalition for a True School of Sustainability and other divestment organizations, want to make sure everyone knows about it.

Read more about Stanford and the Brunswick Group in this article from The Guardian.

What's Happening So Far?

If you haven't heard about the Doerr School's problematic fossil fuel funding, check out our earlier posts.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Stanford launched the Doerr School of Sustainability in 2022 with the goal of studying crucial climate impacts and solutions.

  • The Doerr School receives significant funding from ExxonMobil, Aramco, and Shell, among other fossil fuel giants.

  • Local and student-led organizations have been fighting for responsible divestment since the Doerr School opened its doors.

This latest update is another blow to those at Stanford and within the community who care about true climate action.

Stanford Doerr School Protests
Protestors interrupt the Doerr School's opening ceremony, from The Stanford Daily

The Brunswick Group: Green PR for Big Oil

The Brunswick Group isn't exactly a household name. On the surface, it might not sound as alarming as associations with Chevron or ExxonMobil. However, this PR firm has a long history of representing big oil interests. According to the Guardian, Brunswick helped to greenwash BP's pro-gas strategies in 2017 and 2018. The firm has also been hired by Saudi Aramco as recently as 2022.

Brunswick isn't the only PR firm actively working to greenwash unsustainable practices. Major fossil fuel companies have worked for decades to boost their reputations by promoting"sustainable" strategies that align with their interests, such as hydrogen power and carbon capture. Pretty PR campaigns hide the truth from the public, allowing fossil fuel giants to continue polluting while activists' calls for better solutions go unheard.

The Doerr School's partnership with the Brunswick Group is clearly a problem. It speaks to the school's true interests -- looking green and polishing Stanford's image -- rather than listening to the student body and simply divesting from fossil fuels.

What Can We Do?

The news that Stanford's Doerr School has hired a PR firm tied to big oil is disappointing, but not exactly surprising. Stanford claims the partnership will help promote the school's brand -- in reality, it's just going to sweep fossil fuel funds under the rug. The right way to create a more sustainable brand is to take real steps toward eliminating fossil fuels.

Fortunately, groups like the Coalition for a True School of Sustainability and Fossil Free Stanford are fighting for transparency at Stanford. Here's how you can support their efforts:

  • Spread the word: Share this post and the Guardian article to spread the word about Stanford's partnership with the Brunswick Group.

  • Volunteer: Volunteer with your local sustainability organization! Help groups like 350 spread awareness, endorse local candidates, and fight for true sustainability solutions.

  • Sign on: If you're a Stanford alumn, affiliate, or a concerned community member, sign the Coalition's letters calling on the Doerr School to completely divest from fossil fuels.

Remember, the fact that the Doerr School has hired a PR firm means that community pressure is working. Keep speaking up and spreading the word about Stanford's unsustainable partners to help students and activists create real change!

Read more about the Brunswick Group:


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