City of London faced more occupations over climate crisis

  • Post last modified:March 2, 2024
  • Reading time:22 mins read

The ‘Insure Our Futures‘ week of action has continued apace – as groups occupied buildings in the City of London, Birmingham, and Bristol over corporate companies links to the climate crisis.

Grinning greenwashing in the City of London

First, on Thursday 29 February a team of Extinction Rebellion activists infiltrated the City of London HQ of global advertising and media agency McCann Worldgroup to protest about the company’s reported bid for another stint as top greenwasher for fossil fuel giants Saudi Aramco.

The activists gained access to the lobby of the building where they unfurled banners saying “McCann Say No to Aramco” and “Ditch The Pitch” and called upon agency staff to rebel against their bosses’ decision to repitch for oil company Aramco’s advertising account:

Insure Our Futures City of London


Wearing grinning masks of worldwide CEO Daryl Lee, the Extinction Rebellion team occupied the lobby while employees arrived for work, welcoming them with fistfuls of “petrodollars”:

Insure Our Futures City of London

They also distributed leaflets explaining how devastating Aramco’s business is for the climate and called on McCann to say ‘no’ to providing more greenwashing for them:

As the police arrived, the activists were still distributing intricately-designed petrodollars with the message to employees: “Ask your bosses to stop greenwashing Aramco and ruining your reputations”:

City of London protest

McCann: complicit in climate-wrecking

One of the activists, Alexandra Considine, a therapist from London, said:

McCann trades on their founding motto of ‘Truth Well Told.’ But where’s the truth when it comes to working for climate-wrecking Saudi Aramco?

The truth is that the agency’s bosses are happy to take Big Oil’s dirty money to greenwash Aramco’s business. And that business is speeding up the climate and nature emergency. We desperately need McCann’s people to stand up for what they know is right and say they don’t want to work on the Saudi Aramco account.

Another activist, Katie Burrell, a communications consultant from London, said:

McCann is a well-respected agency and the people who work here are highly skilled in what they do. I can’t believe most of its people want to work for a company that misleads people about the climate crisis and their so-called sustainable ambitions.

Instead of contributing to positive change, Saudi Aramco is investing heavily in new oil and gas business and lobbying against action that would protect a liveable planet for us all.

Ad agencies should be a force for good in fixing the climate crisis but McCann is trashing its reputation by supporting clients that are trashing the planet. It’s bizarre to me that McCann called the Police for our small group of nonviolent protesters who just want a world where everyone can flourish but are happy to do business with climate criminals.

PR agencies propping-up fossil fuel giants

Saudi Aramco is no stranger to bad press about greenwashing. Recently, it was in the news accused of ‘misleading’ claims about sustainable fuel and their Formula 1 team in a complaint lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority.

Despite running token sustainability programmes for its PR, Saudi Aramco is investing most heavily in its oil and gas business including investing $100bn in fracking. Aramco claims to be pausing expansion plans, but this does not actually restrict its future output whatsoever and the company is playing a major role in resisting action on the climate crisis.

The action at the McCann’s London HQ was Extinction Rebellion’s latest strike against the advertising and media agencies who are still greenwashing the worst fossil fuel crooks in the world. Activists have repeatedly protested and disrupted media agency Havas who recently became Shell’s greenwashers-in-chief to the horror of many of its staff.

Then, Birmingham got a taste of the same treatment

Birmingham feeling the heat

Just Stop Oil supporters occupied an insurance building in coalition with Extinction Rebellion on Friday 1 March. The groups are demanding insurers immediately stop insuring new and expanded coal, oil, and gas projects and the companies developing them.

At around 12pm 30 Just Stop Oil supporters began occupying the Colmore Building in Birmingham:

The building is home to three insurance companies: Allianz, Chubb, and Zurich. Today’s action is in solidarity with Students Against EACOP, a Ugandan based campaign group who are resisting the construction of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), a project that has wrought huge environmental destruction and mass displacement of people across the African Continent.

One cohort of action takers remained in the building’s lobby, holding placards with slogans including ‘JUST STOP INSURING OIL + GAS’, ‘SOLIDARITY WITH STUDENTS AGAINST EACOP’, and ‘INSURING FOSSIL FUELS COSTS LIVES’:

Insure Our Futures Birmingham

Another group infiltrated the building, occupying the first floor. Police officers entered the building by 12:15pm, making some arrests. A number of officers barricaded the building to prevent further entry, as a large group of sympathetic demonstrators gathered outside.

By 1pm, police officers had arrested three Just Stop Oil supporters:

From Bristol, to East Africa

Allianz, Chubb, and Zurich are all insuring new fossil fuel projects. Chubb have not ruled out insuring the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline and Zurich has not ruled out insuring the Cumbrian Coalmine.

Meanwhile in Bristol, a coalition of Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion supporters climbed the roof of Tokio Marine in the early hours of 1 March to occupy the roof of the insurance firm:

Tokio Marine is a Japanese insurance multinational that have come under fire from faith groups and others for financially supporting the EACOP.

As of 10am on Saturday 2 March, the activists were still there:

One of those taking action today is Xandra Gilchrist, a retired social worker, who said:

I’m taking action today for my daughter and grandson as well as communities in East Africa which are being devastated by the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. It’s critical that all of us act responsibly to protect our communities, this includes insurance corporations.

Without their backing, companies such as Total and Esso will need to think again about how they increase their profits by extracting fossil fuels and pushing global heating out of control. Cheap clean renewable energy sources urgently need backing and insuring too.

City of London not insuring our futures

Another person taking action today is Greg Sculthorpe, who works as an accountant. He said:

I’m taking action to protect my nephews and niece, to try to rescue a future for them and all the lives around the world that are threatened with needless destruction.

The insurance industry is still investing in short term profits for dirty polluters, rather than the safety and wellbeing of ordinary people. They have immense power to change our dire situation. It’s high time they took responsibility for ensuring a safe world for all.

These action come after days of pressure on the City of London from multiple groups, as part of the Insure Our Futures movement. As the Canary previously documented, Insure Our Future’s Global Week of Action aims to highlight the insurance industry’s complicity in helping fossil fuel projects to expand, whilst climate breakdown is happening on a global scale and parts of the world are becoming uninsurable or people can no longer afford insurance premiums.

Featured image and additional images via Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion

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