96% of the Co-op Group annual general meeting has voted in favour of a motion on responsible advertising.
The motion notes “the concern from the United Nations and hate crime experts that some media outlets in the UK are fuelling and legitimising prejudice and an increase in hate crime” and calls on the Board to review existing policy and “prepare an ethical advertising policy that puts controls in place to ensure adverts do not appear in media that are incompatible with co-operative ethics, values and principles”.
The member motion was proposed by Colin Baines, a former ethics adviser and campaigns manager for the Co-op Group, and a non-executive director of the Stop Funding Hate campaign, with the support of 200 other Co-op members. The motion passed with 96% of the vote.
Stop Funding Hate is a consumer campaign that calls on companies to incorporate advertising into corporate social responsibility commitments. It targets advertisers in the Daily Mail, The Sun and Daily Express, citing specific criticism by the United Nations.
Figures from Stop Funding Hate show the Co-op is a large advertiser in the market, with over 50 ads placed in both the Daily Mail and Daily Express so far this year. Ethical Consumer Research Association estimates the Co-op spent nearly half a million pounds advertising in The Sun over a six-week period in Oct/Nov 2017 alone.
Colin Baines said “Congratulations to the Co-op, which is once again putting its values into action and leading the way on social responsibility.”
“Stop Funding Hate is following in the footsteps of other successful consumer campaigns, from the Living Wage and Fairtrade to animal welfare standards. All started as ethical consumer campaigns, quickly became corporate responsibility and responsible investment issues, and mainstreamed soon after. Ethical advertising is already well down that road, no matter how much acerbity and misrepresentation the campaign may elicit from Fleet Street.”
“Concern about the negative impacts of ‘fake news’ and ‘hate news’ on society is growing, and any business purporting to make a positive contribution to society must look at what its advertising procurement is funding.”
A YouGov poll commissioned by Stop Funding Hate in December 2017 found 58% of the public believe ‘companies should withdraw their advertising if it is placed next to content they think is racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic.’ 21% disagreed. The same poll found 50% believe The Sun newspaper is ‘a negative influence on society’. Just 5% see the newspaper’s influence as positive.
Stop Funding Hate recently received support from Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, the UK’s largest sustainability charity, “I wholeheartedly support the Stop Funding Hate campaign. It’s right and proper to ask all companies intent on delivering a serious corporate sustainability strategy to recognise that where they put their advertising and marketing budgets should be an intrinsic part of that strategy. We have to persuade them to join up the dots here.”
Conservative peer Baroness Warsi, also gave her support this week, recording a video for Stop Funding Hate saying “Campaigns like Stop Funding Hate are absolutely essential, the public has a right to vote with their feet and their money. As a Conservative, as someone who believes in the free market, I think it is a very centre right position to say the market should respond to this hatred by saying we find this unacceptable”.
Lego, Paperchase, the Body Shop, JOY, the Phone Co-op, Ecotricity, Good Energy and more have already moved to exclude certain publications from advertising procurement, citing incompatibility with company or brand values.
“If I were a shareholder in Daily Mail and General Trust plc, I would be deeply worried about losing such a significant advertiser. With more and more brands seeking to put their values into practice, they won’t be the last.” added Baines.