NEW YORK — UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday blasted PR agencies for their work with Big Oil, calling on firms “to stop acting as enablers to planetary destruction.”

In a speech marking World Environment Day in New York, Guterres admonished agencies for supporting many in the fossil fuel industry who “have shamelessly greenwashed, even as they have sought to delay climate action — with lobbying, legal threats, and massive ad campaigns.

“They have been aided and abetted by advertising and PR companies — Mad Men fueling the madness,” he said. “I call on these companies to stop acting as enablers to planetary destruction. Stop taking on new fossil fuel clients, from today, and set out plans to drop your existing ones. Fossil fuels are not only poisoning our planet — they’re toxic for your brand,” Guterres said.

Guterres continued, noting that the “sector is full of creative minds who are already mobilizing around this cause. They are gravitating towards companies that are fighting for our planet — not trashing it.

“I also call on countries to act. Many governments restrict or prohibit advertising for products that harm human health – like tobacco. Some are now doing the same with fossil fuels. I urge every country to ban advertising from fossil fuel companies. And I urge news media and tech companies to stop taking fossil fuel advertising,” he said.

Wednesday was not the first time Guterres has condemned the PR industry for its work with fossil fuel clients. In a September 2022 speech before the General Assembly, Guterres called on world leaders to tax fossil fuel companies and their supporters, including PR firms.

Clean Creatives, which has waged a hard-fought battle to get agencies to sever ties with fossil fuel companies, praised Guterres’ speech.

“UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for the advertising and PR agencies to cut ties with fossil fuel polluters is historic,” said executive director Duncan Meisel. “Today is a turning point in the advertising and PR industry’s relationship with climate change and fossil fuels — there is no longer any cover for agencies to say that they are doing the right thing when working with polluters. Everyone knows this is wrong, and everyone needs to act.”

More than 1,100 advertising, PR and creative companies have taken the Clean Creatives pledge to refuse work from Big Oil. In October, Allison has signed on with the advocacy group, becoming the largest agency to formally commit to refuse work from fossil fuel companies.

In May, Edelman renewed its global partnership with Shell, which has made the firm a primary target of climate activists.

During the 2022 Climate Week, Clean Creatives plastered parts of lower Manhattan with posters calling on agencies — most notably Edelman — to drop their fossil fuel clients.

Two weeks earlier, Edelman unveiled a series of actions it pledged to take in response to those calls, which include walking away from companies that do not meet a series of criteria on climate action. At that time, Edelman identified 20 emissions-intensive clients for follow-up discussions after a 60-day review of its portfolio.

Edelman, however, stopped short of dropping fossil fuel companies across-the-board, saying its work pushing clients toward achieving net zero goals is more productive than walking away.