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Stanford sustainability school’s controversial partnership scrutinized

Stanford sustainability school’s controversial partnership scrutinized

"Sustainability Partnership"

Stanford University’s sustainability school is facing criticism due to a controversial partnership with Brunswick Group, known for representing oil and gas companies. This alliance is viewed by climate activists as a blatant contradiction to the sustainability school’s mission and feared to be a potential conflict of interest, threatening the integrity of the school’s environmental commitments.

Dissatisfaction was voiced by Stanford sophomore Amanda Campos, a member of the advisory council, “This partnership marks a new direction for the university, one that many of us did not expect.” Her concern echoes a sentiment held by many environmentally-focused students and activists, especially given past incidents where Stanford was heavily criticized for accepting sizable donations from major oil corporations.

Last month, Stanford’s sustainability school defended this partnership in an email, stating it is intended to bolster the school’s reputation, manage potential public image crises, and develop a PR strategy that aligns with the university’s prestigious standing.

Brunswick Group, a London-based PR agency operating in 14 countries, is known for assisting energy companies in reshaping their narrative and painting gas as a low-carbon emission fuel. Its most recent clients in 2022 included a prominent oil company, emphasizing Brunswick’s significant influence within the energy sector.

Amanda Campos, also a member of the Coalition for a True School of Sustainability, expressed her frustration about the collaboration between the school and fossil fuel companies.

Stanford sustainability school’s contentious partnership examined

She emphasized the urgent necessity for institutions to acknowledge the devastating environmental impacts of such partnerships and to genuinely promote sustainability.

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Campos further called out the lack of transparency in disclosing the nature and extent of the relationships with these fossil fuel companies. She urged for a swift evaluation of the school’s funding sources and adoption of more environmentally friendly alternatives and ended her piece with a call to action, urging students to join the fight for a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Duncan Meisel, executive director of non-profit Clean Creatives, accused Brunswick of potential greenwashing due to its history with energy corporations. At the same time, Brunswick maintained that their advisory services to businesses on climate change issues are rooted in science and necessary measures.

Meanwhile, despite the controversy, Doerr School reaffirmed its commitment to embracing diverse stakeholder views and student engagement, recognizing Campos’ contributions as crucial in shaping operational strategies.

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