Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest trade union, will become the first major union to commit to stop funding hate speech and divisive narratives through advertising spend, when it signs the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) manifesto on Monday 9 September.

Unite will be launching its campaign at the TUC conference in Brighton, at the close of afternoon business, and will be joined by the Labour leader of Barking and Dagenham council Darren Rodwell, who will be signing the CAN manifesto on behalf of the local authority.

The union’s initiative is part of its Unity over Division campaign, which seeks to challenge the narrative of extremism and hate in today’s divided society. It is estimated that in the UK millions of pounds of advertising budgets are spent by companies and other organisations on adverts inadvertently placed next to on-line and newspaper content that fuels hate.

Advertisers are usually unaware that their adverts are appearing next to hate speech, including far right material. By embedding the principles of the CAN manifestos in their processes, advertisers and agencies can make “conscious”, informed decisions about where their advertising is going, ensuring the ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising.

By signing up to CAN, Unite is committing itself to addressing six key areas in advertising - fake news, diversity, consent, hate speech, ad fraud and children’s welfare - not only ensuring it doesn’t inadvertently fund hate speech and other bad practice through its advertising, but also encouraging employers it negotiates with on behalf of members to do the same.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “It’s easy for companies and ad agencies to operate block lists to ensure they don’t advertise on websites promoting hate speech, but most don’t. If more advertisers considered where their adverts were landing, then we would have fewer examples of them featuring on far-right news outlets.

“Unite believes that all companies and organisations can take really practical steps in rooting out hate by stopping the funding that allows it to flourish, and we welcome the decision by Barking and Dagenham council to sign the CAN manifesto with us.

“We now intend to take this initiative directly to other employers who recognise Unite to encourage them to consider how committing to better ethical frameworks can become part of their employment and advertising policies.”
Councillor Darren Rodwell said: “I’m proud to say we’re the first local authority to sign the Conscious Advertising Network manifesto. With increased fake news and online advertising playing such a big part in people’s everyday lives, it’s really important that organisations act responsibly and modern technology doesn’t mean ethics get forgotten. With a big focus on challenging hate, celebrating diversity and protecting children, the manifesto is closely aligned with our values as an organisation.”

Harriet Kingaby and Jake Dubbins, co-chairs of The Conscious Advertising Network said: “It's brilliant to have an organisation with Unite's level of influence and reach signed up to The Conscious Advertising Network. By embedding the CAN principles throughout the advertising ecosystem, we can ensure that the ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising. Tackling issues such as hate speech and children’s welfare head on.”


For more information journalists only please contact Jennie Walsh on 07958 514695 Jennie.Walsh@unitetheunion.org or Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 07967 665869 alex.flynn@unitetheunion.org

For CAN related media enquires: Clarity PR can@clarity.pr 020 7100 1333

Notes to editors

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
  • The Conscious Advertising Network’s (CAN) mission is to stop advertising abuse, by highlighting the conscious choices advertisers and agencies can make to ensure good practice. Across all sectors of the advertising industry, modern technology has advanced so quickly that ethics haven't been able to keep up. We want to change that. Now more than ever, brands, agencies and adtech are perfectly placed to consciously change both the way they operate and the content they produce, resulting in communication that is better for all. For more information, visit: www.consciousadnetwork.com