Elsevier and RELX’s Climate Problem

Published Sep 19, 2023

Elsevier, one of the world’s largest academic publishing companies, is closely linked with the fossil fuel industry. It should cut those ties.

Who is Elsevier? What is RELX?

Elsevier is a publishing company that specializes in academic journals. They operate more than 2,700 scientific, technical, and medical journals in which scientific research is reviewed and published. They’re one of the world’s largest academic publishing companies, and a valuable asset to RELX, the British multinational corporation that owns them.

Elsevier is no stranger to controversy. Their business model relies on charging fees for publication and access, effectively double-charging institutions and libraries, and resulting in organizations as prominent as MIT to end their contracts.

Publicly, Elsevier claims that it’s committed to clean energy and climate solutions. Its actions tell a very different story.

How are Elsevier and RELX linked with climate change?

Elsevier and RELX’s portfolio includes journals where cutting-edge climate research is published. Unfortunately, they’re also involved in a wide range of services, lobbying, publishing, and other practices that support the fossil fuel industry and actively harm the climate.

As revealed by The Guardian in 2022, Elsevier and RELX provide data services to oil, gas, and coal companies. They fund US politicians who block climate action. They publish books and other resources aimed at helping companies extract more fossil fuels, and they have employees from of the world’s largest oil companies on their editorial staff. They also host exhibitions sponsored by the fossil fuel industry.

In a world racing to avoid catastrophic climate change, these business practices are clearly out of step with RELX’s stated commitment to “minimising its contribution to climate change, in line with the scale of action deemed necessary by science.”

What are we doing in response?

Following The Guardian’s reporting, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Scientists for Global Responsibility organized a petition in late 2022, calling on Elsevier and RELX to align their business practices with their publicly-stated values and goals.

Over 380 prominent and notable scientists signed on, and the petition was delivered in March 2023.

In its response to the petition, Elsevier and RELX claimed to be focused on a transition to clean energy. Given the services Elsevier and RELX continue to provide, these claims are demonstrably false.


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