I am a fan of Steve Barrett, editor-in-chief of PRWeek, and I think he makes a number of good points in his August 15 online editorial, “Carpe diem, cobbler’s children, and ethical dilemmas” regarding the Edelman agency’s recent miscues.

However, several sentences buried deep in the article struck a negative chord with me. In discussing the “pertinent issue” facing PR agencies, Barrett questions whether agencies should work with various business sectors. He zeroes in on agency readers, and asks:

Should you work with Big Oil? For example, energy companies probably represent 10-15% of the total revenues of the PR industry and all the major firms represent businesses within it. What about Big Pharma? Then there’s Big Finance. And nation states with dubious records on human rights…

Since when are we likening the net-net societal “output” of oil, pharmaceutical and financial companies to those of “nation states with dubious records on human rights”? Seriously, Steve?

I worked for Amoco Corporation (a Fortune 25 company before it was acquired by BP in 1998) early in my career, and couldn’t begin to enumerate here the economic and social benefits this global energy company brought to emerging countries (hospitals, schools, clean water, jobs with above market wages, etc.) where it operated, as well as in developed countries like the U.S. and Canada. Like it or not, “Big Oil” has powered a revolution in transportation over the last 100 years, which has provided, as a good friend of mine once wrote, “unprecedented mobility to people everywhere,” and with it, “an unprecedented measure of freedom.”

We are living longer, healthier and more active lives today thanks to the incredible investments and contributions made by Big Pharma. When nations are stalked by disease, as is the case today with Ebola and AIDs in Africa, it’s to our Big Pharma the world looks for remedies. And our financial system (with all its warts) is still the safest, most ethically run system in the world, and most importantly, serves as the backbone for the free flow of commerce worldwide.

And there is serious questioning in PRWeek, one of our profession’s most authoritative news sources, as to whether our profession should work with or within these industries?

Communications professionals – at agencies and in-house – represent businesses and industries that operate in areas where physical science, political science, economics, ideologies and culture intersect and often clash. In the end, ethical dilemmas will inevitably grow out of that mix, and reconciling them will pose a challenge…and an opportunity for our corporate function to lead. We’re up to it and, I say, “game on.”