Shell boasted in its announcement that the company was “making millions of kilometers cleaner” with green hydrogen buses. Ad Code Committee has now given Shell Three reprimands for this campaign†Shell can no longer call itself “one of the biggest drivers of the energy transition”, hydrogen isn’t green yet, and those millions of kilometers are just a fraction of the total number of kilometers traveled.
As a fan of numbers, I’d like to dig deeper into these millions. NOS quotes the person who lodged the complaint with the Advertising Code Commission: “From the data from the Netherlands Statistics Authority (CBS), it can be concluded that 700 million km buses are driven annually in the Netherlands. If Shell could clean a few million kilometers of this, it would still cover only 0.5 percent of all kilometers.
Even that turned out to be overly optimistic, because it involved two million kilometers traveled using hydrogen. Two million, is exactly the minimum you need to talk about raising millions by any right. This represents less than 0.3 percent of the kilometres.
It’s like selling 332 organic beef burgers plus one seaweed burger and then printing them on labels driving the transition to vegan products. It’s like having t-shirts made from a slick fabric that only lasts one season with a cool chest pocket made from recycled materials and then starting a truly sustainable campaign. It’s like putting 3 milliliters of real fruit juice in a one-liter bottle of soda and screaming from the rooftops that you’re an activist for healthier food.
In short, that’s what countless companies do: wash the environment. Companies present themselves as more sustainable and socially engaged than they are now. But this is basically advertising, it’s a bundle of junk with a thin layer of green. They’re doing a small sustainable project and blowing it up massively, screens with stickers that mean nothing and shouting in vague terms about how well they’re doing. Teun van de Keuken and his cohorts have been battling this type of marketing for years, but it seems to be getting worse.
Kristen Oten wrote at the end of last year about how “companies not only embrace language, but also the message of every social protest, resistance or criticism, fitting it in and translating it into advertising messages that almost bring tears to your eyes. He gets up and thinks: “Yeah!! Finally something really changes!”
Nothing changes, I’m afraid.
(For those who prefer a more optimistic end to this column: Fortunately, there are millions of people around the world who keep complaining and fighting and really trying to make the world a better and cleaner place.)
“Travel enthusiast. Alcohol lover. Friendly entrepreneur. Coffeeaholic. Award-winning writer.”