Britain’s advertising regulator has classified the ads of some major oil producers, including Shell, as greenwashing, meaning that these companies are pretending to be more sustainable than they are. That is why advertisements by Shell, Spain’s Repsol, and Malaysia’s Petronas in which oil companies promote their investments in renewable energy without indicating the extent of their other polluting activities are banned in the UK.
Guy Parker, chief executive of the British Advertising Authority, said companies in high-carbon sectors “need to be really careful with their environmental messages”. “These companies will have to provide at least some information to the readers and viewers of the ads to tell the other side of the story.”
All campaigns targeted by the General Authority of Civil Aviation emphasized the aspirations of oil companies in the field of renewable energy. Petronas, for example, stated in a TV commercial that it was “enriching lives for a sustainable future,” without mentioning that the company still has significant carbon emissions.
At Spanish oil giant Repsol, the ASA has targeted an advertisement on the Financial Times website promoting investments in biofuels and synthetic fuels. These investments represent only a “small portion” of the company’s operations, according to the ASA.
Shell ran a poster campaign, a YouTube video, and a TV commercial that featured the phrase “cleaner energy”. According to the regulator, this was misleading because it ignored the fact that the vast majority of Shell’s activities consist of oil and gas. In the Netherlands, Shell has been reprimanded several times in the past year by the Advertising Code Commission for misleading advertisements.
A Shell spokesperson said it disagreed with the ASA’s decision. People already know very well that Shell produces the oil and gas they depend on today. But what many people don’t know is that we’re also investing heavily in low-carbon, zero-carbon energy. The energy transition cannot be successful if people are not aware of the alternatives available to them.”
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