Shell Accused of Greenwashing, Again

by | Feb 4, 2009

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shell209Royal Dutch Shell has been accused of exaggerating environmental policies in the past, and a new ad they’ve recently released is once again causing the oil company’s critics to yell “greenwashing,” Wall Street Journal reports.

Designed by JWT, the campaign focuses on Shell’s use of technology to harvest oil but one new print ad features a diagram of a human brain full of alternative and renewable fuel sources. That’s where the critics come in, saying that, contrary to what the ad implies, Shell is taking steps backwards in terms of clean energy.

A Greenpeace rep says that the company is trying to hide the fact that they’ve been pulling funding from renewable energy projects to extract oil from Canada’s tar sands. (The company recently said it would stop investing in Europe if utilities are forced to pay for emissions permits through auctions.)

Last August, Shell was reprimanded by UK’s Advertising Standards Authority for violating advertising rules when it claimed that the two oil projects in Canada and the U.S. involved sustainable forms of  energy.

That wasn’t the first time Shell faced criticism over its “green” advertising. Last year, Friends of the Earth Europe filed simultaneous complaints to the national advertising standards authorities of Belgium, the  Netherlands, and the UK about a Shell advertisement which Friends of the Earth says depicts the outline of an oil refinery emitting flowers rather than smoke and claims that it uses its “waste CO2 to grow flowers and [its] waste sulphur to make concrete.”

JWT says that the new greenwashing claims are unfair. Stef Tiratelli, JWT’s manager for Shell, says that the ASA doesn’t have much experience with green energy, and they’ve already made changes to their ads to comply with ASA standards.

According to the ASA’s Environmental Claims Survey 2008, 94 percent of ads with environmental claims were compliant with advertising codes.

In the U.S., the FTC has held three workshops to examine issues concerning the marketing of carbon offsets and renewable energy, green packaging, and green buildings and textiles.

With the FTC expected to update its “Green Guides” this year, the commission is likely to seek legal precedents by going after companies whose green claims have been under investigation.

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