Fossil fuels companies have routinely misrepresented the sustainability of their activities and avoided publishing their total greenhouse gas emissions, according to new analysis conducted by ClientEarth.
In 2019, ClientEarth lawyers submitted a complaint against BP’s greenwashing before the oil major withdrew its clean energy advertising.
Now ClientEarth is putting other fossil fuel companies on notice for adverts that mislead the public, as well as calling on policymakers to introduce tobacco-style advertising bans and health warnings to curb deceptive fossil fuel marketing.
The environmental lawyers have released the Greenwashing Files, where they have compared the adverts of the major polluters ExxonMobil Aramco, Chevron, Shell, Total, Drax and Ineos, to the realities of their carbon-intensive operations and products, overall climate impact and progress in transitioning to business models that do not endanger people and the planet.
The lawyers are also urging institutional investors and shareholders to use the online Greenwashing Files analysis in the upcoming AGM season, to assess climate risk and to examine companies’ net zero or climate strategies.
ClientEarth lawyer Johnny White said: ‘We’re currently witnessing a great deception, where the companies most responsible for catastrophically heating the planet are spending millions on advertising campaigns about how their business plans are focused on sustainability.
‘Scientists could not be clearer about the need for oil, gas, coal and biomass companies to urgently and significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions they’re responsible for. We need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. But instead of leading a low-carbon transition, these companies are putting out advertising which distracts the public and launders their image.
‘Up until now it has been difficult for the public, shareholders and investors to be confident that such advertising is in fact misleading and amounts to greenwashing. By showing advertising claims alongside the reality of their activities, our research shows these adverts are misrepresenting the true nature of companies’ businesses, of their contribution to climate change, and of their transition plans.
‘We cannot underestimate the real world impact this advertising has on the pace of change. For decades, some companies’ efforts to refute climate science delayed meaningful climate action and protected ‘business as usual’ profits. Today, how can we hope to transition society away from the use of catastrophically damaging fossil fuel products when they and their producers are constantly advertised and normalised?’
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