Some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies have used advertising to “greenwash” their ongoing contribution to the climate crisis, according to files published by the environmental lawyers ClientEarth.
They describe the practice as “a great deception”.
“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,” said Johnny White, one of ClientEarth’s lawyers. "...instead of leading a low-carbon transition these companies are putting out advertising which distracts the public and launders their image. Our research shows these adverts are misrepresenting the true nature of companies’ businesses, of their contribution to climate change, and of their transition plans.”
ClientEarth’s analysis includes claims that:
1. ExxonMobil advertising suggested its experimental algae biofuels could one day reduce transport emissions, while it has no company-wide net zero target and its 2025 emission reduction targets do not include the vast majority of emissions resulting from its products.
2. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco said it conducted business “in a way that addresses the climate challenge” yet it is the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitter and plans to continue exploring for more oil and gas, despite having reserves greater than those of Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total combined.
3. Chevron said it was “part of the solution” to climate change but does not have a net zero commitment or a strategy aligned with the Paris climate agreement. Its plans for carbon capture and storage cover less than 1% of its 2019 carbon emissions.
4. Shell said it was investing in “lower-carbon biofuels and hydrogen, electric vehicle charging, solar and wind power”, but in 2020 it earmarked between $2bn and $3bn a year for low-carbon businesses, compared to $17bn on fossil fuels operations.