Following a complaint by Adfree Cities, adverts for fossil fuel giant Shell were officially banned by the UK’s advertising regulator for making misleading green claims. The ads were made by agency Wunderman Thompson.
The 'Cleaner Energy' adverts, on billboards, social media and TV, promoted Shell’s renewable energy activities but failed to mention their vastly greater, and expanding, fossil fuel operations.
The ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority should set a precedent, marking a crack down on greenwash in energy companies’ advertising. In particular, this should mark an end to the tactic of selectively advertising a very small proportion of a company's business that is in 'greener' activities, while failing to mention high-carbon and environmentally damaging activities that make up the vast majority of the business. This has been called 'greenwash-by-omission', and has been a staple greenwashing tactic by carbon-intensive sectors for decades. Read more about the ruling in Adfree Cities' blog.
Following the ruling, a coalition of organisations gathered outside the advertising agency that made the banned adverts, Wunderman Thomson, in London to put pressure on the agency to drop Shell and other fossil fuel clients. Activists from Adfree Cities, Glimpse, Greenpeace, Fossil Free London, Brandalism and Extinction Rebellion gave WT a "Best in Greenwashing" prize. Read more and see photos here.
Veronica Wignall, co-director of Adfree Cities, who led the complaint against Shell's adverts, said: “Today’s official ban on Shell’s adverts marks the end of the line for fossil fuel greenwashing in the UK. The world’s biggest polluters will not be permitted to advertise that they are ‘green’ while they build new pipelines, refineries and rigs – but this doesn’t go far enough. Shell and other fossil fuel expanders should not be permitted to advertise at all, given their historic and ongoing role in wrecking the planet.
“UK-wide protests are exposing the absurdity of expanding oil and gas extraction and rampant profiteering in the face of worsening climate impacts. We need robust legislation to stop fossil fuel advertising – but we also need UK advertising agencies to stop enabling clients like Shell that are not only on the wrong side of history, but a source of growing regulatory and reputational risk.”