10 June 2024 - Fossil Ad Ban, a programme of Fossil Free SA, has filed South Africa’s first greenwashing complaint with the Advertising Regulatory Board, against TotalEnergies.

Across the globe, the tide is turning against corporate greenwashing: On 5 June, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged countries to clamp down on fossil fuel advertising. Hoping to bring this fight to a South African landscape, Fossil Ad Ban is challenging a misleading advert by TotalEnergies. 


The advert, hosted on TotalEnergies’ website, invites individuals to embrace summer by enjoying the outdoors in South Africa's national parks. It encourages participants to share their “favourite summer moments at SANParks” for a chance to win prizes. The same advertisement claims TotalEnergies is committed to “sustainable development” and “environmental protection”. 

“This false and misleading claim is a clear example of greenwashing, a tactic where companies try to appear environmentally friendly without meaningfully reducing their impact, or even while continuing to have a disastrous impact,” said Fossil Ad Ban campaigner, Thameena Dhansay. “Allowing fossil fuel companies to deceive consumers is incredibly dangerous. It delays the transition to more sustainable practices by hiding the true social and environmental costs of fossil fuel production, the primary driver of the climate crisis.” 

As the world's 19th biggest greenhouse gas emitter, TotalEnergies is a leading contributor  to climate breakdown. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change disrupts marine, terrestrial, and freshwater ecosystems, leading to extinctions, increased disease, and mass mortality events. “Rather than providing ‘environmental production’, as TotalEnergies claims to do, it causes irreparable damage to ecosystems and biodiversity,” said Dhansay. 

Despite TotalEnergies’ claims to support the objectives of the 2015 Paris climate agreement “as a major step forward in the fight against global warming”, the company continues to increase its greenhouse gas emissions, causing $76 billion worth of climate damage in 2022.

“Fighting greenwashing in advertising might seem irrelevant in the grand scheme of the climate crisis. However, marketing and PR are a core tactic that fossil fuel companies use to gain the social licence to keep destroying our planet,” said Dhansay. “It impedes consumers’ abilities to make informed purchase decisions and hinders policy action by government stakeholders. This has real life consequences beyond the environment; it affects people’s daily lives.”


TotalEnergies continues to explore for new oil and gas reserves across Africa. They have recently been granted a licence to conduct exploratory drilling between Cape Agulhas and Cape Town. This will negatively impact marine species, disrupt ecosystems, and pose risks to coastal communities and fishing livelihoods. TotalEnergies also plans to resume work on a massive fossil gas project in Mozambique this year and has a 62% stake in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project which will displace more than 100,000 people, increase food insecurity and household debt and disrupt critical ecosystems and nature reserves for elephants, lions and chimpanzees.

“With the ARB currently updating their regulations for sustainability claims, we see our complaint as a necessary step towards addressing fossil fuel greenwashing. We hope this complaint will spark awareness of the dangers of fossil fuel advertising in South Africa and encourage people to critically engage with greenwashing tactics on a broader scale,” Dhansay added.

Fossil Ad Ban encourages citizens to keep an eye out for fossil fuel advertising and report any instances of greenwashing by submitting complaints to the ARB and their Fossil Ad Watch initiative. “Together as South Africans, we can join the global community in curbing the greenwashing efforts of the fossil fuel industry, which is a necessary step in transitioning to a greener future for us all,” Dhansay concluded.