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Associated Content: Shell Oil Company Told to Stop Misleading Advertising

By Codie Leonsch Hartwig

Friends of the Earth International media release states that the Dutch Advertising Authority has accepted a complaint filed in Amsterdam against Shell Oil Company for an advertisement that claims that Shell uses its waste carbon dioxide to grow flowers.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands, a branch of Friends of the Earth International, filed a complaint against a “greenwash” advertisement being run by Shell in the Netherlands. The Dutch Advertising Authority has instructed Shell to stop misleading the public with “geenwashing” advertising.

According to Shell Oil’s Sustainability Reports, Shell has been taking steps to reduce harmful social and environmental practices, but their efforts still produce only small results, in this case being specifically 0.325 percent reduction of CO2 waste out of total emissions. Because the statistics show only incremental advances, the Dutch Advertising Authority confirmed that the advertisement is misleading.

The print media advertisement that appeared in Netherlands’ newspapers and magazines in April and May of 2007 shows a refinery chimney blowing out flowers instead of smoke. According to an earlier Friends of the Earth Europe media release, it is true that Shell has developed a program whereby an oil refinery in the Netherlands pipes waste CO2 to heat greenhouses where flowers are grown. This program saves 350,000 tons of carbon dioxide waste per year, but this is out of a total of 100 million tons per year.

The ad also claims that Shell uses sulphur to make concrete. While this again is true for a small percentage of Shell’s sulphur waste, it is also true that the major part of its sulphur waste is used as fuel for sea ships. The ships ultimately release the sulphur into the air, as a consequence of which, sea ships are recognized as a major source of sulphur dioxide pollution.

Friends of the Earth Europe filed three simultaneous complaints against the Shell advertisements to the national advertising standards authorities of three countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK. The Netherlands’ Advertising Authority accepted the complaint, the UK is still deliberating, and the Belgium Advertising Authority rejected the complaint, for as yet unspecified reasons.

Friends of the Earth International Corporate campaigner, Paul de Clerk, is quite adamant against Shell Oil Company practices and efforts to overemphasize gains, which misleads the public. De Clerk said: “Shell is one of the world’s dirtiest companies. People living next door to Shell’s refineries around the world can vouch for that. Shell should spend money cleaning up its mess, not on deceiving the public with expensive dishonest adverts….”

This media release also states that Shell has refineries in Nigeria; Durban, in South Africa; the US; and the Philippines, as well as other places, from which the people of the countries suffer because of high levels of air pollution. For example, even though the Nigerian court has ordered Shell to stop the practice, Shell wastes the gas bi-product of oil by flaring it. The practice of flaring gas emits sulphur that causes acid rain. The acid rain deteriorates environments and even corrodes people’s houses.

Another example is the Shell refinery in Durban, South Africa. There, Shell emits 7,300 tons of sulphur dioxide each year. Much of this sulphur dioxide could be recovered and reused but Shell has yet to install the technology. In Durban, people living near the Shell refinery suffer from higher than usual rates of asthma and respiratory disease. There is thought to be a direct causal link between breathing high levels of refinery-emitted sulphur dioxide and respiratory disease.

In the latest media release, some of Paul de Clerk’s statement following the decision of the Dutch Advertising Authority is reported. It said in part: “In the advertisement Shell used strongly misleading environmental claims…

Friends of the Earth International, “Oil Giant Shell Told to Stop ‘greenwashing’: Dutch Advertising Authority accepts Friends of the Earth complaint against misleading advert.” Friends of the Earth International. URL:

Friends of the Earth Europe, “Shell’s Misleading Ad: Complaint Submitted.” Friends of the Earth Europe. URL:

More resources
Complaint in English:

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