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Shell adverts ‘misled’ consumers over environmental claims

Daily Telegraph

Shell adverts ‘misled’ consumers over environmental claims

The oil giant Shell has been rebuked by the advertising watchdog for “misleading” claims that two of its projects were environmentally sustainable. 

Port Arthur oil refinery in the US

The ASA acknowledged that Shell had made efforts to reduce emissions at its Port Arthur oil refinery in the US Photo: GETTY

A newspaper advertisement, which claimed it was working for “a profitable and sustainable future” by investing in schemes in Canada and the US, has been banned after complaints lodged by the World Wildlife Fund were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The advert said the company was working to “safeguard the interests of our shareholders and future generations.”

It continued: “We are harnessing our global network of technical and financial expertise to unlock the potential of the vast Canadian oil sands deposit. In the USA, we are helping to build what will be the nation’s largest refinery.”

The ASA said Shell should not have used the word “sustainable”, which, it said, is a “vague and ambiguous term”.

“Because we had not seen data that showed how Shell was effectively managing carbon emissions from its oil sands projects in order to limit climate change, we concluded that, on this point, the ad was misleading,” the ASA said.

However, the watchdog accepted that the firm had taken various measures to curb its harmful emissions in processing oil sands, which are composed of sand, silt, clay, water and bitumen and can be turned into synthetic crude oil through an intensive, carbon emissions-heavy process.

The ASA also acknowledged that Shell had made efforts to reduce emissions at its Port Arthur oil refinery in the US. However, the ASA noted that the expansion of the refinery would inevitably see a rise in the total amount of emissions.

It said: “Although emissions might be reduced on a per barrel basis, the increased production of the refinery by 325,000 barrels per day would increase the total overall emissions from the Port Arthur refinery.”

The ASA said Shell had not provided them with any data showing how emissions would be reduced. “Because of that, and because ‘sustainable’ was an ambiguous and unclear term, we concluded that the ad was misleading,” it said.

In its response, Shell said the aim of the advertisement was to highlight their investment in technology that would help them meet the global energy challenge in a responsible way. However the firm said it was a “one-off,” and would not be repeated.

A spokesman for Shell said: “We accept the adjudication of the ASA.”

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