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Shell ads banned over fuel claims

19 October 2011

Shell has been criticised for exaggerating a promotion for cost-cutting fuels.

The company has been banned from using two of its adverts which promote a money-saving fuel because they have been ruled to be misleading.

A direct mailing advert, sent in March, said Shell scientists had developed a regular fuel to help consumers save money.

It said: “Their latest fuels – Shell FuelSave Unleaded and Diesel – are designed to help you save fuel and money. These advanced fuels each have a special formula enriched with Shell Efficiency Improver combined with a special detergent package – designed to improve your fuel economy from the very first fill.”

The advert featured a man dressed up in a laboratory coat holding a full one-litre measuring glass with the promise that customers could save up to one litre per tank at no extra cost.

The second advert, broadcast on the radio in April, told consumers that Shell could help them save fuel and money.

Three complainants challenged these claims because they believed that the adverts exaggerated the benefits available.

Shell argued that its tests showed that both the unleaded and diesel fuels achieved a 2% saving more than 10% of the time.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the claims and said the adverts must not appear or be broadcast again in their current form.

Its judgment said: “The ASA noted that the ads stated that fuel savings ‘may vary according to vehicle’, but we considered that the claim in the ads that consumers could save up to one litre per tank at no extra cost implied that the saving would be applicable to all or most vehicles.”



Shell FuelSave wakens memories of Formula Shell debacle

Shell Greenwash Section (and misleading advertising)

Environmental Leader: Shell Catches Flak Over Green Ad, Releases Sustainability Report: 8 May 2007

New York Times: Shell and ‘Flower Power’: 31 May 2007

The Independent: Inside Story: Advertising environmentalism – Is it just greenwash?: 31 March 2008 (GREENWASH)


They say: Shell’s “Don’t throw anything away – there is no away” campaign features an ad with a cartoon oil refinery emitting flowers, accompanied by the claim that Shell uses its waste CO2 to grow flowers, and waste sulphur to make concrete.

Behind the greenwash: It turned out that Shell only recycled 0.325 per cent of its CO2 emissions in this way, and barely more of its waste sulphur. In November, the ASA welcomed Shell’s assurance that the ad would no longer be used. Shell is less keen to tell us all about its project to extract oil from the Canadian tar – just about the most climate-wrecking form of fossil fuel extraction one could imagine. Record complaints over ‘greenwashing‘: 25 April 2008


Lord Smith of Finsbury, chairman of the ASA, said it was one of the fastest-growing areas of complaint and now formed a significant part of the watchdog’s role.

We have come across quite a number where claims are exaggerated or misleading or, in some cases, severely exaggerated.”

A number of the complaints against national and international advertisers were upheld, including Ryanair and Toyota, with Shell identified as one of the worst offenders.

It placed a series of newspaper adverts featuring an oil refinery with flowers emerging from the chimneys and the claim “we use our waste CO2 to grow flowers”.

However, Friends of the Earth complained that it implied most or all emissions were used, whereas the true figure was just 0.325 per cent of its CO2 output. The ASA upheld the complaint.

“This is an extreme example but what they were doing was taking their bit of good environmental practice and making a big claim about themselves and their products,” said Lord Smith, the former culture secretary.

Where a complaint is upheld the ASA can force the offender to change an advert or withdraw it altogether, which could result in a company losing a multimillion pound advertising campaign while gaining a mountain of bad publicity.

“Any misleading in advertising is bad for the consumer and not particularly helpful for the company because they will be found out,” said Lord Smith.

“I suspect Shell are somewhat embarrassed by their ‘we grow flowers’ claim because it’s such a ridiculous claim.”

Environmental Leader: Advertising Watchdog Sees Big Jump In Green Ad Complaints: 5 May 2008

Daily Telegraph: Shell adverts ‘misled’ consumers over environmental claims: 12 August 2008

Calgary Herald: WWF targets oilsands after court rules Shell ad is misleading: 13 August 2008

Campaign Magazine (BRAND REPUBLIC): Shell ad banned over ‘greenwashing’ claims: 13 August 2008

Financial Times: Complaint upheld over Shell advert: 13 August 2008

The ASA will announce today that it has upheld a complaint against Shell by WWF, the environmental charity, about the oil company’s claims that oil sands in Canada were a “sustainable” energy source.

Shell’s Canadian oil sands projects have proven controversial because they require much more energy and water than in traditional extraction and refining.

The ASA ruling says: “Because ‘sustainable’ was an ambiguous term, and 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.”

Under the ruling Shell cannot reproduce the advertisement, which appeared just once, in the Financial Times in February this year.

Shell said in a statement: “We accept the adjudication of the ASA.” It declined to comment on how many of

its advertisements contain claims about its environmental credentials, nor whether it would moderate the use of such terms in future marketing campaigns.

The Guardian: Shell rapped by ASA for ‘greenwash’ advert: 13 August 2008

Oil company’s claim that its work in Alberta’s tar sands was ‘sustainable’ is branded ‘misleading’ by Advertising Standards Authority.

The Guardian: WWF advert attacks Shell’s claims: 13 August 2008

The Independent: Shell rebuked for ‘greenwash’ over ad for polluting oil project: 13 August 2008

Environmental Leader: ASA: Shell Environmental Claims Violate Advertising Rules: 14 August 2008

The Independent: Time for multi-dimensional communication with oil companies: 15August 2008

For the second time in the last couple of years the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has found itself at the heart of the debate about greenwash in advertising.

In 2007 Shell ads suggested rather bizarrely that it had been using its waste CO2 emissions to grow flowers: the ad was condemned by the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). One year later another Shell ad has been banned. This time for suggesting that the company’s Canadian oil sand extraction operation was sustainable. Shell does not appear to have learnt its lesson.

Financial Post (Canada): Sustaina-bull: 16 August 2008

This week, petroleum giant Royal Dutch Shell had its knuckles rapped by the U. K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over claims that its Canadian oil sands operations were “sustainable.” There is a certain rich irony in Shell being hoist by its own environmental petard. The company’s former CEO, Sir Philip Watts, once claimed that Shell’s commitment to sustainable development and corporate social responsibility were what elevated it above its rivals. That was before he was thrown out of the company for cooking the books.

For years, Shell has been kowtowing to the environmental movement, and has featured a rogues’ gallery of board members and executives who ranged between green radicalism and abject appeasement. Typically, as it groveled to defend itself in the ASA case, it quoted a report by the World Wildlife Fund, the very organization that had challenged its ad in the first place. One can’t help conjuring up the image of a dog licking the hand of its vivisectionist.

Blogger News Network: The origins of Shell’s “Greenwash” were back in 1997: 16 August 2008

The Guardian: Climate controls: The chairman of the ASA on the problems of greenwash…: 18 August 2008

EnvironmentalLeader: Shell Criticized for Manipulating Environmental Audit Report: 2 September 2008

Calgard Herald: Shell to pull ‘greenwash’ ad on Canadian oilsands projects: 24 September 2008

The ASA upheld a high-profile complaint against Royal Dutch Shell for an ad that ran, just once, in the Financial Times in February, claiming that oil sands in Canada’s wilderness were a “sustainable” energy source.

The Guardian: The great green swindle: 23 October 2008

The Guardian: It will take more than goodwill and greenwash to save the biosphere: 6 January 2009

AlterNet: Monbiot Grills Shell Oil CEO: Is There Any Investment You Would Not Make on Ethical Grounds?: 8 January 2009

The Wall Street Journal: Shell’s Green Ads Take New Tack: 2 February 2009

The Times: Advertising regulators get tough over “greenwash”: 3 February 2009

Environmental Leader: Shell Accused of Greenwashing, Again: 4 February 2009

Convenience Store News: Green Shell Ads Stress Innovations to Increase Oil Supply: 4 February 2009

Financial Times: Emissions disclosure study puts Shell bottom of the big oil class: 16 March 2009

The Guardian: Shell dumps wind, solar and hydro power in favour of biofuels: 17 March 2009

Reuters: Shell goes cold on wind, solar, hydrogen energy: 17 March 2009

The Guardian: Shell’s subtle switch from renewables to the murky world of ‘alternative’ energy: 18 March 2009

The Times: Anger as Shell reduces renewables investment: 18 March 2009

The Guardian: Shoppers need clear labels to put a stop to ‘greenwash’: 23 March 2009

Financial Times: Clampdown on greenwash: 25 March 2009

The Guardian: Greenwash: Shell betrays ‘new energy future’ promises: 26 March 2009

Case against Shell dismissed: 6 September 2010

Shell shock: Energy giant censured for ‘fracking’ ads:6 July 2011 Mail & Guardian

Shell ‘disappointed’ by ruling on fracking ads: 7 July 2011


There was no evidence anyone was actually misled when Shell claimed its petrol was “designed to take you further” despite only increasing efficiency by less than 1 percent, the judge who dismissed the case against the oil company said.


Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell was ordered on Wednesday to withdraw claims about controversial shale gas drilling in an advertisement carried in several South African newspapers.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the company had made claims that were unsubstantiated and likely to mislead, in a complaint brought by a lobby group that is fighting a bid by Shell to explore for gas deposits.

Advertising Standards Authority orders the multinational to withdraw “unsubstantiated” and “misleading” claims it made in a series of full-page print advertisements

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