Examining the advertisement placed by Shell in the Financial Times earlier this year, the Advertising Standards Authority branded it “misleading” due to its ambiguous use of the word “sustainable”.
The advertisement referred specifically to the company's oil sands deposits in Alberta, Canada and their work to build the largest oil refinery in North America in Port Arthur, Texas. WWF-UK asserted that Shell's repeated use of the term “sustainable” was entirely at odds with these activities.
A recent report released by WWF-UK revealed that the production of oil from tar-soaked shale or sand can create up to eight times as many emissions as conventional oil production does.
'Oil sands are one of the world's dirtiest sources of fuel and have a major impact on the environment,' said David Norman, Director of Campaigns at WWF-UK. 'Their extraction cannot be described as a sustainable process and for Shell to claim otherwise is wholly misleading.'
Shell argued that to meet vast energy requirements it had to look beyond conventional sources of oil and gas, 'but also the development of vast resources of unconventional oil and gas, such as oil sands'.
The ASA said that the use of the word 'sustainable' throughout the advertisement was defined as 'primarily in environmental terms'. Because Shell had not provided evidence that it was 'effectively' managing carbon emissions from its oil sands projects 'in order to limit climate change', the ASA deemed that the advertisement was misleading.
The ASA came to the same conclusion about Shell's claims about the redevelopment of the Port Arthur oil refinery and said the advertisement should not be shown again in its current form.
WWF's advertisement was launched today on giant digital screens at London’s Waterloo Station. The 20-second ad, featuring images of stripped mining landscape in Canada, accuses Shell of 'greenwash' and claims that their operation releases three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil production.
Half of the remaining boreal forest in the world is situated in Canada and large areas of this have already been destroyed by oil sand extraction. Alberta is also home to some of the largest dam structures in the world, which were built to hold in huge tailing ponds of waste water. These ponds, some of which are visible from space, are the toxic by-product of the oil sand industry.
'The ASA's decision to uphold WWF's complaint sends a strong signal to business and industry that greenwash is unacceptable,' David Norman continued. 'Oil sands are an incredibly destructive source of energy and, along with the expansion of Shell's oil refining capacity in Texas, cannot be considered a sustainable way to meet the world's future energy needs.
“If Shell were serious about sourcing sustainable energy, then they would be far better placed investing in renewable energy, such as wind, tidal or solar power.'