1 of 2 | Shell was ordered to stop running ads that were deemed to be misleading about its role in the energy transition. So-called greenwashing is a mounting concern as the energy sector pivots away from fossil fuels. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo
June 7 (UPI) -- Energy major Shell misled consumers with ad campaigns touting its low-carbon focus while its actual business model is geared toward fossil fuels, a U.K. advertising watchdog said Wednesday.
The Advertising Standards Authority highlighted television, print and online media campaigns showcasing Shell as a clean-energy provider.
"From electric vehicle charging to renewable electricity for your home, Shell is giving customers more low-carbon choices and helping drive the U.K.'s energy transition," a campaign from June 2022 on YouTube broadcast. "The U.K. is ready for cleaner energy."
The group Adfree Cities complained to ASA that the advertisements left out considerable detail about Shell's fossil fuel investments, suggesting consumers were misled into thinking Shell was a clean energy company.
The ASA found that customers may interpret the material as suggesting Shell "as a whole" was "providing clean energy," when in fact that's not the case.
ASA said consumers are concerned about the environmental impact from carbon-intensive sources of energy and would likely want to seek out businesses that are transitioning away from those sources of pollution.
"However, they were unlikely to be aware of the details of this in relation to specific companies, and ads were therefore likely to mislead consumers if they misrepresented the contribution that lower-carbon initiatives played, or would play in the near future, as part of the overall balance of a company's activities," it ruled.
Veronica Wignall, co-director of Adfree Cities, said that companies like Shell should not be able to advertise at all given their track record on pollution.
"We need robust legislation to stop fossil fuel advertising -- but we also need U.K. advertising agencies to stop enabling clients like Shell that are not only on the wrong side of history, but a source of growing regulatory and reputational risk," she said.
Shell was ordered to stop running its campaigns in the United Kingdom.
So-called greenwashing is nevertheless a global concern. The U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee in December lashed out at fossil fuel companies for obscuring some of their investment plans for fossil fuels in an effort to clean up their image.
The oversight committee released a 31-page memo summarizing the committee's investigation into fossil fuel industry disinformation. It suggested U.S. oil major Chevron presented a strategy to its board that Chevron would continue to invest in fossil fuels while others were transitioning to cleaner alternatives.