Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Shell rapped for greenwashing

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell misled the public about the green credentials of an oil project in Canada. A complaint against an advertisement in the Financial times was lodged by the WWF (formerly Worldwide Fund for Nature). It's unclear whether any other complaints were received. Shell was criticised for using the word "sustainable" for its controversial tar sands project and a second scheme to build an oil refinery. The ASA ruled that the adhad breached rules on substantiation, truthfulness and environmental claims, since both projects would lead to the emission of more greenhouse gases. You can read the full story here.

It's interesting to note that before any radio advertisement can be aired in the UK, it has to be submitted for clearance and any any claims must be substantiated to the satisfaction of the relevant authority. Yet press advertising is not usually scrutinised until somebody complains. I'd like to see the radio system adopted for all types of advertising, then consumers could be more confident that advertisers' claims are "legal, decent, honest and truthful". In fact, it would also benefit conscientious advertisers, who already perform this kind of due diligence only to find their position undermined by the less scrupulous organisations.

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