We know the oil companies are notorious greenwashers, but you might not have thought about the airlines. Apparently, they're just as guilty as big oil.
This month a group of environmental organizations, including Earth Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Environment America, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, called out American Airlines, United and Continental Airlines for their efforts to gut anti-pollution programs while simultaneously bragging about their environmental performance.
The issue is these companies each touted their environmental responsibility around Earth Day last month: American in an article in American Airlines in-flight magazine, and the newly merged United and Continental in the description of their new “Eco-Skies” environmental campaign.
But meanwhile were suing in the European Court of Justice to block a new law that holds airlines accountable for their global warming pollution. Classic Greenwash.
The environmental groups sent letters to the airlines criticizing them for:
“spending [their] customers’ money on lawyers and lobbyists in an effort to thwart a crucial anti-pollution program”.
And urging them to:
"drop the lawsuit, and join the future of low-carbon aviation by making your actions consistent with your words."
EDF also sumitted ads to the airline magazines urging them to start flying cleaner (above).
Read more on the Environmental Defense Fund's blog.
Greenpeace has been documenting Shell’s greenwash for years, including false claims about capturing CO2 emissions and misinforming consumers about tar sands. But since BP’s oil disaster, Shell has embarked on a huge, new ad campaign bigger than its previous misleading efforts.
Shell’s “Let’s Go” campaign played out over the summer as BP’s oil was gushing and all other oil companies were trying to keep a low profile. In contrast to BP’s “Making This Right” ads, Shell was making a name for itself as a company that was thinking about the future and working tirelessly to be responsible, reduce emissions and improve efficiency.
Despite the green and secure picture Shell was painting, the company meanwhile was fighting long and hard to open up new, riskier territory to oil drilling. Shell’s the largest leaseholder in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off the coast of Alaska and has spent billions working to open up these areas to offshore drilling.
Last week, Shell amplified its campaign efforts, launching a new, aggressive phase about drilling in the Arctic.
The New York Times called this what it is, “a public lobby campaign” aimed at pressuring the Interior Department to grant final approval for its Arctic drilling projects. According to the Times, the company is placing ads for the rest of the month in “national newspapers, liberal and conservative political magazines and media focused on Congress”.
In the ads, Shell claims to have emergency oil-spill response plans better than BP’s, including a “sub-sea containment system” and a response vessel on standby to drill a relief well. Just suppose this system did work in the spring or summer, what happens when the weather turns and the water freezes? In the remote waters of Alaska's coast, harsh weather and icy waters are the norm, the risk of blowouts is higher and response capacity smaller than in the Gulf of Mexico, and oil spill “clean up” is impossible.
Regulators should be skeptical of any response plans Shell submits. During Congressional oil spill hearings last summer, Rep. Ed Markey exposed that Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips had emergency oil-spill response plans written by the same company and nearly identical to BP’s. The plans included information on protecting walruses in the Gulf of Mexico (even though they live in the Arctic) and the name and phone number of a scientist who died years earlier as a go-to expert in the event of a spill.
The public shouldn’t be fooled by Shell’s new ad campaign and neither should the Interior Department. Shell’s legacy of misstatements provides reason to be skeptical.
Last week, we wrote about Shell’s latest greenwashing campaign that is to be centered upon the idea of passing energy to the next generation and particularly the slogan “Let’s Go.” Two commercials and a print ad have emerged so far featuring this phrase.
It has shown up in newspapers, magazines and on national television…and now in a metro station in the Washington, D.C. area.
While walking through the Braddock Metro Station in Alexandria, V.A., Kert Davies, Director of Research at Greenpeace, saw the same slogan on this ad in the station.
It is a simple advertisement and in fact, the shell logo is so small, it would be hard to recognize on first glance. The greenwashing message reads, “Lets build a better energy future. Let’s go.”
Advertising in the metro stations of the D.C. area is high priced real estate for any company; not only because of the thousands of people that will pass it every day, but because of whom those people might be. D.C. is an area for policy makers, movers and shakers. Shell probably wants them to think they actually care about a clean energy future.
Instead, hopefully everyone looks past the big, bold letters of his greenwashing message to the small Shell logo in the corner and realizes the history of this company and why those words shouldn’t be trusted.
Sandra Bullock knows what greenwash is and doesn’t want to be a part of it.
The Academy Award winning actress recently retracted the support she had given to a campaign called Restore the Gulf, an initiative urging citizens to sign a petition to Congress and President Obama to restore the Gulf of Mexico. The petition stated, “I demand that a plan to restore America's Gulf be fully funded and implemented for me and future generations.”Musicians Lenny Kravitz and Dave Matthews, actor John Goodman and actress Blake Lively joined Bullock and other stars and athletes to create a television commercial promoting the petition.
But when Bullock found out that companies such as BP, Shell and Chevron were behind the words, she withdrew her involvement in and advocacy for the initiative.
The Restore the Gulf campaign is run by America’s Wetland Foundation, a group receiving its funding from the oil industry. According to Source Watch, the group was created in 2002 by a plethora of oil companies and now lobbies for taxpayer assistance to restore the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Huffington Post described the group as the “oil industry using a perfectly-named front group to solicit taxpayer assistance for BP’s cleanup bill.”
According to Bullock’s representatives, it was in no way made aware to her that oil companies were involved in or influenced the project. They asked that the group remove the Public Service Announcement until more information could be determined.
After Bullock withdrew her support, the foundation replied that the money it received from oil companies was “for purely scientific or ecological functions.
Bullock doesn’t believe that and neither do we. The foundation was simply a vehicle for dirty oil companies to carry out their dirty business.
Bullock’s representatives said that the New Orleans resident will continue to “continue to pursue opportunities that will bring awareness and support to the plight of the Gulf region.”
But we hope it will be with an honest organization this time. Not a greenwasher.
Shell has a new, somewhat perplexing, greenwashing campaign. Both television and print advertisements in this new campaign now star Japanese children and families. The print ad, which we know has shown up in both newspapers and magazines, includes several Japanese children playing with balloons in what looks like a traditional Japanese home. The text of the ad includes the phrases “Let’s pass energy on to the next generation” and “The Yoshida children have a lot of energy. But the country they’re growing up in doesn’t."
The television ad that accompanies the print one features a young Japanese boy playing his electric guitar loud and his father coming upstairs to unplug the guitar from the wall.
The message of the ad is that Shell is supplying the energy needed for the child to play his guitar, when is father allows.
Both of these ad’s feature the slogan “Lets go,” which is tied to their greenwashing message of promoting a “better energy future.”
Both of these ads are not only examples of greenwash, because of the fact that an oil company like Shell is behind the message, but they are also simply strange in their target audience choice and featured characters. Why Japan?
Perhaps it’s the long history Shell has in the country. Marcus Samuel and the Samuel Company, a part of the group that eventually formed Royal Dutch Shell, has been operating in Japan since 1900. Since then, the company has formed several oil businesses in the country, including Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., Shell Gas & Power Japan Ltd., Shell Chemicals Japan Ltd., and Shell Global Solutions Japan Ltd.
Japan is a key market for Shell. The country is the world’s largest market for Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG, which shell involves itself in heavily. Additionally, the company works in coal gasification projects in Japan, pulling synthetic gas from petroleum coke, a solid generated from the oil refinery process.
Shell has been significantly benefiting from Japan’s resources for over a century. So why not use the children of the country as the stars in ads that get distributed across the world? I suppose that’s not a crime. But still, the message that Shell cares about the energy future for these children is somewhat skewed, considering their everyday practices in the country and across the world. Shell is an oil company and gets the majority of its money from drilling and exploring for oil. And as long as they are continuing to support those activities, the company won’t be promoting a safe, clean energy future for children in any part of the world.>
If a meat-eater were to hold a vegetarian’s conference, would it make them a vegetarian? If an oil company holds an event promoting alternative energy methods, does it make them an eco-friendly company?
The action might improve their image to those who don’t know much about them, but they don’t fool everyone. An oil company is an oil company. Their income comes from an unsustainable and environmentally damaging source.
So why would they be promoting an event that awards people for using less fuel?
Because they are attempting to paint themselves “green.” Because the company spends a lot of money and time trying to brand itself as caring about the environment and alternative energy. They are bold and experienced greenwashers.
For the last 25 years, Shell has been holding an event called the Shell Eco-Marathon. The oil company created the event to challenge high school and college students to design and build energy efficient vehicles. According to the Eco-Marathon web site, Shell is the organizer of this event because the company is “committed to help promoting efficient energy use, addressing environmental concerns linked to the use of fossil fuels, understanding current patterns of consumption and exploring alternative energies.”
But it’s hard to take this “commitment” seriously.
Not only have they been responsible for both drilling and causing oil spills across the world for years, but also they don’t have any kind of history of being committed to the renewable sector. In April 2009, Shell backed out of it’s initiative to invest in renewable energy possibilities, stating that they are not “economic.” In 2008, the company also backed out of a wind farm project in the Thames Estuary of London.
While the actual Eco-Marathon itself is certainly an act of greenwash, as is the publicity surrounding it.
Last month in the Washington Post, the company ran this half page advertisement promoting the Eco-Marathon. The picture shows an odd, futuristic-looking vehicle that is blurred, probably to make it look fast and powerful. I assume it is one of the entries to this year’s Eco-Marathon. The Web site shows similar looking vehicles.
The competition has two categories: the Prototype and Urban Concept. The Prototype category calls for contestants to develop the most fuel efficient, aerodynamic vehicle possible, while the Urban Concept asks that the most fuel-efficient solutions be developed, while also meeting the criteria for traditional cars on the road today.
There’s no doubting that the Web site makes this event look like a creative way to promote fuel efficiency. But it’s important to remember where the main focus of this company lies; where the money comes from to present the winners of this event with grand prizes (which include trophies and prize money). I assure you it’s at a higher cost than the zeros past the dollar sign.
Shell has spilled tons of oil in Nigeria, not only polluting the environment of the region, but displacing and threatening the indigenous Ogoni people of the country. They are also one of the forerunners of oil drilling in the Arctic.
It’s important that Shell is recognized for the things that truly characterize them; not for the things that they spend money publicizing themselves as.
BP will go down in history for a number of reasons. The company will forever be known as being responsible for the largest oil spill in US history, for leaving hundreds of people without jobs in the Gulf region, for killing an incalculable amount of wildlife, and for altering the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico for decades to come. It’s a severe understatement to say that the company’s reputation has been tainted in the last few months. BP knows this, and they are on damage control. But the frantic efforts to repair their image have of course come with some intense advertising.
While BP has published and broadcasted a variety of different advertising since April 20, one particular advertising campaign seems particularly long running and wide spread. The advertisement’s title is “Making This Right” and lists seven subjects concerning the oil spill. These include: beaches, claims, cleanup, economic investment, environmental restoration, health and safety and wildlife. As part of one large campaign, BP publishes full-page ads focusing on one of these seven categories for a period of time and then switches to another. For example, the beaches version of the advertisement includes a large color picture of people cleaning up the beaches in the Gulf, a paragraph explaining this effort and a telephone number for people to call should they see oil on the beach. The last sentence says, “We may not always be perfect, but we will make this right.”
After seeing this advertisement run practically every other day in several major newspapers, Greenpeace became curious about how much BP was paying to run these large ads so frequently. We began collecting the advertisements throughout the month of June from three major newspapers: The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post. We kept track of how many times the ad appeared and whether or not it was in color or black and white. When June ended, we began making calls to these publications to find out how much it was costing the oil giant. After getting estimates from advertising executives and looking at their advertising rate cards online, we found that BP had spent over $5.6 million in one month on advertising in three papers.
Kate Sheppard, a journalist for Mother Jones, used Greenpeace’s total as the basis for a story, which ran earlier this month. In her article, Sheppard also brought to light that BP often also has the option of choosing where their advertisements are printed in the paper, so they can easily place the large advertisements next to a story about the spill; a commonly used, deceptive advertising practice.
$5.6 million is an astounding amount, but a drop in the bucket to the third largest energy company in the world. However, its important to note that the total we calculated is only for one month and only for three papers. Additionally, we discovered that the Washington Post had a bulk rate discount, meaning that they got cut a break.
The real total that has been spent on all advertising since the disaster occurred is many more times the amount that we found. In the end, it will certainly be interesting to see how much it will take to repair a reputation with such a deep scar. However, it might be safe to say that even the largest color ads couldn’t fix what’s already been done.
ExxonMobil gave approximately $1.3 million to climate denial organizations last year.
This has been reported by The Times (London) after being provided information by the Greenpeace Research Department. (The Times is unfortunately a subscription-only paper online, but a version of the story can be found syndicated at The Australian).
Greenpeace tabulated this figure - as we have done every year - from Exxon’s annual corporate Worldwide Giving Report. This year's Giving Report was way late on arrival, only published online in late June rather than the customary delivery in May before Exxon's annual general shareholders meeting. Download pdf of Worldwide Giving Report here
The Times concluded that Exxon had broken its pledges dating back to 2005 to stop payments to climate change deniers. After significant pressure from numerous bodies including ExxonSecrets, the Royal Society of London and Senators Snowe and Rockefeller, Exxon admitted its campaign of diversion.
In its 2007 Corporate Citizenship Report, published in May 2008, the oil giant stated,
“In 2008, we will discontinue contributions to several public policy groups, whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure energy required for economic growth in a responsible manner.”
And indeed, over the past four years, Exxon has reduced its grants to prominent climate change deniers from the peak spending in 2005 of over $3.5M. Greenpeace’s research shows a $2.2 million reduction in annual funding to these organizations, down to roughly $1.3 million in 2009. The number of groups known to be funded has dropped from 51 to 24 between 2005 and 2009.
So they are down to about half the organizations and about one third of the funding. But is that good enough? Does this mean Exxon gets credit for finally ditching the deniers?
In 2009, Exxon was still giving significant contributions to organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, the Annapolis Center, the American Enterprise Institute, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Harvard- Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Washington Legal Foundation, each of which has a long history of climate change denial. (see complete list of 2009 funding below).
Exxon has told The Times that it is no longer funding Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Pacific Research Institute and the Media Research Center, the former nest of Marc Morano (ex- Sen. Inhofe staffer and now CFACT blogger).
The 2009 funding to these groups was:
Exxon drops denial groups, but picks up denier scientists instead
Importantly, during the same period where Exxon bent to the pressure on its campaign of denial and cut all funding to hard core deniers like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute and others...
Exxon began funding (at least publicly) the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in 2005.
The 2009 ExxonMobil funding to SAO was $ 76,106, for a grand and odd total of $417,212 since 2005. SAO is the home of Dr. Willie Soon and Dr. Sallie Baliunas, two scientists who have worked both together and as individuals on publishing junk science for nearly two decades. Both have been heavily involved with many of the groups running denier campaigns today.
For example, Soon and Baliunas’ article “Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years,” concluded (incorrectly) that the warming of the globe experienced today is not at all unique and that the twentieth century is not the warmest on record, contradicting well established science. This paper was partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute. The flawed peer review process that led to its publication caused several editors at Climate Research (where it was published) to resign.
In 2007, just ahead of a crucial decision by the US Federal Government about whether to list polar bears as "endangered" from climate change, Soon was funded by ExxonMobil for his work in a paper that argued that polar bears were not under threat (because climate change wasn't happening). Soon is an expert in astrophysics, not polar bears, but Exxon saw fit to fund this work.
Baliunas has individually authored a 1994 report entitled “The Ozone Crisis,” claiming that science denies CFC’s affect on the ozone. She has been a resident expert at the George C Marshall Institute for years, alongside other serial deniers such as S Fred Singer.
So much more is detailed in our "Dealing in Doubt" report. It is a campaign of denial that goes back some 20 years. It continues to this day as the stakes get higher and higher. 2010, so far, has set global records for high temperatures. Corporate and private funders of the organizations who continue to deal in misinformation about climate science and climate policy will someday be held accountable for their destructive actions.
24 organizations in ExxonSecrets database were funded in 2009:
When I opened nytimes.com last week, I thought that I was on the wrong site. The page I had known with everyday (as it is my homepage) was suddenly foreign to me. At 7 a.m., this threw me. I sat back for a second, wondering what I was looking at; wondering why it wasn’t familiar.
Instead of headlines and a usually captivating example of photojournalism, the New York Times masthead was sandwiched between the Shell logo on one side and the words “A new energy future is dawning. The world will be on the road to sustainable mobility” on the other. Below was a giant, interactive advertisement with a timeline showing energy milestones throughout history. Below the timeline it says, “A new energy future is dawning. The world will be on the road to sustainable mobility.”
The ad is literally so large that no news stories or their headlines can be seen without scrolling down. It is so dominating that it seems like a parodied version of the New York Times site; almost a joke on the “power” of advertising. For a second, I thought that Shell might have actually purchased the newspaper overnight.
But the bigger joke is that Shell is the one sponsoring this monstrosity; that the company that drills for oil across the world is probably paying for this “sustainable energy” ad with money tied to fossil fuels. Both the price tag of New York Times advertising as well as the costs to the environment to get the money for this advertisement is high.
Although this example is an extreme one, Shell has a history of this behavior. In fact, on SourceWatch, Shell and greenwashing is the first category under a search of the company. They have greenwashed in both UK and American media. In 2008, they were found guilty by the British Advertising Standards Authority for false advertising concerning their operations in the tar sands.
At the top of the most recent advertisement on the New York Times, the company wrote, “Long-term energy demand will continue to soar. Shell is pushing the frontiers of energy exploration and squeezing more from existing resources to unlock new energy for the future.”
It is true. They are “squeezing” and depleting resources every day that they drill across the world, while also taking a risk at the expense of the environment. They are pushing it. They are willing to take risks like drilling in deep water (Shell currently owns The Perdido Spar, the deepest oil rig in the world, located in the Gulf of Mexico) and they are well known for operating unsafe wells and causing oil spills in Nigeria.
But they certainly aren’t exploring for new or sustainable energy. They are exploring for what the company has always made profit from: oil.
Lately, a significant amount of news on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has centered upon the giant, underwater plumes of oil currently being investigated by both scientists and journalists.
ABC News has referred to the plumes as “islands” in a frightening video showing evidence that the oil has reached significant depths.
The thought that the oil could at one point be soaked up along the surface with booms made of hair is now a hopeless wish that existed long ago. But it’s clear that the oil will reach many more creatures and ecosystems than originally thought.
One of the environments currently being threatened is the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Texas and Louisiana. The underwater oil “islands” threaten the bountiful life that currently exists in the region and the possibility that it will ever be the same again.
See here for more information on the oil spill’s effects on this area.
However, when researching this marine sanctuary, we also discovered that it was also once the focus of a major greenwashing scheme headed by Shell Oil Company.
At a time when the fate of this federally protected area is so vulnerable and at risk of being altered forever by oil, Greenpeace felt it necessary to shed light on the ironic fact that Shell has used the place to brand its own image as green and actually caring about the environment.
The oil company ran a full-page print advertisement in National Geographic Magazine and several other publications, which featured a color picture of a diver swimming through deep blue water featuring brightly colored fish and coral. The statement in the middle of the ad says: “What do we really need in today’s energy hungry world? More gardeners.”
More gardeners? If that’s really what we needed, we could just stop drilling for oil all together right? All we need is more gardeners.
But Shell doesn’t really mean that at all.
They know that in today’s energy hungry world, oil is the food and the company’s main priority. Even through the thickest green glasses, few are going to dispute that fact.
The rest of the text on the advertisement reads that a Shell employee and marine biologist has been working with the company to protect the area.
But how much could the oil giant really be protecting when the company also actually drills near the vulnerable sanctuary.
The advertisement and words on the page are clearly for show.
Shell does have close ties to the Flower Gardens. In fact, an executive from Shell Canada, Rebecca Nadel serves on the sanctuary’s advisory council. Also on the team for the sanctuary is James Sinclair of the now notorious Minerals Management Service. At first glance, it doesn’t exactly look like those employed to protect the sanctuary are representing the most responsible organizations.
Shell has a cozy bed in sanctuary bureaucracy.
The company however, does donate money to Flower Gardens. The Green Life reports $5,000 of direct funding each year. However, the site also acknowledges that it costs nearly six figures to run one advertisement in National Geographic. For a drop in the bucket, the oil giant rebrands its image as being concerned with the underwater sanctuary.
BP has run very similar greenwashing campaigns that seek to portray the company as putting forth a significant amount of effort toward alternative energy. Further research on the topic also found that they were only focusing a small percentage on alternatives, when the majority of their focus proved to be on oil.
If Shell really wanted to protect the area, it wouldn’t be drilling at all. When looking at the real facts of this company, it has no right to run advertisements that it is truly working to save the area that should be protected as a gold mine of beautiful species and ecosystems.
Every time that Shell drills again near the area, they are taking the risk that an event like the Deepwater Horizon spill could happen again. It’s a risk, and it severely outweighs any kind of protection that their $5,000 might provide. It’s a risk that can have serious consequences, and it’s a risk that forbids Shell from being called a truly green company or caring about the environment. It’s a risk that that completely undermines their pretty, full-page color advertisement and smoothly written paragraph that fakes sensitivity.
The company’s greenwashing actions seem even more intense when considering that Shell is currently moving forward with plans to drill off the Arctic coast of Alaska, even in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Should the oil from the current spill begin to effect the Flower Gardens Sanctuary, it will forever alter the status of what was supposed to be a protected place. However, it should be noted that as long as drilling by companies like BP, Shell, and others, still occurs, the threat will always be there.
It’s true, we do need more gardeners in the world. But not if they have the same green thumb that Shell does.
Someone should tell that company that oil isn’t good for any garden.
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Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.