You are here: Home / Resources / publications / annual report / annual report 2007 / What we achieved in 2007 / International campaign victories / oil refineries emit smoke, not flowers!

oil refineries emit smoke, not flowers!

Shell is infamous for environmentally destructive and highly polluting oil operations around the world. So when Friends of the Earth campaigners saw a Shell advertisment depicting a refinery smokestack emitting only flowers, instead of smoke, they recognised it for what it was: blatant greenwash. And they took action, by filing simultaneous complaints to three European national advertising standards authorities in the Netherlands, England and Belgium.

Oil refinery advertshutting down greenwash: The ad, published in a number of newspapers and magazines in Western European countries in April and May, is intended to portray Shell as green because a tiny proportion of carbon dioxide from its operations is used to enhance growth in greenhouses. Yet as Anne van Schaik, an anti-globalisation campaigner with FoE Netherlands said, “in Nigeria, gas flaring by Shell causes 60 times more greenhouse gas emissions than the carbon dioxide that is reused by Dutch farmers to grow flowers." Thousands of people across the globe suffer daily from the effects of the pollution emitted by Shell’s refineries. 

a win in the netherlands: On July 5th, the Dutch Advertising Authority instructed Shell to stop misleading the public, following the FoE complaint. The Authority confirmed that it was a misrepresentation, since only a tiny proportion of Shell's total carbon dioxide emissions is piped into greenhouses. Shell had also claimed in the advert that it uses its “waste sulphur to make concrete”. The Dutch Advertising Authority also qualified this claim as misleading because this could be interpreted as applying to all of the waste sulphur generated by Shell. In reality, a major part of Shell's sulphur waste is used for fuel for sea ships and is finally released in the air. Sea ships are one of the biggest sources of sulphur dioxide pollution.

In England the case is still pending, but in Belgium the claim was rejected by the Advertisement Authority. In response, Paul de Clerck, head of FoE Europe’s Corporates campaign said, "In the advertisement Shell used strongly misleading environmental claims. The fact that the Belgium Advertisement Authority didn't see any problems clearly underlines the need for strict European-wide rules to prevent greenwashing advertisements by multinational companies such as Shell."

Read the International Herald Tribune's blog on the advert here.


with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs and the isvara foundation

Document Actions