Lawyers file complaint against BP’s ‘misleading’ advertising campaign

WNM | Dec 5, 2019 at 12:01 AM
Road tanker refuelling (BP Images/Flickr)

LONDON, December 4 (WNM) - Environmental lawyers from ClientEarth, a non-profit legal group, have filed a high-level complaint against BP p.l.c., claiming that it is misleading consumers about its focus on low carbon energy and solutions to climate change in its multimillion-euro advertising campaign.

ClientEarth has triggered an official complaints procedure against the company under the guidelines of the OECD, an international set of rules governing corporate conduct. The OECD sets guidelines for multinational companies that relate to environmental communications and advertising. They state that the public requires accurate, clear, and comprehensive information to make informed decisions about the sustainability of their consumption habits and their climate impact.

Recently, the National Galleries Scotland (NGS) has become the latest arts organisation to end sponsorship projects with BP, citing its “responsibility to do all we can to address the climate emergency” (https://world-news-monitor.com/top-news/2019/11/19/more-british-arts-organisations-to-end-bp-ties-over-climate-concerns/).

ClientEarth’s complaint states that BP’s ads are in direct conflict with other provisions in the guidelines relating to disclosure of information; promotion of environmental awareness; and consumer education.

The legal complaint focuses on BP’s ‘Keep Advancing’ and ‘Possibilities Everywhere’ campaigns. BP are currently paying for their adverts to be shown across billboards, newspapers and television in the UK, US and Europe as well as on social media and online.

ClientEarth climate lawyer Sophie Marjanac said the complaint features a dossier of more than 100 pages of evidence examining BP’s advertising and the impression it creates for ordinary consumers. “BP is spending millions on an advertising campaign to give the impression that it’s racing to renewables, that its gas is cleaner, and that it is part of the climate solution,” she said.

“While BP’s advertising focuses on clean energy, in reality, more than 96% of the company’s annual capital expenditure is on oil and gas. According to its own figures, BP is spending less than four pounds in every hundred on low-carbon investments each year. The rest is fuelling the climate crisis.”

Specifically, the lawyers are taking issue with the potentially misleading impression BP is giving by focusing on its renewable energy investments, given oil and gas makes up such a massive proportion of BP’s business.

They are also questioning the accuracy of BP’s statements around gas – which it describes as “cleaner burning” – as well as the company’s claim that gas currently plays only a backup role on power grids in support of rather than displacing renewable energy. Also in question are BP’s assertions that increasing global energy demand, including greater use of gas in the coming decades is essential to human progress.