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ClientEarth Communications

14th February 2020

Fossil fuels
Climate accountability

BP pulls advertising campaign just months after our legal complaint

During BP’s net-zero announcement this week, new CEO Bernard Looney announced that BP will “stop corporate reputation advertising” and that the current Possibilities Everywhere ad campaign will end and not be replaced.

In December, we made a legal complaint against the campaign, which we believed could mislead people into thinking that BP are a renewables company, when 96% of the company’s spend is on oil and gas.

We’re demanding more details after BP pulls its advertising campaign

We welcome the oil giant’s announcement that it will cease its current advertising campaign, and see it as an acknowledgement that BP’s multimillion dollar marketing campaign was focused on improving its public reputation, while ignoring the reality of the climate impacts of its oil and gas products and operations.

What this means for our legal complaint

In December, our lawyers filed a complaint to the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, claiming the oil giant’s advertising campaign was misleading to consumers – given its focus on clean energy investments, when in reality more than 96% of BP’s annual spend is still on oil and gas. The campaign was BP’s biggest marketing blitz in a decade, with adverts shown across billboards, newspapers, television and social media in the UK, US and Europe.

ClientEarth’s Climate Accountability Lead Sophie Marjanac said:

“With its announcement, BP appears to have accepted that its approach to advertising was not in line with its stated ambition of helping the world get to net zero and that it was primarily aimed at improving the company’s reputation.”

The move is a step-change in messaging from BP, which has spent millions of pounds promoting its green credentials, but more needs to be done.

Sophie continued: “We now need to now see similar action from the rest of the oil industry – listed companies like Exxon, Shell, Chevron and Total, who all use aggressive marketing to promote their green credentials whilst expanding oil and gas production.”

In the face of the climate emergency, the public should know the truth about the fossil fuel industry and how its growing volumes of oil and gas production are fuelling the climate crisis.

We’re also calling on the UK government to ban all advertising by fossil fuel companies unless it comes with a warning about the impact burning fossil fuels has on people and planet.

What next for BP?

BP CEO Bernard Looney also announced a net-zero ambition for emissions associated with its oil and gas production for 2050. Our lawyers are now calling for BP to give more detail about the nearer-term milestones and targets of its net-zero strategy.

“Given the company itself acknowledges that there have been perceived inconsistencies between what it says and what it does, we will be looking forward to further detail about exactly how it will decarbonise in line with the Paris Agreement,” Sophie said.

“We welcome BP talking about declining oil and gas production, but there needs to be more explanation about how offsets and carbon capture and storage can realistically deliver the company’s decarbonisation ambitions while production continues.”

We also welcome a commitment to further transparency around the company’s ambitions to change its approach to political lobbying.

Since the Paris Agreement was signed, BP has been among the top five publicly traded oil and gas companies that have together spent $1 billion on lobbying politicians and trying to improve its green credentials via slick marketing campaigns. BP is also a member of the American Petroleum Institute – a trade organisation that has been involved in campaigns to sow doubt about the need to take action against climate change.

Our complaint against BP’s advertising will continue, and our lawyers are waiting to receive a formal response from the oil company as part of the complaints procedure.