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ClientEarth Communications

19th April 2021

Climate accountability

Revealed: 9 examples of fossil fuel company greenwashing

Climate scientists say we have less than 10 years to prevent catastrophic climate change. We urgently need polluting fossil fuel companies to change their business models but too few are facing up to this reality.

Instead of leading a low-carbon transition, these companies are putting out advertising that distracts the public from the realities of their businesses.

So we’re taking action – today we’ve launched the Greenwashing Files to highlight how advertising and other public claims from companies don’t always match up to reality.

Fossil fuel companies that are greenwashing:

We’ve analysed the advertising of nine of some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, comparing their public claims to the reality of their carbon-intensive operations and products, overall climate impact and progress in transitioning to business models that do not endanger people and planet. Click the links to uncover the truth:

  1. Aramco
  2. Chevron
  3. Drax
  4. Exxon
  5. Equinor
  6. Ineos
  7. RWE
  8. Shell
  9. Total

These companies’ marketing campaigns create the impression that they are pushing forward with a rapid and broad transition to low-carbon energy in line with society’s goals as set out in the Paris Agreement.

But the Greenwashing Files reveal that these advertising claims are misleading, when viewed alongside the reality of their businesses. Our analysis shows that their publicity routinely misrepresented the sustainability of their activities, avoided the full scale of their greenhouse gas emissions, overrepresented clean energy investments and promoted commercially unproven ‘solutions’ to ongoing fossil fuel production.

The truth uncovered

While spending millions on campaigns trumpeting token low carbon projects, these companies’ have worked to rehabilitate the environmental image of fossil fuels to continue or even expand their core businesses of oil, gas and coal.

They have publicised ‘net-zero’ ambitions and sustainability targets that rarely align with the Paris Agreement goals and often include gaps or caveats in the small print that permit companies’ fossil fuel operations to grow.

They have invested in reputational advertising that shifts the conversation to action by consumers and governments, positions themselves as trusted partners to wider society and promotes the role fossil fuel companies play in the climate transition.

So, we are putting these companies on notice for adverts that mislead the public, as well as calling on policymakers to introduce tobacco-style advertising bans and health warnings to curb deceptive fossil fuel marketing.

What needs to change?

ClientEarth lawyer Johnny White explains: “We cannot underestimate the real world impact this advertising has on the pace of change.  For decades, some companies’ efforts to refute climate science delayed meaningful climate action and protected ‘business as usual’ profits.

“Today, how can we hope to transition society away from the use of catastrophically damaging fossil fuel products when they and their producers are constantly advertised and normalised?

“These companies need to stop suggesting they are part of the solution in their advertising, otherwise they leave themselves open to challenge,” White added.

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