🚫 (Another) Repsol advert banned for greenwashing 🚫

The UK advertising watchdog has banned another Big Oil advert for greenwashing, following Adfree Cities’ complaint.

Spanish oil company Repsol’s advert was banned for misleadingly focusing on renewable hydrogen, when the firm’s production of this fuel type is not yet in operation and the vast proportion of Repsol’s business remains in fossil fuels. 

The litmus test for true climate leadership in the energy sector is pivoting away from fossil fuels. Despite their glossy adverts, Repsol is failing in this regard.

Freddie Daley, Badvertising campaign

This is the second Repsol advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this year. The first, an advert for biofuels, was banned in June, alongside ads for Shell and Petronas, in a suite of Big Oil greenwash rulings that were hailed as landmark actions that would prevent similar greenwashing in future.

Repsol’s renewable hydrogen advert was spotted and reported to the Financial Times and the ASA just weeks later. With this clear example of how regulation of polluting advertising failing to keep greenwash in check, the case is building for government and media outlets to stop greenwash at source with an outright ban on high-carbon advertising.

Only 0.4% of Repsol’s turnover is currently from lower-carbon activities (those aligned with the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy). 0.0% of their turnover currently derives from renewable hydrogen.

Currently, Repsol receives just 0.4% of its turnover from, and spends just 21% of its Capex on, lower-carbon activities. Just 0.1% of Repsol’s expenditure (Capex) in 2022 was in renewable hydrogen.

Veronica Wignall, Codirector at Adfree Cities said: “Repsol has reached a new neon shade of greenwashing by promoting renewable hydrogen – a fuel type it doesn’t yet produce.”

Fossil fuel companies are continuing to spread misinformation to distract from their catastrophic expansion plans. Advertising regulation is frankly failing to keep greenwash in check. We don’t permit advertising for tobacco, weapons or dangerous chemicals, so why are we still seeing adverts that promote companies like Repsol that are driving us further into climate collapse? The UK needs to follow other countries and introduce a tobacco-style ban on polluting advertising, to protect health, prevent climate harms, and stem the tide of greenwash.

The advertising of renewable hydrogen is also an emerging concern. Renewable hydrogen is predicted to have specific applications in an energy transition for example for decarbonising heavy industries such as steel. However, increasing demand for hydrogen through advertising currently acts to lock in demand for fossil fuels, since the vast majority of hydrogen is made from fossil gas.

Freddie Daley from the Badvertising campaign said: Adverts like this now banned Repsol ad are symptomatic of the broader tactics of the fossil fuel industry. These companies are intent on promoting technologies that allow them to continue expanding fossil fuel production, directly contradicting what experts are telling us is needed, while falsely touting their green credentials and claiming to be leaders in the energy transition. The litmus test for true climate leadership in the energy sector is pivoting away from fossil fuels. Despite their glossy adverts, Repsol is failing in this regard.

Take action

Adfree Cities are calling for a tobacco style ban on advertising that increases demand for environmentally damaging products and companies, like fossil fuel firms, petrol, diesel an hybrid cars, SUVs and air travel.

Thanks for reading. You can read the ASA’s full ruling on Repsol’s hydrogen ad here, and coverage of the ruling in in Business Green, Campaign, Edie, The Independent and El Diario. Keep up to date with our work to fight greenwash and take action against advertising by signing up to our mailing list.

Information on Repsol: According to Repsol’s emissions reporting, the company was responsible for 171 million tonnes of CO2e in 2021. It produced an average of 549,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2022, and has a substantial global oil and gas expansion strategy.

Only 0.4% of Repsol’s turnover is currently from lower-carbon activities (those aligned with the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy). 0.0% of their turnover currently derives from renewable hydrogen.

Relating to Repsol’s expenditure, just 21% of Repsol’s Capex is currently invested in lower-carbon activities, meaning 79% of Repsol’s expenditure (capex) in 2022 was in fossil fuels. 🌟Just 0.1% of Repsol’s expenditure (Capex) in 2022 was in renewable hydrogen.🌟 (source: Repsol’s Integrated Management Report, 2022)

ASA ruling summary: The ASA’s ruling acknowledged that “large-scale global oil and gas investment and exploration formed the vast majority of Repsol’s business interests”, and therefore that the advert’s impression that a significant proportion of Repsol’s business activities comprised lower-carbon energy, such as renewable hydrogen, was misleading.

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